Photo: Belmont High midfielder Lola Rocci (number 4) in action against Lexington
There’s always a game during the season a team can point where everything comes together: defense, passing and scoring. For the Belmont High Field Hockey squad, that game came on Friday, Sept. 30 when the Marauders’ outclassed a solid Lexington team, 3-0, to earn its first clean sheet of the season and move ever closer to a top playoff spot.
“This is a great confidence builder,” said Belmont Head Coach Jess Smith after a game which her squad dominated all aspects of the game from winning the 50/50 challenges to clogging up the passing lanes and preventing shots on Belmont keeper Julia Herilihy who earned the shut out, the first of two this week as Belmont held Burlington scoreless in a 2-0 victory Thursday, Oct. 6.
The team was especially impressive in their passing game both coming out from the defensive position and on the attack.
“They are learning where each other are on the field and they’re moving to the right places and staying wide. They are trusting each other and it’s really coming together. It’s the best I’ve seen them play,” said Smith after the game.
After an early season bump in the road – that will happen battling three undefeated teams (Watertown, Winchester, Reading) over six days – Belmont High has reached mid-season on a five-game winning streak. The 7-3 Marauders’ are currently ranked 12th in the MIAA state Division 1 standings, its highest ever position in the power ranking era and have matched the number of victories last season.
The Minutemen came to Harris Field on Thursday, Sept. 30 riding their own impressive wave, topping previously unbeaten and top 20-ranked Winchester, 1-0, two days before. Led by sophomore Hannah Ward, the Minutemen attempted to have their star midfielder dictate the middle of the field using her stick skills and speed. But Belmont countered with tight man-on-man coverage that hampered the Minutemen offense.
Belmont found success on the right wing with the Devin Kelleher/Carly Gaziano partnership clicking with passes that caused Lexington trouble through out the match. In the middle of the pitch, freshman midfielder MacKenzie Clark showed her growing confidence in “quarterbacking” the offense in the middle with senior attack Mary Mullan her main target.
It was a stroke of creativity by Clark that broke open the scoring late in the opening quarter. Finding herself heading straight to the goal, rather than striking the ball on the ground, Clark lifted it with a soft flip shot high into the net with 90 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“MacKenzie is figuring out her role on our team and feeling more comfortable there. She’s playing a bigger part in every game with play,” said Smith.
The second 15 minutes was all Marauders as the midfield and defense kept the Minutemen outside the attack zone while opening the field for Belmont’s counters. The Marauders’ second tally was right out of the training field with Kelleher’s cross deep on the right side finding Gaziano rushing in to steer the ball off the post and into the net six minutes into the quarter. Belmont wrapped up the scoring with Gaziano stroking a shot from a scrum out front with 2:44 left in the half.
For the final 30 minutes, Belmont was never challenged with the defense led by senior Alex Townsend holding down the center of the defensive pitch. Smith pointed to the play of midfielder Lola Rocci, “an offensive player who comes back on defense and makes great plays like connecting with Kelleher and Gaziano or make a great run with the ball,” said Smith.
Rocci said that with each game, the players have become more discipline in how they position themselves on the pitch.
“I think we have more awareness in the field. I feel like I know where Devin, MacKenzie and Mary are going to be when I have the ball or when they are looking to pass. And that is making us a better team,” she said.