Photo: Belmont High’s Layne Doherty vs Melrose.
Led by an experienced set of forwards and a solid midfield, Belmont High Field Hockey has started its 2021 season without “stars” but with a “team” mentality playing on the pitch
And the results, so far, are promising. The normal opening night nerves saw Belmont – ranked 15th in both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald polls – wait until the fourth quarter to take down visiting Wilmington, 3-2, before finding their scoring stride at Stoneham, a 6-1 rout on a high grass pitch, before handling an undefeated Melrose team, 8-1, at Harris Field.
While the Marauders have shown its scoring muscle, the squad doesn’t rely on any one person as the scoring talisman. This year’s version is about everyone pitching in at the highest level.
“The one thing I like about this team is that they all use each other on the field,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach Jessica Smith. “There’s not one true standout. We have a lot of people who can play really hard and really well. They support each other and play together because they’re not looking to carry the ball 50 yards.”
In fact, the squads best defense is its attack. Against Melrose, the visitors did not enter the Belmont zone for the first four minutes of the game as the Marauders front line ball-hawked the Raiders passes and dribbles, forcing turnovers and sending a pair of steals/shots skirting a foot past the opponent’s right post.
So far into the season, Belmont found its scoring touch tallying 17 goals with senior co-captain Ellie McLaughlin, who scored a hat trick against Melrose, and Molly Dacey each with four goals.
The attack, in which an impressive nine players have scored, shows that all the players on the pitch are expected to contribute.
“I think we’re really working on spreading out and getting the ball to new people on the field,” said McLaughlin. The team’s offensive orientation is based on playing together for the past three years for many on the team.
”Our chemistry has brought us together as a team really nicely, especially how we work in our practices,” said McLaughlin in her third year on the varsity squad
What Belmont has demonstrated in its first three games is a quickness to shut down passing lanes and a willingness to challenge opponents for the ball all over the field, traits Smith seeks in her teams.
“I want to play physical because it takes teams out of their [plan] and we can play our game,” said Smith.
Unlike past teams which had college-level defenses (four recent backs have gone to play at Division 1 programs) a relatively young defense and first year goaltenders has been boosted by the addition of senior Mia Mueller who brings three years of varsity experience to the D-line.
“Mia played forward and midfield in the past so she knows how to handle the ball and make passes. And she’s fast so she can close down anyone in the middle. She’ll be so important for us this year,” said Smith.
And the Marauders will need to be at the top of its game as it opens its Middlesex Liberty Division account against strong programs, hosting Lexington on Tuesday, Sept. 21 and traveling to Winchester on Thursday, Sept. 23.
“It’s a big change going from playing the smaller schools to the larger ones. I’m excited because it’s a good test for us to see what we can do and I think the kids are up for it because they know what’s coming,” said Smith.
”We’ve been working hard at practices and been communicating on the field so I think it’ll work against them,” said McLaughlin.