Photo: Senior Jon Brabo after scoring his second goal against Marblehead.
The 7th ranked Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer squad (12-4-2) will meet Middlesex League rivals and 6th ranked Winchester (12-3-5) one more time this season as the Marauders reach the MIAA Division 2 North semifinals for the third time in six years.
The game will be played on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. at Manning Field in Lynn. Forecasts call for temperatures in the upper 20s with winds around 10 mph so bundle up.
Poetic Justice: Belmont Opens Playoffs Beating SpyPonders In PK Thriller
With the game on the line, Belmont High’s senior goalkeeper Finbar Rhodes was in the zone.
With the opening game of the Division 2 North sectionals against neighboring Arlington High to be decided by penalty kicks, Rhodes got his gloves on four of the five shots, stopping two including Arlington’s fifth attempt giving the Marauders a 3-3 (4-3) victory on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Those watching the action likely wondered if Rhodes had some intuitive understanding of where the SpyPonders would be placing the ball.
Well, he sorta did.
Going back a year ago, it was Belmont on the short end of a penalty kick decision, 0-0 (4-2), against Arlington which went on to the Division 2 state finals. It turns out that Belmont’s coaches reviewed the video of the game and discovered that many of the same players who took those penalty kicks were on the current team.
They took that information and wrote on a stripe of athletic tape the Arlington player’s number and where they took the penalty kick a year ago. For example, “7 L” told Rhodes number 7 would likely kick the ball to his left.
On Wednesday, each SpyPonder on the tape went where the tape said he would.
“It’s a big advantage to know where [your opponent] is going,” said Rhodes with a smile after the game.
“Poetic justice,” said a Marauder on hearing the story.
In a thriller of a game that contrasted Belmont’s patient passing with Arlington’s physicality, the Marauders played some of its most comprehensive soccer for the season as they held the majority of the ball throughout the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second.
Belmont Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane gave all the credit to the players who were able to adapt to changes in positions and tactics to create the current winning lineup.
“It’s the guys and who they are, all the work that they put into the season and the composure and trust they have with each other. They kind of just have meshed together at the end of the season,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane.
“It’s just a good group of people that work well together,” he said.
It was the perfect start to the game for Belmont when senior co-captain Jon Brabo bundled in a bungled save attempt at the two and half minute mark. But the Marauders were brought back to earth when Arlington’s slotted in a rebound off Rhodes 40 seconds after the Marauders’ goal.
While the SpyPonders looked to grind down the Marauders, Belmont countered by forcing Arlington to chase the ball with a collection of short passes and constant movement from the midfield and forwards.
Belmont’s second tally came 10 minutes from the half when senior Theo DiTommaso hit a bullet from 25 meters that eluded Arlington’s goalie and settled in the left end of the goal.
It appeared Belmont had all but iced the game eight minutes into the second half when Belmont’s midfielders put together a three-pass combination ending with junior Theo Kargere sending a brilliant feathered pass onto a rushing Brabo who one-timed the ball into the net.
“We have been really connecting on those situations. It really comes down to our coaches who said [goals] will happen playing this type of game,” said Brabo.
But Arlington would not be deterred, scoring just 90 seconds later to keep the game close. The final 20 minutes saw the SpyPonders’ pressure and speed take the game from the Marauders scoring on a shot that eluded Rhodes with 18 minutes remaining in the second half.
Belmont would thwart a number of challenges by Arlington late in regular time to take the game into a pair of 10 minute overtimes. Despite returning to its game and dominating the extra time, the Marauders could not find the final touch on two near goals to end it in sudden death.
It was up to Rhodes and Belmont’s snipers to win it for the Marauders with Rhodes and his piece of tape giving the home team an immediate advantage turning back the first penalty. It was four to three Belmont in the fifth stanza when Rhodes dove to his left even before Arlington’s players sent the ball that way to parry it away.
“It’s great to redeem myself for those three [goals] that got by me,” said Rhodes.
“They’re just focused and there’s a lot of intrinsic motivation,” said Bisceglia-Kane. “It starts with the captains. Brabo and Spencer Price have unique traits and all do certain things really well like obviously Jon and Arista is more vocal. Spencer’s tends to be more quiet but when he speaks up man everybody, he has the room.”
“They just make my life a lot easier,” he said.
Brabo’s Brace the Marauders by the Magicians
With Marblehead’s upset of Lynn Classical, Marauders hosted the Magicians on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Harris Field, with Brabo ready to show his magic hadn’t worn off from the playoff encounter.
Brabo started his scoring with a hammer of a shot from 15 meters out that beat Marblehead’s goalie short side 10 minutes into the game. The senior co-captain registered his second goal 15 minutes into the second half off a corner, stretching his head over the defender’s shoulder and slotting the ball back across the goalmouth and into the net.
“Obviously I owe it all to my teammates. They put me in the position where I just have to do the last part which is finishing,” said Brabo.
Belmont’s combination passing allowed the Marauders to both keep possession and move the ball into the Magicians’ end of the pitch. This game Belmont’s back line stood up to the few Marblehead forays at Rhodes’ net.
Wednesday will be the season’s rubber match with Winchester, first losing 3-0 at home on Soccer Night at Belmont while winning away, 2-0, three weeks ago.
“We always respect Winchester. It’s a really good team in our league and they’re well coached. We’re excited with what we have and obviously we known them really well,” said Bisceglia-Kane.
“It feels great playing them again,” said Brabo.
“After that devastating loss on Soccer Night, we had a chip on our shoulder and that showed when we beat them at their house. This is the deciding game, there’s a lot riding on it. As a senior, I’m going to put my heart out there but I’m sure everyone’s gonna do the same because it’s such a huge game,” said Brabo.