What A Week! Belmont Boys Stamps Its Brand Of Soccer On Div. 1 Playoff With Pair Of Upsets; Winchester Next In The Elite 8 On Sunday [VIDEO]

Photo: Alex Servitopoulos celebrating his winning goal vs.Acton-Boxborough, 3-2

A year ago this week, Belmont High Boys’ Soccer players littered the turf at Franklin High School, having come ever so close to beating a top-ten seed, ruing the many missed chances in a “what if …” moment.

What a difference a year makes.

In a pair of nailbiting playoff matches, the 30th-ranked Marauders defeated third-ranked Acton-Boxborough Regional (3-2) and 14th-seed Natick High (2-1) in the MIAA Division 1 tourney, leaving the winning goals until late in both games, with the second against Natick coming down to the final kick of the game.

“We win pretty, we win ugly, We win with fire, we wind with passion,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Niman Kenkre said after a second emotional game against Natick. “They just refuse to lose. I’ve never been around a group of guys like this.”

“Their spirit, their mental strength to do what we done in both games. It bears out the work that we’ve put in, all the passion, all the love that these guys have for each other. It’s just rewarding for their commitment to the way we play and to each other.”

Belmont (13-5-4) will take its innovative tactics to Middlesex League Liberty rival 11th-seed Winchester (15-1-2) for an Elite Eight contest on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 11:30 a.m. In their previous matches, the Red and Black defeated the Marauders by identical 2-0 scorelines.

The last time Belmont had gone this deep into the MIAA tournament was in the Div. 2 North championship semifinals when Winchester beat the Marauders, 1-0, on its way to the state title.

The games stood out in their contrasting styles. Against Acton-Boxborough, Belmont excelled in the installment by Kenkre of a patient approach to attacking the opponent, using a combination of short and medium passes or dribbling with the ultimate aim of reaching the opponent’s territory in a superior position.

While most high school teams play long passes up the field with the hope of winning the ball, “we’ve really mastered playing from the back, breaking the field into thirds and building our offense in each third,” said team co-captain Sachil Kenkre after the A-B match which he collected three points on a goal and two assists. “It’s really beautiful soccer, and tonight it paid off.”

“At the start of the season, we were making mistakes left and right, and it was going to be hard to play high school [soccer] like that. But as you saw, it worked, and we beat the three seed,” he said.

“Tonight really validated the style of soccer that we’ve been striving to do all season,” said coach Kenkre.

Belmont 3, Acton-Boxorough 2

At Acton-Boxorough, Belmont’s pressure defense – attacking the Colonials’ backline and midfield with multiple players – allowed the Marauders to be on the front foot for most of the first 40 minutes. A-B had some of its own original set plays as they took the lead with just over three minutes to play, scoring on a corner from a player who came into the box on a deep run.

But the Colonials advantage lasted a mere 24 seconds as Kenkre scored a wonder goal of the season, a long-range blast that beat the outstretched hand of AB goalie Kai Chong into the upper net. Less than a minute later, a Kenkre free kick to the right of the goal found junior Owen Filler sneaking in from the backside, who headed the ball back behind Chong for a 2-1 lead entering halftime.

After the break, Belmont came out on the attack and missed scoring three times, only to see A-B senior Miller Lille lose his marker on a corner and run free for an open header to level the match at 2-2. For the remainder of the half, Belmont’s stylish and stout defending never allowed the home team to set up their long-ball attack.

The Marauders’ pressure on AB’s back line paid off big when they were rewarded a corner with barely five minutes remaining in the game. Kenkre’s corner found senior Alex Servitopoulos, who raised his six-foot frame high above the scrum and headed the ball into the left corner for the game-winner.

“It’s all a flash at this point,” said Servitopoulos. “I saw the ball go in, and everything stopped in my life. I swear I’m speechless.”

Belmont 2, Natick 1 (4-2 in PKs)

In contrast to the A-B match, Thursday’s game on Natick’s fridged field was a grind-it-out affair where tactics were replaced with a close-quarters physical contest. The Red Hawks felt more at home creating chances with long balls crossing the box with attackers missing several good chances with Belmont’s double zero Thomas Borkowski making a pair of outstanding saves in the final minutes of the half.

Natick was rewarded with the lead five minutes after the restart. A Borkowski punch save off a corner went to the feet of Natick’s big central defender Matteo Uyar, who launched a low screamer by Borkowski.

“You know, so many other teams would have packed it in [going down] 1-0. This team would not,” said coach Kendre.

After taking control of the match, Belmont would once again wait until five minutes to the end to score, relying on a first-year coming off the bench. Inserted a few minutes earlier, Lawrence Tu was at the right place at the right time when he corralled a loose ball outside the box to the right of the goal.

“Coach moved me off to attacking midfield, and I got in the box,” said Tu. “Sachil took a corner and it bounced straight to me. I just took a touch and it went in.”

“The whole season, I’ve just been filling in whenever I can. I just wanted to get the job done and I did so I am really happy,” said Tu.

The two 10-minute overtime periods were uneventful – except for two Natick starters who were carried off the pitch after collisions – and the game would be decided via the dreaded penalty kicks. After four converted kicks from 11 meters, Borkowski drilled a shot off the crossbar. But the senior stood tall, stopping the subsequent penalty stretching to his left, and sent the Belmont supporters crazy with a second consecutive save, this one at this feet.

“I knew my team was going to score. Just needed to keep one out and we were good,” said Borkowski.

Up 3-2, senior Samuel Kutsman came to the spot as nonchalance as if he knew the game was about to end. Kutsman’s run-up sent the Natick goalie to the left as he placed the ball into the right corner. All that was left to do was celebrate as Kutsman slid on his knees to the sideline, where his teammates met him as the Belmont supporters took to the field.

“I was confident in my abilities [scoring from the spot],” said Kutsman. “We’ve been practicing pens for five days. I just knew it from the start.”

Coach Kenkre said he was eager to meet that challenge with a one-loss Winchester facing them on Sunday.

“We’re ready. They’ve beaten us twice, but it’s always tough to beat a good team three times. We know how to play us, and we know how to play them. It’s going to be a great match. A Middlesex League team is going to the final four, and I think it will start with the letter B.”

In OT Thriller, Belmont High Boys’ Soccer Falls To Franklin On Long Distance Stunner

Photo: At the end …

During the interval before the start of the first overtime, the Belmont High Boys’ Soccer team were feeling it; the first round MIAA Div. 1 Soccer Tournament encounter against favorites Franklin was there for the taking.

In the final ten minutes of the second half in a 0-0 game, Belmont had hosts Franklin holding on for dear life as the Marauders had the Panthers scrambling in front of their net. A missed break away, a ball that trickled across the goal line, and several last second diving blocks as Franklin desperately fought off the relentless Belmont attack.

“Let’s go, boys!” said a player as the team returned to the pitch. “It’s ours!”

Belmont’s confident play continued into extra time as they started on the front foot. So a counter by Franklin 30 meters from the Marauders’ goal didn’t appear to be too troubling.

With just the slightest of opening between three Belmont defenders, Franklin senior Trey Lovell blasted what he called “a chance” from 25 meters. Once the shot came off his foot, the ball cut right like a golfer’s slice eluding the outstretched arm of Belmont’s goalie Thomas Borkowski before nestling into the upper right corner of the goal.

It was a gut punch that sent several Marauders to the turf in disbelief and despair.

And just like that, the game, the team’s playoff run, and many senior careers ended.

The finale was beyond disappointing. It was filled with tears and downcast heads, a sense that a season of promise shouldn’t be finished by a ‘bad beat’ on a chilly and windy pitch located off a far away Route 495 exit ramp.

“This was by far our best game of the season,” said Belmont’s second year Head Coach Niman Kenkre after the game. “Everyone played their hearts out. We played our style … and in the final minutes we had them reeling. We were definitely on top and then they got one against the run of play.”

“Credit to [Franklin], they played a good game. But this is a painful one. We were so close,” said Kenkre.

Belmont (6-6-7) came into Monday’s match 23rd in the power rankings, hampered by a Div. 1 leading seven ties, a result of not being able to finish off teams despite having Middlesex League’s leading scorer, Sachil Kenkre.

But the team, which has employed a refined multi-pass system that frustrated many opponents, felt they could dampen Franklin’s countering attacks and static defense. What had been a warm pleasant full-moon evening for the earlier Belmont/Franklin girls’ playoff match (a 4-0 Franklin win) became breezy with a chill which required any effective passes to stay close to the pitch.

While the 10th ranked Panthers (held the territorial advantage in the first half, Belmont were the far more dangerous in front of goal; a Kenkre rocket required a full stretch save from Franklin’s keeper while the subsequent corner was flicked on and struck the far post. Belmont’s defensive trio – anchored by senior Peter Grace with sophomore Andrew Schreiner and junior Bjorn Bindslev on either side – and sophomore Borkowski never looked overly troubled as they limited challenges by a quick Franklin front.

The Panthers got off to the better start in the second half but Belmont would soon hold the momentum with stellar movement in the midfield led by seniors Lucas Alvarez-Fernandez and Andy Bello as Franklin began feeling the effect of chasing Belmont especially down the wings where junior Alex Cook and senior Steffen Manjikian frustrated the Panther backs to the point where both were taken down with less than allowable tactics.

By the final 10 minutes, it was just one-way traffic as the Marauders began breeching the Panthers defense, starting with forward Daniel Chang – a freshman starting his first game as striker – who stole a ball from a downed defender in the box only to pushing his breakaway shot by the left post. Two minutes later, it was Chang again who sent a shot by an out-of- position which dribbled slowly along the goal line only to slide across untouched to the screams of the Belmont girls’ team in the stands.

It was a shooting gallery for Belmont as Franklin literally threw bodies in front of drives at the Panther goal – notably a chance out in front by Bello and a collision between the goalie and Cook – until the full-time whistle sounded allowing the visibly exhausted Franklin team to walk over to the sideline as Belmont felt they were just one chance away from the upset.

That moment wouldn’t come.

“It’s really cruel in a knock out tournament like this. Everything was going in our favor, but that’s the way sports is, you know,” said Kendre.

Speaking to the team as the stands quickly emptied, Kenkre told his charges how proud he was to coach them and how they should be proud of their effort during the season and especially in the match.

“I’m glad that we went out with such a performance. If we had gone out with a whimper, that would have left a sour taste. When the pain eases, we’re going to walk away with our heads held high. This is what being an athlete is about, nights like this when everyone of these guys did themselves proud.”

Belmont Boys’ Soccer Miss (Many) Chances v. Melrose In Home Opener, Tie Watertown On Soccer Night In Belmont

Photo: Belmont High senior Lucas Alvarez-Fernandez in action vs Melrose High on Monday, Sept. 12 at Belmont’s Harris Field

You don’t need to travel to the southwestern part of the US to witness a drought. You could have just come to Harris Field last week to see Belmont High Boys’ Soccer play its first two home games of the 2022 season to experience a real dry spell.

After a successful away campaign to open the season, with victories over Stoneham (3-0) and Winchester (3-1), the Marauders’ scoring prowess went hiding as the squad was shut out by Melrose 2-0 and drew 0-0 with Watertown under the lights on Soccer Night in Belmont.

But it was not for lack of effort. In both losses, Belmont held the majority of possession and had the better chances at the net. But where the team controlled the midfield with its trademark deft passing that led to open shots, none beat the opposing keeper.

Going into its home game against Reading on Tuesday, Sept. 20, Belmont stands at 2-1-1.

“We knew right from the beginning of the season that we had all the pieces in place, except for potentially those guys that are going to get the ball in the net,” said second-year head coach Niman Kenkre after the Watertown game. That wasn’t the case in the first two games as senior Lucas Alvarez-Fernandez and sophomore Daniel Liu opened their accounts with a pair of goals with goalie Thomas Borkowski keeping a clean sheet at Stoneham.

Against Melrose on Monday, Sept. 12, Belmont was on the front foot in the first half with Liu hitting the post, and a Patrick Tang pass/shot dribbled along the goal line unable to find a friendly foot to steer it home. The attacks continued in the second half with junior Nikolas Stefanovic‘s cleaver back heel in front of the net just missed being a highlight reel tally while junior Sachil Kenkre had a couple of attempts that sailed just over the bar. Those almost/nearly opportunities came to bite the Marauders

Before a large crowd on Saturday, Belmont demonstrated its skill in advancing the ball with medium to short passes through the heart of the Raiders’ midfield. But once again, shots on the net were launched over the bar rather than steered into the net or the Marauders’ attempted one-too-many passes or touches that allowed an good Watertown defense to take the block. While the game officially ended in a tie, the game went to penalty shots to determine the winner of the Phoenix Cup, the Soccer Night in Belmont trophy. Despite two excellent saves by Borkowski, Watertown would take home the silverware this year.

“I’ve got to figure out how we’re gonna get goals because we don’t have that hunger in the box right now, and I may need to change some things tactically. It’s two games in a row where we’ve had perfect possession, excellent chances, and we couldn’t bundle the ball over the line,” he said.

And while Belmont is facing admittingly “big games” in the week against Reading on Tuesday and Arlington on Saturday, there’s no panic on the Marauder sideline, among the coaches or players.

“It’s not the end of the world. It’s early in the season when we’re ready to right the ship,” said Kenkre.

“I’m not unhappy with the way that we’re playing. We just need to play that way for 80 minutes, not 40 or 60.”

Belmont Volleyball, Boys’ Soccer, Field Hockey Early Outs In Fall Tourney Play

Photo: Belmont High’s Field Hockey after the game verses Concord-Carlisle.

“Three and out” is a common American football phrase describing the failure of a team to make a first down on three plays and then punts. And this past week, Belmont’s three teams were ousted from the fall 2021 tournament season after their first matches of the post season.

Field Hockey: There could not have been a more perfect fall day for a field hockey match in New England this past Friday: a cloudless sky, autumn colors, last bit of sunlight on a cool afternoon. Only one thing could spoil the day for the Belmont High Field Hockey Marauders: going against a top-five opponent in host Concord-Carlisle.

And the number three-seed in the Division 1 tourney beat the 30th-ranked Marauders, 5-0, with a assertive performance.

The Colonials pressed the play at the beginning of the first and third quarters and was rewarded with three goals. CC’s dominance on the pitch was evident in the nearly two dozen penalty corners they took as to the pair Belmont had. While one sided, the Marauders held their own for long stretches against their traditional pre-season game opponent.

“I’m proud of this team. They never stopped playing despite the score,” said Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith.

Boys Soccer: Things looked promising for the Marauders as Peabody Veterans Memorial High came to Harris Field minus one of its top offensive players and 20 minutes into the match a Tanner picked up a red card and was ejected from the match.

But despite the man advantage for three quarters of the match, Belmont could not find the back of the net despite a furious attack on the Tanner’s goal while at the other end, the visitors netted the game-winner off a direct kick. The hero for Peabody was goalie Paul Drilon who stood on his head in the final 40 minutes including a twisting save off a deflection near the end of the game to preserve the clean sheet.

Belmont’s season saw first year Head Coach Niman Kenkre bringing up players from the junior varsity to fill the injuries and illnesses that left half of his veteran varsity players on the sideline at one time or another. He gave especial praise to Charlie November, his senior defender who was injured for a good part of the season but continued to push his teammates from the sideline and in practice.

Volleyball: A trip into the recesses of far-away Sudbury saw Belmont push the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional Warriors in the final two sets before falling in three, 25-16, 25-23, 25-23. Belmont came into the match on a seven-game losing streak which will have to end next campaign as the squad could not find that final push to take a set.

Seniors Katherine Bai (9 kills in the game/125 season kills), Megan Kornberg (17 digs vs. L/S, 330 for the season and 16 serve receptions) and setter extraordinaire Andy Li (227 assists in the season) were outstanding in their final high school game while underclass players Sophia Liu (117 kills), Ava Dolan (209 assists) and Isabella Radojevic (96 kills, 196 digs and 57 service aces) will be coming back in 2022.

Thank You, Power Ranking: Three Belmont Teams Make Their State Tourneys Under New System

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Volleyball starts tourney play on Nov. 4

Jen Couture, Belmont High Volleyball head coach, was joking – a bit – when discussing her team as it wrapped up the 2021 fall season last week.

“Best 7-11 team ever, huh?” she said.

In fact, Belmont IS the best 7-11 volleyball team, at least, in the context that the Marauders will be taking its below .500 record into the MIAA Division 1 state tournament. Just two years ago, a similar “losing” season would have seen the team packing their uniforms early. But in 2021, Volleyball is joining Field Hockey (6-10-0) and Boys’ Soccer (6-9-3) into the playoff brackets with a more defeats than victories to their names.

What gives?

The reason a trio of Belmont squads have a chance make some post season noise is the new process instituted this year by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. For the first time, teams are not judged by their win/loss records but ranked under a formula that considers how strong each opponents’ schedule is and the team’s average margin of victory. Under this system, playing well against top ranked teams is rewarded even if your team suffers losses during the season while defeating weak squads by a small margin could see you tumble in the rankings.

The Division 1 tournament for Belmont’s fall teams starts on Thursday, Nov. 4 with Volleyball at 10th seed Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (14-6) at 4:30 p.m. and then the 28th ranked Boys Soccer (6-9-3) hosting Peabody (8-8-1) at 7 p.m. Field Hockey (30th ranked at 6-10) ventures up Route 2 to meet its traditional pre-season opponent third-seed Concord-Carlisle (16-1-1) on Friday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m.

The overall ranking decides if a team is one of the 32 teams that make the playoffs and their seeding in the tournament. A team’s win/loss record only comes into the mix if a squad is outside the top 32 but has a winning – above .500 – record. And then they are required to meet one of the lowest seeds, starting with the 32nd ranked team in a play-in match.

If the MIAA had followed the playoff criteria from previous years based on a team’s victories and defeats, every Belmont’s fall team – boys’ golf and girls’ swimming state championships are determined at single event meets and matches – would have failed to make the tournament.

Belmont’s teams benefited from being in a very competitive conference, the Middlesex League, with a number of strong teams. For example, Field Hockey faced three of the top 12 teams in the state twice during the season. Because the three top teams have very high ratings, just playing them is important in making the tournament. In their second games against Winchester and Arlington, Belmont kept the margin of victory of their opponents to less than the three – which is the maximum amount the ranking will count for or against a team – which prevented the Marauders from slipping out of the tournament as they placed 30th.

For volleyball, the new system doesn’t punish the team ending the season on one of the most brutal seven match losing streaks in team history, five of those losses going the distance, 3 sets to 2. But due to the tough schedule it faced, Belmont is ranked 23rd, one place higher than Natick High (10-4), three better than Wellesley (11-6) and five notches greater than Bridgewater-Raynham which finished the year at 12-5.

Boys soccer also found itself on the wrong end of an early season seven game bad beat, which in previous seasons would have been fatal to its chances making the playoffs. But a win against Winchester and two memorable ties vs top-ranked Melrose and Arlington saw the Marauders slide in seeded 28th with a play in game to come.

Yet losing to underrated teams or playing a slew of weak squads has dashed the fortunes of Girls Soccer (5-6-5) and Belmont High Football. Belmont’s Hall of Fame Girls Soccer Head Coach Paul Graham lamented his team’s losses to “small schools” Wakefield and Stoneham – those in the Middlesex League Freedom division – which the Marauders would traditionally skim by. A 1-1 tie against three-win Watertown, which hadn’t scored a goal against Belmont in 30 years, and a 5-0 home defeat against Arlington in the season finale was just enough to place the Marauders 34th in Division 1, the first team that missed the tournament as the 33rd placed squad had a better than .500 record and is in a play-in game.

While the football team (4-4) has had a great start to the season, the four wins came against opponents with a combined record of 3-28, which put the Marauders behind the eight ball early. And while Belmont finished the regular season with a one-point loss to 6-1 Woburn, they lost big to middle-of-the-road Wakefield (4-3) and Arlington (3-4) which saw them fall to 25th where the first 16 in Division 2 made the post season.

A High School Doubleheader Headlights Soccer Night In Belmont On Saturday, Oct. 2


The Belmont High School Boys and Girls Varsity soccer teams will headline a doubleheader of top-notch soccer at the sixth annual Soccer Night in Belmont on Saturday, Oct. 2.

joined at the event by hundreds of younger players from Belmont 2nd Soccer and the Belmont Soccer Association, their coaches, and other members of the Belmont soccer community.

The games, to be played under the lights at Harris Field, will see the Marauders meet Middlesex League rivals Winchester: the Boys game at 4:30 pm followed by a Girls game at 6:30 pm. The teams will vie for the Phoenix Cup and the honor of having their team’s name engraved on it.  

Belmont youth soccer players will participate by parading out with players during the pre-game ceremonies, acting as ball-boys and ball-girls, and competing in mini-games on Harris Field during halftime of both games. Winchester Soccer Club youth soccer players will also participate in the pre-game ceremonies and other activities.

“This event showcases our varsity teams and recognizes the role of the Belmont Soccer Association in nurturing the talent that makes our high school teams year in and year out,” said event organizer John Carson. “We hope for a big crowd for a really fun night that builds bonds between our “little kid” players and “big kid” high school players, virtually all of whom came up through the Belmont youth program. In fact, one great highlight is always that our high school players wear wristbands during the game that match the color of their Belmont youth soccer team.”

Admission to Soccer Night in Belmont is free. Concessions including pizza, hot dogs, snacks and drinks will be available for purchase, provided by Parents of Music Students (POMS) so families can come for the games and feed the kids at the same time.

Soccer Night in Belmont is sponsored by the Belmont Soccer Association, Friends of Belmont Soccer (FOBS), and The Phoenix Landing.

Belmont High Soccer: Last Second Goals Give Boys’, Girls’ Opening Week Lift

Photo: Belmont High freshman Dana Lehr (second left) celebrates the tying goal she scored in the final two minutes of the match vs Wilmington.

There’s a phase used in British soccer commentary: “at the death” meaning at the last possible moment of a game. For both of Belmont High soccer teams in their opening week, points were salvaged “at the death” – one for a much needed tie and the other resulting in a ruckus victory.

Freshman rescues Girls’ soccer

Belmont High Girls’ soccer opened its 2021-22 Middlesex League account on Friday, Sept. 10, facing the prospect of a solid effort against visiting Wilmington High go to waste as the Marauders’ trailed late, 1-0, via a deflected shot early in the fourth quarter.

But leave it up to one of the youngest players on the pitch to pull a point out of her hat a la Bullwinkle J Moose as freshman midfielder Dana Lehr deftly slotted a pin-perfect pass from forward Paula Dullaghan from just inside the goal area with two minutes remaining to see the match end as a 1-1 stalemate.

“You can’t loss the first game!” explained Lehr.

Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham praised his center defender Sofia Hospodar as a steadying influence for a young back line taking on a physical opponent.

The Marauders were on the road Tuesday, Sept. 14 visiting Stoneham, a good all-around squad that uses its home ground – a rarely cut grass pitch that tilts at an angle between the goals – to great advantage. The end result was Belmont’s first loss, 2-1, as the Spartan’s speed allowed them to play the long-ball game and keep the Marauders bottled up.

“We were running backwards all game long,” said Graham. “It was so frustrating but they played better then we did.”

While Belmont had its chances, they could only breech the Stoneham goal once through junior Sabrina Salls.

Belmont is in action on Saturday, Sept. 18 at Harris Field against Melrose.

Boys’ grabs a late winner, everyone goes bonkers

After a big opening day 2-0 victory over host Wilmington on Friday, Sept. 10, the Belmont High Boys’ Soccer team hosted Freedom Division foe Stoneham at Harris Field on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and waited until the very last minute to snatch a 2-1 victory from the prospect of a tie.

For first year head coach Niman Kenkre the team’s three win start – Belmont secured a non-league 3-1 victory over Boston Latin which will impact any potential state tournament seeding – “has laid a marker for the season ahead.”

Against Stoneham, Marauder Lucas Alvarez Fernandez took hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s quote – “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take” – to heart when his middling attempt was terribly muffed by the Spartan goalie to give Belmont a 1-0 lead at the half. While Belmont held a slight edge over the Stoneham team – made up of taller and stouter players – in the first half, the Marauders saw themselves on the back boot as the game moved into the later part of the second half.

”We are not at the fitness level as I had hoped. We had players cramping … and others needed to be subbed out,” Kenkre said.

Stoneham’s quickness paid off near the mid point of the half as two quick one-time passes along the goal line left an opening in the front of the Marauder’s net for the tying goal.

Rather than settle for the point at home, Belmont committed to the attack down the wings searching for a clear shot at goal. As the scoreboard clock stopped at the 2 minute mark – when the officials keep the time on the field – Belmont’s Anthony Durkin drifted in-between three Spartan defenders at the top of the penalty box where Alvarez Fernandez found the forward with a pass from the left. A few steps to find a clear view and Durkin’s blast found the back of the net with little time left to play. The resulting bonkers celebration on and off the field – including an attempted pitch invasion (?!) from Marauder supporters – will be seen by the participants as obviously over the top for an early season league match on a Tuesday night.

“I can’t say enough about [Anthony],” said Kenkre. “He’s our star, he’s our senior leader. He came back from cramps and when he went back in, he suggested that he be put up as a striker. And I did that and it resulted in a brilliant goal. He was brilliant all game.”

Belmont is on the road Saturday, Sept. 18 to play Melrose.

Sports: Field Hockey, Boys’ Soccer, Girls’ X-C Break In the Win Column At Season Midpoint

Photo: Belmont High’s Isabel Burger taking first at Reading.

The shortened 2020 fall sports season reached it midpoint as Belmont saw three of its teams – field hockey, girls’ cross country and boys’ soccer – all registered their first victories of the campaign.

Burger leads Girls’ Cross Country to first of the season victory

A strong showing by Belmont girls’ harriers’ three, four and five runners saw the Marauders notch its first win of the season, defeating host Reading Memorial, 22-35, on a cool and cloudy autumn noon time on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Belmont Head Coach Melissa Tkacs said after the chaos of the first race in Lexington – every Belmont runner with the exception one ran an extra mile – that “each runner is coming into their own. We had a really solid training week so the runners felt confident coming into [the race] and you could see that confidence come through.”

Leading Belmont (1-2) over the short-ish 2.5 mile course was the team’s senior stalwart Isabel Burger who took first in 16 minutes and 2 seconds followed by fellow senior Elizabeth Hoerle who placed third in 17:03.

Burger lived up to expectations – she finished first vs. Lexington and second in Winchester – running stride for stride with Reading’s Sophie Shanley over the first half of the race before pulling away and winning by 61 seconds.

Tkacs also praised the running of Tori Meringer, Tilly Hamer and Angie Zhao – again, all seniors – who secured the win finishing in 4th, 5th and 6th.

“In cross country, what’s important is not only how your top runners do but also how the pack performs. Today I think we had a tight pack and that supported the team and provided us having a successful race,” she said.

Next for the harriers is a trip to Arlington on Sat. Nov. 7.

Estrada’s brace lifts Marauders to victory

Two goals by junior striker Mateo Estrada and a clean sheet from junior goalkeeper Damon Reyes resulted in the Belmont High Boys’ Soccer (1-3-1) winning its first game of the season, 2-0, in action at Harris Field Saturday, Oct. 24.

Estrada opened his scoring account midway through the second quarter with an assist from senior co-captain Theo Kargere. He doubled his goal total just 32 seconds into the third quarter on a solo strike, giving first year Head Coach Jean Laforgue- Carlone his initial victory running the team.

Belmont will be at Reading at 10 a.m., Halloween, in the reverse fixture.

Field Hockey, behind Donahue’s hat trick, earns first win

Belmont High Field Hockey was thrown into the fire as the season began, having to face Middlesex League powerhouses Lexington and Winchester all the while having to learn a new game due to extensive rule changes – the most significant being the reduction of players on the field from 11 to 7 – on top of limited practice time.

While Belmont found itself on the wrong side of big score results, the team made steady progress adapting to a game that relies less on traditional skills of short passing and stickhandling and more long on the long ball and speedy counters.

“We are starting to gel after having such a hard start with so many new kids on the team and trying to figure out where they go. You have to rely on some of them because our starters can’t last out on the field because they are covering so much of the ground,” said Belmont’s long serving head coach Jess Smith.

Belmont demonstrated its newly found game with a 3-1 victory against host Reading on Saturday, Oct. 24 as forward Emma O’Donovan scored the hat trick with goals in the second and fourth quarters.

As for the offense, it all comes down to O’Donovan.

“We could talk all afternoon about number 24 [O’Donovan],” said Belmont’s long serving head coach Jess Smith. The senior co-captain demonstrated her outstanding stick handling in passing defenders leading to her second goal on the solo break four minutes into the fourth.

O’Donovan’s final goal came 83 seconds after the penultimate strike, coming off a long rebound that she took on the backhand – requiring her to hold her stick with the stick blade positioned downward – and one timed it back pass the goalie.

While O’Donovan took charge up front, the Marauders’ defense starts with senior goalie Kendall Whalen who had a busy day beating back several drives into the the attacking zone.

“I don’t know how many saves [Whalen] had but I remember a couple of two player breaks that she rushed out of the net and came up huge. That takes confidence,” said Smith.

Twins Olympia and Sophie Kalavantis anchored the backline as the senior co-captains while midfielders Ellie McLaughlin and Ally Donahue won Smith’s plaudits for doing the heavy work of rushing back to help out defensively but also contributing upfield in the attack. And junior attack Molly Dacey “is just non-stop with a ton of energy who works hard whenever she’s on the field.”

At 1-4-0, Belmont hosts Reading at Harris Field at 1:30 p.m. on Halloween.

Rest of sports:

Belmont High Girls’ Soccer had most of the shots and was putting on a display of combination passing that Head Coach Paul Graham described as “the best we’ve done all year.” But the Marauders lacked the finishing touch against host Reading on Oct. 24.

And Belmont would suffer the fate of good teams that allow their opponents to “stick around.” Scoreless midway through the fourth quarter, a tricky shot alluded the Belmont defense which gave Reading the lead. And while the Marauders had their chances late, they could not convert from a series of set pieces, falling to Reading, 1-0, as the Rockets earned its first win.

Belmont, 1-3-1, will next see Reading on Halloween at the ungodly hour of 9 a.m.

Belmont Playing Modified Soccer, Field Hockey, XC This Fall; Volleyball, Swim, Football Move To ‘Floating’ Season

Photo: There will be a fall sports season at Belmont High School.

There will be Belmont High student/athletes playing this fall at Harris Field and on the links this fall as the athletic directors of the Middlesex League have approved their schools playing boys and girls soccer, field hockey, boys golf and boys and girls cross country, according to Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan who announced the decision at Wednesday, Sept. 2 School Committee marathon meeting.

But volleyball and swimming will be moving with football and competitive cheer to the newly created “floating” season that starts during the final weeks of February and ending in April.

School superintendents and athletic directors that represent Middlesex League schools approved a league-wide response to move forward with a fall season. It has been reported that Belmont will compete twice against teams in the league’s Liberty Division – Arlington, Winchester, Reading, Lexington, and Woburn – which will end for this year the annual competition against cross border rivals Watertown.

The decision by the Middlesex League comes as other athletic conferences such as the Mayflower and South Coast leagues on the South Shore and the nearby Northeastern Conference have canceled their fall schedule and moved it to the floating season, with the hope that the modifications would be suspended with changes in the severity of COVID-19.

While Belmont will be playing this fall, some of the sports will look quite different. Field hockey will now be played seven-against-seven – under normal conditions, there are 11 on each team – while penalty corners which are an important part of the game have been banned.

Soccer will see corner kicks and sideline throw-ins ended, reduced to free kicks that can not be sent into the goalie’s area. Defensive walls that help goalies to protect against free kicks have been suspended. But the most significant ban will be the end of heading the ball.

Cross country will likely be a timed event where each participant starts a certain length of time – usually 30 seconds – from the next runner.

Semis Bound Again: Belmont Boys’ Soccer Takes Down Arlington, Marblehead To Meet Winchester Wednesday

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.