“Every picture tells a story,” wrote Anastasia Hollings. “But sometimes it’s hard to know what story is actually being told.”
But for the Belmont High School Girls’ Soccer team, a picture – two photographs, exactly – clearly shows what occurred at the crucial moment in their match with Wilmington High School on Wednesday night, Oct. 1, at Harris Field.
The resulting story was easy to tell; a home win was transformed into a tie all for the want of an obvious call.
Midway through the second half, with Belmont holding a 1-0 lead in a give-no-prisoners contest, the Wildcats were preparing for a free kick in the Marauders end. In the second before the kick was taken, the entire Belmont back line took several steps upfield in what appeared to be a successful use of the offsides trap, in which a player is an offside position if she is between the last defender and the opposing goal.
In two photographs taken by The Belmontonian, a pair of Wilmington players can be seen running towards Belmont’s goalkeeper Linda Herlihy – one five meters clear of Belmont’s back line – while a third is partially seen trying desperately to race back to be level with the last Marauder defender. The timing of the kick can be seen as the three Belmont players in a defensive “wall” had not yet jumped in an attempt to deflect the ball.
When the ball descended onto the feet of one of the two Wilmington players inside the box, Herlihy, the Belmont defenders and a few Wilmington players were waiting for the referee on the far side of the field to call the play dead.
Just one thing; there would be no whistle. To the referee, a Belmont player – he would later claim “21 or 20” was between the two Wildcat attackers and the goal. The two photographs fail to show such an infraction.
As a result, three Wilmington players were left in front of Herlihy with the ball. Yet the Wilmington player nearest the ball hesitated, looking quickly at the referee as the entire pitch were calling for offsides. In fact, a third Wildcat player ran over to the ball to take possession. When a shot finally came, Herlihy dove and got a hand on the ball heading to her right and palmed it just wide of the post and out of bounds.
But in the subsequent corner kick, a clever tip by a Wildcat player sent the ball low between Herlihy and the near post to tie the match at 1-1 at the 23 minutes mark.
None of the aforementioned events sat well with the Belmont players or Head Coach Paul Graham. The long-time leader would not discuss the apparent offsides play other then to say “we all saw what happened; the ref blew it big time.”
The controversial call – under MIAA rules, a game decision by a referee can not be reversed – placed a damper on Belmont’s overall outstanding play including a certain goal-of-the-year candidate from junior midfielder Katrina Rokosz who placed a free kick cannon shot into the back of Wilmington’s net from 32 meters. The blast was only the fourth goal given up by Wilmington this season.
“[Rokosz] is getting better and better each game. She can really hit the ball,” said Graham, whose team reaches the midpoint of the season at 6-3-1.
Graham pointed out his back line defense, seniors Lucia Guzikowski and Elizabeth Ferrante and freshman Natalie Marcus-Bauer for praise; “they didn’t give up a lot of shots, just a few mistakes. When you hold a team like that scoreless, we did a great job.” In addition, the center halts, Alex Dionne and Ava Colasin “won a ton of 50/50 balls” which put Belmont on the right foot throughout the game.
While saying he’ll take the start the team has had this year, Graham also believes the team is round out for the final stretch with the chance of having a few players currently not playing back in the lineup.
“I see us being really solid come the playoffs,” he said.