Photo: (from left) Belmont’s Sajni Sheth-Voss, Emma Donahue, Kendall Whalen, Katie Guden and Meaghan Noone defending a penalty corner in Belmont’s 1-1 draw with Lexington.
With time running down in Saturday’s matinee against Lexington, Belmont High Field Hockey junior goalie Kendall Whalen was taken by surprise when what appeared to be a routine long clearing ball by a Minuteman defender turned out to be anything but ordinary.
Just before the ball was hit, a Lexington forward had drifted behind the Marauders’ defense. She took the clearance and had a clean breakaway with only Whalen between her and a go-ahead goal.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my god. It’s tied and I have to save this’,” Whalen said after the game.
While only in her third game ever as a field hockey goalie, Whalen has a great deal of experience in net having come off an impressive 2019 lacrosse season keeping goal for Belmont, and one of the main reasons the Marauders nail down its first playoff appearance in seven years.
“[Lacrosse] really helped to understand where I need to be positioned and when to step up or when to hold back,” said Whalen.
So when the Minuteman player fired a low shot just to her left, Whalen had already reacted and got
“I went for it, cut off her angle which rushed her shot which I cleared,” said Whalen who along with senior goalie Molly Calkin secured Belmont’s 1-1 “kiss your cousin” tie with the Minutemen (2-1-1) ranked 8th in the Boston Globe Top 20.
The goaltending pairing – each plays a half in the games – has worked well for each, said Calkin a returning varsity player who stopped three inclose scoring changes with a new aggressive style.
“During practice, Kendall challenges me to play well and do stuff that I hadn’t done last year,” she said. “I think last year, I kind of lacked confidence that I should have had. This year, I’m taking a different approach and claim what’s mine in front of the net.”
Saturday’s game saw Belmont (2-0-1) never quite shifting its play into top gear as it showed against Stoneham and Melrose. For Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith, the blame can be laid at the feet of the schedulers.
“Saturday games seems to take us all out of our routine. They don’t go to school, do their homework and prepare the same way. It’s like they’re not as focused as they are during the week,” said Smith.
After falling behind 1-0 on the first shot on Belmont’s net this season five minutes into the game, the Marauders slowly regained control of the offense
Belmont broke through with just under five minutes remaining in the opening half on a sweet combination of passes as sophomore Mia Mueller pushed the ball to Guden who sent a rocket towards junior Emma O’Donovan stationed in front of the goalie. O’Donovan redirected the airborne ball into the open left side of the net, scoring her fifth goal of the young season.
Belmont had its chances throughout the game including when a long strike outside the attacking circle hit the post and ricocheted towards a streaking O’Donovan who was just beaten out to the ball by the goalie. And it appeared that Belmont had scored a potential
Belmont midfielders did a great job of bottling up Lexington’s star junior Katie Devine to prevent the league all-star from sending shots into the attacking zone while each of Belmont’s four sophomores – Molly Dacey, Ellie McLaughlin, Sajni Sheth-Voss and Mueller – played significant minutes with solid results.
“I’ll take a tie after the team played so poorly,” said Smith.
Belmont 2, Melrose 0
Earlier in the week, Belmont opened its home account with a solid 2-0 victory over Melrose on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
The scoring breakthrough came late in the first half off a penalty corner as McLaughlin gathered a rebound to the left of the goal and send a pass that snuck by to the right post where Noone stuffed the ball in. And fellow senior forward Nuritza Diarbakerly scored her first varsity goal with a tap in along the right post late in the second half.
“We definitely needed another goal so we had to be more confident because we didn’t want this to end in a tie,” said Diarbakerly.
Belmont will be on the road Tuesday, Sept. 17, against the current Middlesex League leaders Winchester (4-0-0) ranked 6th by the Globe before hosting Reading on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Harris Field.