Photo: Belmont High School Field Hockey Coach Jess Smith after winning her 200th win as she starts her 20th season.
Jess Smith never really thought about the number of wins she’s accumilated as she’s entered her 20th campaign helming the Belmont High School Field Hockey team.
“I probably think more about the losses,” said Smith, affectionally known as “Coach Mac” by her players and the hundred of alums who played on Harris Field.
Over those two decades, Smith has only twice missed the MIAA tournament, reaching the Division 2 North championship game also twice. During those years, she has helped send more players off to Division 1 programs and college squads than any other team in Belmont High.
Curiosity around the athletic department on just how many victories Smith had pocketed in her 19 years started last year. After going to the MIAA website and through microfilm in the Belmont Public Library, the number of victories in the regular season and playoffs tallied 199.
Smith’s first chance at hitting 200 wins would be the season opener at Stoneham on Wednesday, Sept. 6. But last week’s heat wave forced a postponement with the Spartans, and the first game of the year would be the home opener on Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Melrose.
On Friday, Belmont got off to a quick start, scoring four times in the first quarter, led by sophomore midfielder MacKenzie Clarke, who bagged the first of her hattrick after three minutes.
“It’s a great way to start the season, especially knowing how tough the league always is,” said Clarke, who had a six-point afternoon with three assists. Senior co-captain Carly Gaziano had a brace, while senior Gretchen Hanley and junior Brynn Connolly each tallied.
But it was when the on-field horn marked the end of a 7-0 victory that the team surprised Smith with the news she entered the circle of coaches with a double century of victories.
“I had no idea [it was the 200th]. I really haven’t thought of it,” said Smith after the game. “When the kids told me it was the 200th, I told them I didn’t score one of the goals that got us the 200 wins. But it has been awesome being on the sidelines for the 200 wins, I’ll tell you that.”
Just 15 hours after the first game, Belmont was in Stoneham for the rare Middlesex League game on grass. And for nearly the first half, the ground-up turf was winning as the Marauders were finding the grass and the heat and humidity a bit taxing.
But Belmont finally broke through twice in the final four minutes, first from Connolly with the second coming from senior captain Lola Rocci on a penalty corner with no time left on the clock to go up 2-0 at the break. A goal early in the second half, followed by two in the fourth quarter, ended with Smith’s 201st victory, a 5-0 shutout.
Rocci joined Clark with a hat trick on Saturday, while senior goaltender Julia Herlihy starts the season with a pair of clean sheets.
Belmont now heads into the cauldron of its season with three away games, starting with powerhouse Watertown on Monday, Sept. 11, followed by Winchester on Wednesday, and finally away to Westford Academy before coming home to meet Reading on Wednesday, Sept. 20.