Photo: Belmont’s stellar defense against Watertown.
Belmont High Field Hockey made Watertown work hard for this one.
The match played in Belmont Thursday night, Oct. 8, didn’t follow the oh-so-typical Watertown script in which the six-time consecutive Division 2 state champions score countless goals minutes after the opening whistle before handing the game off to the subs in the second half.
By the final horn with the Raiders up 4-0, Watertown’s starters were still on the field and, by their demeanour and body language, were glad the contest was finally over.
“I am so proud of you,” Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith told her team after the game. “I was worried that we were g0ing to come here and flop. And you did not do that. You stood up strong, and you really made them work.”
The final tally sheet didn’t reflect the superb effort the Marauders 11 (9-2-0) left on the Harris Field pitch, forcing the 12-0 Raiders – which won its 150th consecutive game as it heads towards the national high school sports record of 154 – to earn each goal, battling through a “hold-on tight” marking defense that frustrated the Raiders in the first 30 minutes.
“Of course, I’d like the scoreboard to be the other way, but to play Watertown and make them sweat like that, I feel good about that,” said Smith.
“[Watertown] is an extremely strong team. It’s so well oiled; they have everyone in their position. If one misses, another is right behind them. And they are so fast, they never let you any space,” said Smith.
Watertown came out firing, sending eight shots on net against sophomore goaltender Christina McLeod, who Smith said played “out of her mind.”
“[McLeod] was the reason we were in this game,” said Smith.
“I was just afraid of letting a shot go in,” McLeod said of her performance.
Coming off a less than successful match against Wakefield in which it gave up three goals in a 9-3 win on Tuesday, the defense back line was stellar against the Raiders.
Facing an aggressive, quick squad which employed tactics such as multiple players crashing the goal mouth and deliberate “picks” of defenders, Belmont defenders – led by senior captain Serena Nalley and included converted wing Julia Lynch, Molly Thayer, Lilly Devitt and Molly Goldberg – kept the ball between them and the goal, stepping in front of passes and being general pests to the Raiders forwards and midfielders.
“What a great job they did. They never let up during the entire game. That is the best team they will face now and in the tournament and they shut them down,” said Smith.
Some of the best action occurred when the team’s best players, Belmont’s AnnMarie Habelow and Watertown’s Kourtney Kennedy (both juniors who have already committed to play Division 1 field hockey for nationally-ranked teams), squared off against each other.
Belmont weathered the Watertown storm front for 23 minutes before a shot after a penalty corner – a bugaboo for the Marauders all season – saw Raider’s Michela Anotenellis score in close redirecting a Maddie Leitner pass.
Just a minute later, it appeared from the sideline that Belmont had scored off a tip by one of two Marauders at the goal mouth from a Habelow rocket shot from distance. After a few seconds of no call, the officials concluded that Habelow’s attempt was outside the 15-meter scoring circle.
Moments later Habelow got Belmont best chance of the half with a full-swing shot from 12 meters out which Watertown’s goalie Joanna Kennedy blocked with her right pad.
At the half, Watertown had its slimmest lead of the season and the Marauders were in high spirits on the sidelines.
“We just need one beautiful shot to tie this game,” said Smith.
At the start of the second 30 minutes, Belmont began pressing up the field. But after a failed penalty corner, Watertown commenced a fast counter attack that saw Raider Ally McCall bury a breakaway against McLeod four minutes into the match.
Five minutes later, Watertown put the game away off another penalty corner as Maddie Leitner scored off a perfectly set-up shot.
“That was a frickin’ great goal. There was nothing McLeod could do about that,” said Smith.
Anotenellis finished off her brace and the scoring with 12 minutes left in the game.
Smith was philosophical after then game when talking to her team that handled the defeat matter-a-factly.
“I think a lot of it is that they have more veteran players. And some of our players were intimidated and maybe didn’t step up to the next level tonight. But in the future, they’ll be able to step forward,” said Smith.
“You know what, they’ll go win their championship, and we’ll go win ours,” Smith told the team.
Belmont’s next match is a holiday matinee as they take on Arlington at Harris Field on Monday, Oct. 12.