Sports: Field Hockey in Driver’s Seat for League Title After Defeating Winchester

Photo: Katherine McCarthy’s game-winning goal vs. Lexington.

In a pair of gutsy performances over a 48 hour period, the Belmont High Field Hockey team is out front in the race for its first league divisional title after defeating a tough Lexington squad, 3-2, Monday, Oct. 19 than avenging its loss to Winchester by beating the former league leaders, 2-0, on Harris Field Wednesday night, Oct. 21.

“That was truly amazing, to play two great teams back-to-back and win both,” said Jessica Smith, who has headed the program for the past decade.

With the victories, Belmont (13-2) needs a win in the final game of the regular season at Reading on Friday, Oct. 23 to secure its first Middlesex League Liberty Divison crown.

But for Smith, the best part of the wins were the final whistle.

“I can’t continue to do this,” said Smith, who described the two games as “insane.”

“I have never been this nervous for regular season games in my life!”

Belmont 3, Lexington 2

At Lexington, Belmont would take one-goal leads only to see the Minutemen tie up the match held in Lexington. Belmont was able to apply pressure on Lexington’s back line and midfielders, but could not find the final tip or shot to extend its lead.

While the Marauders’ defense was able to keep the Minutemen in check, they could be overpowered by the size and talent of the Minutemen forwards, including the Minuteman’s standout junior Emily Devine.

Belmont took the lead on the first shot of the game in the third minute as senior co-captain Serena Nally re-directed a shot from junior standout AnnMarie Habelow by Lexington’s freshman goalie Abby Ortyl.

That lead would stand until the midpoint of the half when Brigid Avery scored to tie it up at one. Belmont retook the lead when Habelow, the team’s leading scorer, rocketed a shot from 15 meters that eluded Ortyl with seven minutes remaining in the half.

Lexington pressured early in the second and earned the equalizer through Leah Strohmeyer from in front of the net. But slowly, Belmont’s midfield would begin to dominate play by clogging the passing lanes and intercepting passes.

The game winner came from a scrum in front of Lexington’s net where Katherine McCarthy’s third swipe at the ball proved to be golden.

Up by a single goal, Belmont needed to survive a frantic final minute when Belmont’s defenders somehow kept the ball out of their net with more than half a dozen Minutemen crashing the goal.

“We kept yelling at the official, ‘White foot! White foot!’ said senior defender and co-captain Molly Thayer, to inform the referees that the ball had come off of a Lexington shoe which would give Belmont possession.

A final penalty corner with time expired was cleared securing the emotional victory.

“I think we knew Lexington would be difficult at their home field, so we focused on keeping [players] in front of us and not give them any room,” said Thayer.

Belmont 2, Winchester 0

Wednesday’s game held some significants for Belmont’s players and coaches, as it provided the Marauders the opportunity to avenge a painful loss when Belmont allowed Winchester to score four goals in the final 12 minutes of their earlier game to fall 5-4 after leading 4-1.

While not possessing a star player, Winchester was fast on the ball and played a stubborn defense. It also had the first real tester on Belmont goalie Christine MacLeod as a steady shot hit the post but stayed out.

But Belmont made the most of their opportunities leading to Belmont’s first goal. With Marauders swarming the Sachems’ net, the Winchester goalie covered the ball under her body resulting in a penalty stroke, similar to a penalty kick in soccer. Habelow made no mistake sending the ball high into the back webbing to give Belmont a 1-0 lead.

Winchester kept up the pressure but were not sharp inside the scoring arc, unable to score on several penalty corners, a reversal of their win when they tallied four corners.

Midway through the second half, Belmont got the break they needed. After having an apparent goal called back for coming outside the arc, the Marauders’ co-captain Serena Nally stole the ball off a Winchester stick, turned and took a shot at goal. Standing before the goalie, Kerri Lynch got the tip, and the ball settled in the back of the goal.

While Winchester threatened, Belmont’s backline – Molly Goldberg, Thayer, Lilly Devitt, Sophie Stafford and sweeper Julia Chase – withstood each attack, allowing MacLeod to earn her tenth shutout of her first varsity season.

“This was a real team effort,” said Smith, noting that while not playing at their best, the players worked together as a unit defensively and were always looking to combine passes on offense.

A win at Reading, which Belmont defeated 5-0 earlier in the season, could see Belmont secure a top seed in the coming Div. 1 sectional as well as a banner to hang on the Wenner Field House wall.

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