Sports: Belmont Field Hockey Cools Off Lexington, 4-1, as Birthday Girl Leads the Way

Photo: AnnMarie Habelow (center) and Julia Chase (right).

Playing its most complete game of the season, Belmont High Field Hockey swept aside a red-hot Lexington High squad, 4-1, in a critical game for the Middlesex League Liberty championship played under the lights Thursday, Oct. 20, at Harris Field.

Goals by newly-promoted forward sophomore Bridget Gardiner (11 minutes into the game) and junior Alexa Sabatino (midway through the first half) were coupled by a pair in the second half – senior co-captain AnnMarie Habelow at the 21-minute mark and freshman Katie Guden with 8 minutes left – as Belmont controlled the play for long stretches.

A lone goal by Minuteman’s Cecilia Brennan with 7 minutes remaining in the game spoiled goalie’s Christina McLeod shutout. 

“We’re gelling as a team and you saw it tonight as this game was the best of the year,” said Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith. 

“We dominated that entire game. Everyone stepped up against Lexington,” said Habelow, who celebrated her 50th regular season victory over her four varsity seasons. 

“Towards the end of the season, the last five games are our best played because we’re all use to each other,” she said. 

Ranked 12th in the Boston Globe’s Field Hockey poll, Belmont now stands at 12-2-0, handing Lexington (11-4-0, ranked 20th) its fourth overall loss and second defeat to the Marauders this season. Belmont next plays second place Winchester (10-2-2, ranked 5th) – which beat Belmont three weeks ago, 3-1 – in a game that decides whether the Marauders retains an outright title or shares one with Winchester.

The game is at Winchester on Monday, Oct. 24 at 3:30 p.m.

Before the game, Smith made a tactical switch placing freshman forward Guden in the midfield and putting sophomore Gardiner at inside forward. The move allowed Gardiner – who plays ice hockey for Belmont High – to use her physical presence in front of the goal to great effectiveness (her goal came from challenging for the ball and directing it in) while Guden thrived partnering with Habelow and Lilly Devitt developing the offense through the middle.
 
“That move was phenominal,” said Habelow of the switch. “She’s a natural.” 
 
Smith said she was most impressed with the team passing throughout the match.
“They are looking to each other that it’s just beautiful to see,” she said. Belmont’s passing was able to release fowards Sabatino, Jordan Leffiere and sophomore Morgan Chase, who used her deft dribbling to weave through the defense to take four in-close shots, only to be robbed twice of certain goals by Lexington’s goalie Abbie Ortyl who was outstanding Wednesday.  

While the victory was highlighted by the outstanding show of skill and work rate by the 11 players, Habelow dominated the action. One day short of her 18th birthday, the two-time Boston Globe All-Scholastic and senior captain – who is committed to play at NCAA Division 1 Top 10 Louisville – demonstrated a level of maturity and polish that, with her innate leadership, saw her control the game’s tempo and direction.

When Lexington – which defeated at the time league-leader Winchester, 2-1, on Monday, Oct. 17 – attempted to use its athleticism to swamp Belmont on the counterbreak, Habelow tracked back to bolster an already steady backline of Molly Goldberg, Meri Powers and defensive stalwart, UNH-commit Julia Chase which Smith called “a wall all night” who put the clamps on Lexington’s senior Emily DeVine

“The thing about AnnMarie is now she’s really fighting to recover back and that’s helping us so much because she’s getting it back. And that helps our whole transition,” said Smith.

On offense, Habelow – who sees double and triple player defenses employed against her – can methodicially move the ball with her stick skills or simply blast the long ball to teammates. An she is more than capable to powerhit a ball from nearly 20 meters into the back of the net.

“I know what it feels like when I put in that extra effort. It’s not a good feeling not playing well so it’s always fun to try as hard as I possibly can,” said Habelow. 

With the Winchester rematch on Monday, Smith said the team is more motivated as the season comes to a close “so I’m hoping from here they keep playing like they did tonight for the rest of the season.”

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