Boys’ Tennis Sweep Aside Xaverian To Open State Tournament; Next Up #1 St. John’s Prep

Photo: Belmont High’s Julian Wong finishing off a point against Xaverian in the MIAA D1 opener

In its opening match of the MIAA Division 1 state championship, the 16th-ranked Belmont High Boys’ Tennis squad swept aside 17th seed Xaverian Brother, 5-0, on Wednesday, May 29, and now awaits a likely trip to Danvers to face top ranked and undefeated St. John’s Prep (17-0).

Belmont’s (11-6) top two singles, senior Charlie Osborn and junior Julian Wong, made quick work of their Hawks’ opponents, with Osborn winning 6-0, 6-1 in 35 minutes and Wong 6-4, 6-0.

“I wasn’t down ever in the match, I had a pretty good start,” said Wong, who was sporting a nifty new haircut for the playoffs. “I was up 5-2 in the first when I had a bit of a mental gap and he came back to 5-4. So I just had to really focus that and game and play it through. Of course, a ton of my friends came out today and it was really great.”

Yet after going down 2-0, the Hawks kept a narrow path to sneak out of The Town of Homes with a minor upset.

“Xaverian (9-8) was staying in the mix while putting pressure on our third singles and doubles teams,” said Dave Benson, now in his third year as the Marauders’ head coach.

But as they have done throughout the season, Belmont’s doubles came through with victories. First pairs of senior Ben Miller and junior Henry Moriarty were extended in both sets (7-5, 7-5) while seconds sophomore Brady Chan and first year Kalya Radojovic won it in a second set tie breaker (6-1, 7-6 (7-2)).

“The benefit of tight matches is they allow us to grow and be more accustomed to handling pressure situations. The boys responded exceptionally well, pulling out tight sets and tiebreakers in each match,” said Benson, who has managed the squad out of the first round for the past three seasons.

Belmont’s Soyam Pokharel battled fellow junior Nick Napoli as well as his body in a marathon match that went deep into the third set. With the match in a third set tiebreaker, Pokharel cramped up with him leading 8-5. After a five minute medical time out, Napoli came storming back to tie the match at 8-8. Each player fought off numerous match points with Pokharel finally eking out a 12-10 victory.

Belmont is now in a wait and see position as St. John’s has yet to play Chelmsford so that a day can be scheduled.

“I know most of their players and they have a deep squad,” said Olson. “They have pretty consistently good players, top to bottom. I can’t predict how my match is gonna go but I do know they will be one of the toughest teams we will play. Definitely one of the hardest games.”

Twin Winners: Belmont High Boys’, Girls’ Tennis Drain SpyPonders, 4-1, To Reach Double Digit Wins; Next A Triple Play Vs Top 10 Teams

Photo: Belmont High’s first doubles Henry Moriarty executing the perfect stab volley vs. Reading

With victories over Arlington on Friday, Belmont High’s Girls’ and Boys’ tennis teams have secured double-digit victories this season. This week, both teams will prepare for the state tournaments with a stern challenge as they will take on three Boston Globe top-10 teams, including the number-one squads from Lexington.

Belmont High Girls’ Tennis

After the team beat the visitors, 4-1, at Winn Brook Elementary School on Friday, May 10, Belmont High Girls’ Tennis Head Coach Eileen White thought back to the last time the Marauders had taken the measure of the SpyPonders, not just once but home and away.

“I can’t tell you when we last beat [Arlington] once,” said White. “It’s been, like, years.” 

The 2024 edition of Girls’ Tennis is officially on a roll. Currently, it is on a seven-match winning streak—having last lost on April 25 to Winchester—and is entering the Boston Globe Top 20 at 14th. Belmont is 11th in the Division 1 MIAA power rankings posted earlier this week.

The record is all the more impressive because the team has yet to have an uninterrupted week of practice and games due to rain, sleet, and an eclipse. 

“Knowing we’ll play in the tournament, we’ll have pretty focused practices. That’ll be good for us actually to be able to practice,” said White.

Sophomore Armela Mahadi, who transferred to Belmont High from Singapore last year, is stepping into the main singles role this season. Playing second singles, Mahadi faced Arlington’s Kate Wolfson, who took their first match in April to three sets. “So I came into this game really stressed ‘cuz the game could have gone either way.”

Mahadi came out with an aggressive style, thinking of “playing to win as that’s the only approach to take as [Wolfson] is such a strong opponent,” and she took the first set 6-1. In the second set, Mahadi said her “game plan shifted a bit, and I was playing not to lose,” resulting in a close set where each player held their service.

“Tennis is a mindset kind of sport, so today it just came down to who would outplay who,” she said, with the Marauder pulling out the second, 6-4. “It was a really fun match and a great experience, as the tournament is coming.”

Sophomore Giselle Fond (second singles) and junior Holly Kong (third) rounded out the singles, with Kong taking the “W” in a slow, steady baseline match. It was the doubles securing Wednesday’s victory as both pairs – juniors Sophie Merrow and Ingrid Hellsvik (6-1, 6-2) and junior Amy Chen and sophomore Avery Cai (6-0, 0-6, 6-1) – prevailed.

“It was very exciting. I’m very proud of them,” said White of the players.

In the coming week, the Marauders will face the three teams they lost to this year. They will play away on Monday, May 13, at number 4 Westford Academy—which escaped with a 3-2 victory at Belmont in April—before heading the next day to Lexington to meet the number one-ranked and undefeated Minutemen. The squad will return to Winn Brook on Thursday for an encounter against sixth-ranked Winchester.

“I think being matched up with the top teams is always good for us because we play really well against them even though usually those girls are a little bit more talented. But that’s good for us because [our [players] need to be playing against elevated opposition. That’s how you get better at tennis; you are always playing people better than you,” said White.

Belmont High Boys’ Tennis

A seven-match winning roll is pretty impressive. How about an eight-game winning streak? Belmont High Boys’ Tennis – coming off consecutive deep runs in the post-season – are setting themselves for a third straight tournament run this year in Division 1 after spending years in D2. And that’s where Marauders Head Coach Dave Benson expected them to be at this time of the season, with a record of 11-3 and battling for second in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division.

We’ve had high expectations coming in,” said Benson, who helped bring Belmont to the state semi-finals two years ago. While there have been “some adversities” with injuries, including to all-star senior captain Charlie Osburn, “we’re back on track, and I think the guys are feeling good and looking good.”

In its rematch against the SpyPonders (10-4) held in Arlington Friday, May 10, Belmont Julian Wong – who took over first singles – returned from losing the first set and falling behind in the second to pull off a big three-set victory. Osborn, who played second singles, swept his opponent in two sets while junior co-captain Soyam Pokharel dropped his first singles match of the season.

Belmont would secure the win with the first doubles of Ben Miller and Henry Moriarty, who used a high-energy game with their trademark fist pumping and racket tapping to take a three-set grind win. Belmont polished off its 4-1 victory with a straight set win by newly put together second doubles of Brady Chan and Kolya Radojevic.

Like the girls, the next to last week will see the Marauders host number 8 Westford on Monday and number 1 Lexington on Tuesday with a day trip to number 5 Winchester on Thursday.

“We can stay with all those teams as we prepare of the tournament,” said Osburn.

Belmont High Boys’ Tennis Grind Out 5-0 Playoff Win Over Marblehead; No. 1 Duxbury Up Next

Photo: On to the Elite Eight for Belmont High Boys’ Tennis

While the score line might read Belmont High Boys’ Tennis pitching the 5-0 shutout of Marblehead High in the Sweet 16 of the MIAA Division 2 state tournament, for much of the day, the action at Belmont’s Winn Brook tennis courts resembled a street brawl.

“I called it a boxing match,” said Belmont Head Coach Dave Benson as the 8th-seeded Marauders (13-6) has reached the Elite Eight for consecutive years. “Some punches to the face, then back with some body blows, and finally some knockout punches. So it was an impressive showing against a really good Marblehead (16-4) team.”

The prize for its second shutout performance will be meeting the Division 2 number-one seed and 20-1 Duxbury on Saturday, June 10, at 5 p.m.

“That’s a fabulous opponent. We’re honored to play them, the first seed. I’ve got them circled on my draw,” said Alek Karagozyan, Belmont’s senior co-captain and the program’s talisman for the past three seasons. “I’m excited for what we have to offer them.”

In the match in which the top singles and doubles were forced to battle it out in their respective matches, the Marauders relied on its lower-tier players to provide the needed early edge in the contest. Third singles Julian Wong was having a grand ol’ time running the court with sophomore enthusiasm against his 10th-grader opponent.

“I just came in thinking I’m just gonna play my game and play how I know how to play,” said Wong, who won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. “I had some trouble in the first set, but after I figured out the weaknesses of his play, it helped me a lot.”

Second doubles, made up of youngsters Henry Moriarty and Soyam Pokharel were on the front foot the entire match, although it got a bit squirrely finishing off the first set as Pokharel’s serve went south. “I got a little bit nervous, but we won the set, and that’s what counts,” he said.

“Coach has been motivating us to stay strong no matter how close the game is. Always stay positive, play our game. I think we did pretty well today, and we capitalized at the end,” said Pokharel as he and Moriarty won in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1.

But for the top-line matches, it was anything but a romp as the three were more akin to the battles depicted in “Game of Thrones.” On the left side of the Winn Brook court, Belmont’s top two singles were in for grinders against tough opponents as they showed their contrasting styles on the court; Karagozyan’s street fighter persona with his emotions out there (“Oh my gosh!” “Come on!” followed by his trademark fist pump) while the quiet Osborn took a more Zen-like “living in the present moment” approach to his match.

Karagozyan’s Marblehead opponent forced Belmont 1 to generate nearly all the power strokes in rallies that averaged in the double digits as the two-setter lasted well more than 90 minutes.

“I used to play like that, so I know what kind of mental effect it has on an opponent, and I have to give full credit for really making me doubt myself a little bit sometimes,” said Karagozyan. “But I forced myself to put my head up, and convert my serve and my forehand under pressure.”

The cumulative impact of Karagozyan’s shot selection and power strokes beat down his Marblehead opponent as he collapsed with cramps in both legs at 5-3 in the second set. During a delay for treatment that lasted 20 minutes, Osborn quickly took his third set decider.

“It was tough because I could play a good point and he would hit like an insane shot. Then I’d play a bad shot, and he’d have a bad return. He just got kind of annoying to deal with because neither of us got into a rhyme,” said Osborn, who won 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. Karagozyan would win the two final points to take the W, 6-4, 6-3.

But it was first-doubles – comprised of Belmont’s two Bens: senior co-captain Packard and junior Trost – that earned the title “True Grit” for its marathon. The pair admitted their first set was “terrible,” with more unforced errors than you could find in an unforced error factory. “I was really kind of tense the first set, and it showed,” said Trost. After dropping the first set 3-6, the decision was made at the start of the second set to throw away the playbook and revert the match into a point-by-point grudge match.

“In all honesty, that second set, we just grinded it out,” said Trost. “We just stepped in our shoes and stuck it out,” said Packard, ending into a long tiebreaker in which Belmlont gutted out the win, 9-7. The third set saw Packard and Trout break twice and survive, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1.

Belmont will have a quick turnaround before spending the day traveling down to the South Shore to take on the Dragons.

Belmont Boys’ Tennis In Final Four After Dominating Sharon, 5-0; Meet No. 1 Concord-Carlisle Wednesday

Photo: The team celebrating with final four banner after Monday’s victory

A dominate display of tennis against five-seed and previously undefeated Sharon High Monday, June 13, has Belmont High Boys’ Tennis advancing to the Final Four of the MIAA Division 2 state championship where the Marauders’ take on number 1 ranked Concord-Carlisle High School on Wednesday, June 15 at Newton South High at 4 p.m.

The five game sweep of the visiting Eagles – taking the three singles and both doubles matches – marks the third consecutive time Belmont has shut out its opponent in this year’s tournament. The 5-0 whitewashing was highlighted by three 2-0 set victories by the team’s singles: Junior number 1 Alek Karagozyan, senior number 2 Ezra Copes-Finke, and senior number 3 Charlie November. Karagozyan and Copes-Finke won their first sets 6-0 while November came through with a pair of 6-2 wins, allowing both doubles – led by first Dani Karma and Nitish Bhatta – to play without pressure of must wins.

“They’re a tough team,” said Copes-Finke. “I knew that if I played my best match I could beat my opponent. I think it was a little more dominant that I thought it was going to be, but that just proves that I should believe in myself a little more.”

The overall play from Belmont in the tournament “has been incredible,” said Karagozyan. “Even when we felt like we were in control , we didn’t let up in our intensity. We just kept going.”

In his match, while the score line may have shown Karagozyan in control from the start, “it certainly was close as [the Sharon 1] had a really good serve, so I had to consistently fight to break his serve and hold mine.”

Know for his endless energy on the court, November has been described by opponents as a “pusher” which he accepts saying that “it takes skill to be [one.]”

“I’m athletic. I’ll run around all match. They want to talk? Six two, six two says otherwise,” said November.

Next up is the Patriots which have won the two most recent MIAA Division 2 state championships in 2019 and 2021. The teams have one common opponent in Lexington, both losing to the Minutemen: 5-0 vs CC and 4-1 against Belmont.

“They’re really good. I know the number one and he’s a phenomenal player with a great, great game,” said Karagozyan. “I’m excited to go out there and battle with him on Wednesday,” adding this Belmont lineup is prepared for the challenge.

“The camaraderie this season has been insane. I’ve never been prouder to play on this team” he said.

Marauders Enter Spring Playoffs With A Pair Of Belmont Favorites At Division 1 North Track Championships

Photo: Belmont High athletes and teams are in playoff and championship action this weekend

A pair of Belmont High field performers and a powerhouse Marauder team will be headlining the return this weekend of sports tournaments and championship meets sponsored by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Senior pole vaulter Sarah Firth will attempt to take the Division 1 North title while junior Sofia Hospodar has the co-longest triple jump in the division this outdoor season at 36-feet, 6-inches. Firth, who won both the All-State and New England titles in 2019, has the best height in the state of 11 feet, 6-inches. Firth will also run the 100-meter hurdles at the meet held in North Andover.

This season marks the return to the pitch of Belmont High Rugby, out to defend its 2019 Division 1 state title. The 4-0 Marauders is the second seed by way of a coin flip with fellow undefeated Milton, the two-time state Division 2 champions who were promoted into the top league this year.

Belmont will host three-seed Boston College High, whose only loss this season was to Belmont, in a semifinal match on Wednesday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m. on Harris Field.

Belmont Boys’ Lacrosse (5-7) will take on hosts North Attleborough High (6-7) in an 8-9 match-up on Friday, June 18 art 4 p.m., with the winner having the tall task of visiting first ranked Medfield High School (14-1) on Monday.

Belmont High Baseball, ranked 21 (3-8), will have a long trek on Friday, June 18, as they hike up to Haverhill to play 12th ranked Whittier Regional Vocational Tech (7-6) at 1 p.m.

Belmont Boys’ Tennis travels to Concord Carlisle at Noon, Friday, June 18, as the hosts, ranked 6th, will challenge number 11 Marauders.

In competition in the D1N meet completed on Thursday, June 17, Belmont junior Jackson Coelho took 4th in the 800 meters in 1-minute, 57.04 seconds while senior Colby Woo cleared 11-feet, 6-inches in the pole vault for 5th.

At the D1N outdoor track championship meet, Belmont Girls’ will be represented by seniors Leya El-Chanati (100, 200 and long jump); Isabel Burger (1 mile), Rachel November (400 hurdles), the 4×800 relay; while seniors Samantha Lim and Knar Krafian joins Firth in the 100 hurdles.

Banner(s) Season For Girls’ Rugby, Boys’ Tennis, National Honor for Krafian [VIDEO]

Photos: Banner day for Belmont Girls’ Rugby.

It’s been a banner 2017 spring season for Belmont High School sports as the school saw three state championships come through the door and some banners ready to be placed on the wall of the Wenner Field House.

Both Girls Rugby and Boys’ Tennis will see 2017 banners go up; rugby’s historic state championship and tennis’ fantastic post-season run defeating three higher-seeded squads to reach the Divison 2 North sectional finals.

On the individual side, junior track star Anoush Krafian not only captured two state championships this month as the All-State Outdoor Track and Field Meet – the 100-meter hurdles and the pentathlon – she extended her exceptional season by placing 4th in the 100 hurdles (14.80 seconds) at the New England Championships in Norwell on June 10 before heading to the New Balance National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, NC last weekend to compete in the multi-event heptathlon.

Against the best high school heptathletes in the nation, Krafian placed fifth in the competition that required her to compete in seven individual track and field events including the sprints, jumping, hurdles, middle distance running and throwing. 

During the meet, Krafian achieved personal bests in three events (shot put, high jump and javelin) as well as her total score of 4,496 points, trailing the winner, Kaitlyn Kirby of Florida, by less than 500 points.

Watch Krafin run the 200 meters at Nationals here. She is running in lane 7. 

Banners have also been hung this school year for Field Hockey (Champions/Middlesex), Girls’ Basketball (Co-champions/Middlesex), Boys’ Golf (Champions/Middlesex) and Baseball (Champions/Middlesex, Super 8 Tournament).

Belmont Boys’ Tennis Rebuilding in Style

Photo: The 2015 season Belmont High Boys’ Tennis team. 

It wasn’t a season the Belmont High School Boys’ Tennis had been hoping for.

After making the team tennis post season for the past four years, the Marauders was caught in the duel predicament of being in the midst of a rebuilding year – depending on athletes who come from other sports – while being in the league in which some of the best tennis players in the state happen to reside. 

And while the team did stride off the courts at the new Wilmington High School Wednesday, May 20, with a convincing 5-0 victory over the Wildcats, the hope for a fifth consecutive playoff invite didn’t materialize as the team finished the season at 6-10.

While there were a number of individual highlights in 2015 – senior Enrique Massidda came back from a set down to Concord-Carlise’s Cody Machen, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5, to win his first-round match in the North individual tennis tournament this month – Belmont still found it hard to find their game against the powerhouse squads including Lexington and Winchester which have players heading to Div. 1 college and university programs.

Leading Belmont was Massidda (who took up rowing with the Arlington-Belmont Crew club this past fall), senior Ben Lazenby who is best known for his play on the soccer pitch and basketball court,  second singles Caleb Harris, junior singles/doubles Grant Stievater who traded in his bat and glove for a racket this year, and this season’s captains, double specialists Cheng Qin and senior Amar Fernald.

On the doubles court, underclassmen sophomore Andrew Reppucci and frosh Jackson Luce – who were selected to compete in the individual doubles North playoffs – will bring a year’s worth of varsity experience to the courts next year, anchoring the team. 

The senior leadership showed up in the final match with the top-ranked and defending state champions Lexington held in Belmont on May 14, the Marauders made life a little more difficult then what the number 1 seed in this year’s tournament was expecting. Lazenby and Stievater extended rallies and won points to take five and four games respectively. Third singles Fernald lost 6-4 in both sets while second doubles Reppucci and Luce fought hard in a 6-1, 6-3 defeat. 

Not that the entire year was without its moments as Belmont was a solid mid-level squad, overpowering teams such as Stoneham, Watertown, Woburn (May 6), Wakefield (May 13) and Wilmington by identical 5-0 victories as the three singles matches and pair of doubles barely lost a game.

And not all highlights were strictly on the court. In a league where looking professional is the norm among the top teams, Stievater decided the Marauders should set the standard in high-quality apparel. 

“I came from the baseball team and they’re known for their gear so I thought if I’m playing tennis, you might as well go all out and get the best you can,” said Stievater.

Working with Gerry  Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center, Stievater organized the selection of the matching caps, sweatshirts, towels and even Belmont “B” socks to outfit the team at a price everyone agreed was a fair expense.

“[Dickhaut] gave us a discount and allowed us to get all the embroidery we wanted,” said Stievater.

“It feels nice to have something you do actually impact the team and have everyone like it. We really worked hard this year so it’s a nice little thing we get to do for ourselves,” he said.