Belmont High Girls’ Rugby Back For Sixth State Title Game Vs Tough Weymouth Squad

Photo: Belmont Girls’ Rugby in the title game again

Belmont High Girls’ Rugby will seek its six consecutive MIAA Division 1 state championship this Saturday after the Marauders made quick work of Lincoln Sudbury Regional, 71-5, in the state semi-finals match held at Harris Field, June 5.

The undefeated and top-ranked Marauders (7-0) will meet a scrappy third-seed Weymouth squad (5-2) in the title game taking place at 2 p.m., on Saturday, June 15 at Curry College in Milton. The Wildcats sprinted away late from Algonquin Regional in its 60-29 semifinal victory.

Tickets can be purchased at GoFan.com

After an early scare in which Belmont thwarted a Lincoln-Sudbury push deep inside Marauder territory, it was all Belmont as the team pilled up 35 points in the first 20 minutes as it shut out the Warriors in the first half. Junior Robyn Tonomura-MacDonald totaled four of Belmont’s 11 tries while playing stellar defense.

Saturday’s game will be a rematch of the first match of the season which Belmont waited late before pulling away. After scoring two tries quickly, Weymouth came within two – 14-12 – at the half. Weymouth held the advantage for most of the second half before two outstanding long run tries by Mia Taylor gave the Marauders the 27-12 victory.

Belmont High Boys’, Girls’ Rugby Go Undefeated, With A Pair Of State Championship Trophies In Tow

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Rugby Head Coach Kate McCabe getting drenched after Belmont won its fifth consecutive MIAA Division 1 state girls’ rugby title.

The Belmont High School’s rugby program duplicated last year’s achievement as the Boys’ and Girls’ squads returned home to Belmont with a pair of Division 1 state championships in games played Sunday morning and afternoon on June 18 at Curry College.

Boys’ Back Line Leads The Way To Consecutive Championships

Win, return, repeat.

Belmont High Boys’ made it consecutive MIAA Division 1 state titles as the top-ranked Marauders defeated this season’s chief challenger, second-seed St. John’s Prep of Danvers, 24-14.

Belmont High finishes the season undefeated, 10-0, for the first time in the program’s 17-year history, which included three matches against out-of-state competition. The Marauders equals its traditional rival, Boston College High, with the most number of MIAA state titles with three.

“Day one of this season was, ‘Guys, you’re defending state champs, but that was last year’s team. This is a different team. We’ve won nothing,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Greg Bruce. That belief led to the team to adopt a “Zero, zero” mentality – which the team shouted out after every score by either team – which got the team grounded for the season.

Rather than viewing the score of individual games or an undefeated season as the measure of the team’s success, “they just wanted to come out here to play their rugby and have one last opportunity to be together,” said Bruce.

The match’s first 20 minutes was the expected heavyweight bout of hard tackling with no quarter given between programs that acknowledge a level of “bad blood” between the two. “[Chirpy] on the field and from the stands,” according to a Belmont coach.

“We knew they were going to be really physical, and they came out even more physical than we expected,” said Belmont High senior prop Asa Rosenmeier, a co-captain heading off to Brown, where he will play rugby. “We pride ourselves on our defense, so we took that challenge straight on.”

Playing without the senior inside center, co-captain, and the program’s all-time leading scorer Jake Cornelius who was injured in Belmont’s 49-14 semi-final victory over BC High, the Marauders stayed within their “game” of running at Preps’ front row led by the 6’5″, 280-pound Rosenmeier and keeping possession of the ball by controlling their rucks and winning the scrums.

After coming close in the first minute, Belmont struck first at the 17-minute mark as junior Number 8 Max Cornelius took a “tap and go” and snuck over the try line after being set up by a 30-meter run by senior outside center Ben Williams that put the ball inside the 10-meter mark. Junior inside center Stephen Hong – who moved into Jake Cornelius’ number 12 role on short notice – nailed the conversation despite the acute angle to stake the Marauders to a 7-0 lead.

“I was ready for this moment,” said Hong. “We got the ‘W’ so I’m pretty happy about my performance.”

It took just five minutes for the Marauders to add its second tally as Hong hopped by a defender and sprinted 40 meters to score after Rosenmeier stole a Prep pass to give Belmont the ball 35 meters from goal.

Prep got on the scoreboard through Luke Rinklin, the Eagles’ Man of the Match, when the junior fly-half quickly took the ball on a touch and go and weaved 30 meters unopposed to place Prep within one score of the lead, 12-7.

But Belmont would have the final word in the half as senior flanker Matt Doban broke two tackles in the last ten meters to lunge over the try line at the 35-minute mark to up the Marauders’ lead to 19-7 at intermission.

During the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Prep’s task was straightforward: Get an early try and keep the score tight over the final 20 minutes. And the Eagles attempted just that, possessing the ball 20 meters from the Belmont try line as they pressed the attack.

But Belmont’s hard-pressed defense would bend but not break. While the Marauders’ front row punished St. John’s Prep’s runners in the center of the field, it was Belmont’s young back six – Henry Thomas, Luke Wilgren, Hong, Williams, Myles Torres, and Wyatt Sclafani – who made up for their lack of size with speed and tackling prowess prevented Prep from breaching the defensive line including twice inside five meters of the goal line. And when Prep crossed the try zone seven minutes into the half, Hong and junior fly-half Thomas prevented the Prep player from grounding the ball, allowing sophomore full-back Torres to come in for the steal.

“We got down low around the breakdown and then fired up and hit them. You can’t be scared playing defense. That’s how we held them,” said Rosenmeier.

“We asked them to put out their best defensive performance of the year,” said Bruce after the game. “Even though the score might not be the lowest points we’ve given up, that was by far the best defensive performance.”

The Marauders’ victory was secured with one of the season’s flukiest tries. On their first venture into the Eagles’ territory 15 minutes into the half, as Belmont was kicking towards the touchline, a Prep player made what one MIAA official called “an extraordinary athletic play,” leaping for the ball three meters out of bounds to tap the ball back into play. But Belmont had two players covering the kick, and the ball bounced once straight into Wilgren’s arms, who walked over the try line in what the left wing said is “the easiest try I’ll ever score.”

With Belmont up 24-7 and time draining, St. Johns’ was looking to the always dangerous Rinklin to spark a final comeback. And when Prep scored through senior Ryan Albano’s three-meter run with 12 minutes remaining, the Eagles would only cross the midfield line with less than a minute to play. When the final whistle blew, the team received their medals, and Rosenmeier and Cornelius raised the trophy aloft.

Girls’ Dominating Win Results In Five-peat

Just one word describes the championship game and season for Belmont High Girls’ Rugby.

Supremacy.

Belmont pocketed its fifth consecutive MIAA state championship (completed in seven years), defeating a young Brookline High squad 59-0, placing a capstone on a 9-0 undefeated season.

“The team wanted to make a statement about defense, and I think they really came out in the first half and did what they needed to do,” said Head Coach Kate McCabe, who received a celebratory drenching at midfield.

Belmont was only threatened once in the season by a rapidly improving Weymouth squad in the Division 1 tournament semifinals. The Marauders fell behind 7-5 at Harris Field before scoring 26 unanswered points on four tries for a convincing 31-7 Final Four victory.

“The girls walked away from that semi-final match saying the defense and the spread that we were doing wasn’t enough. It really motivated them,” said McCabe.

Already without star Number 8, senior co-captain Val Detheux, on the pitch – lost to a knee injury suffered during the fall soccer campaign – Belmont would suffer a second blow when its all-around commanding presence, junior right flanker Alek Townsend, left the field with a knock to her knee in the first half. But the team didn’t miss a beat Sunday, as there was no loss of skill and talent with the substitutes who were sent in.

“Honestly, the privilege that I have with the depth of this bench is unbelievable,” said McCabe. “The ability to turn around and know exactly who you can put in and make a difference is amazing.”

In a game in which the weather changed by the minute – rain, sun, a dose of showers – Belmont began scoring in the first two minutes with a driving run from junior lock Rowan Dragon with the conversion from junior fly-half Lucy Kabrhel, – who went 7 of 9 in conversion attempts – as the team began a masterclass on all aspects of the game.

Brookline couldn’t string the passes needed to stretch the Marauder back line, forcing them inside where they could not make headway against a physical Belmont front. When the Warriors attempted to push the ball out wide, their runners would meet Townsend, who laid out several crushing tackles before she departed.

On offense, the Marauders were much stronger up front while Belmont’s passes, starting from senior scrum-half Shelby Ball, were quickly delivered and on the mark.

Belmont junior lock Sally Amer punched in Belmont’s second try at the 10-minute mark, followed by junior inside center Olivia Mann diving across the line at 19 minutes to give the Marauders a 21-0 lead at the half.

The Marauders’ junior full-back Mia Taylor finished the game early in the second half with two scores, including a 45-meter solo gallop and a 30-meter run around the edge.

“I was committed to finding the openings as I got the passes from my teammates,” said Taylor, who garnered a second-half hat trick. Taylor saw her sister, sophomore flanker Sadie score her try while senior prop Elise Conroy finished her career with a pair in the final minutes.

And for the fifth time, Belmont took home the state tournament winners trophy as an emotional Detheux raised the silverware with senior co-captain Number 8 Sage Tonomura-MacDonald in front of their ecstatic teammates.

Losing just a handful of senior starters from this year’s first 15, McCabe said the program is on track to continue its impressive championship run.

“We’re building from a good place,” she said.

Four For Four: Belmont High Girls’ Rugby Defeats Lincoln-Sudbury, 34-0, For Fourth Straight Div. 1 State Crown

Photo: Belmont High School Senior Capt. Evie Hamer holds aloft the MIAA state championship trophy after Belmont defeated Lincoln-Sudbury, 34-0, to win its fourth consecutive Division 1 rugby state title

After a first-half where it was forced to rely on its underrated defense by a gutsy Lincoln-Sudbury Regional team, Belmont High School Girls’ Rugby flipped the switch on its dominating attack scoring five tries in the second half as the Marauders defeated the Warriors, 34-0, to take home the program’s fourth consecutive MIAA Division 1 state championship before a near full house at Curry College. Saturday, June 18.

“Man, every time it’s really hard,” said Kate McCabe, Belmont’s head coach since the program began in 2015. Belmont has won each of the four Division 1 tournaments contested since the MIAA sanctioned the sport in 2017. (The 2020 season was cancelled due to Covid while the girls’ played Rugby 7s in a non-title post-season.)

Having taken on Lincoln-Sudbury for the third straight title game, McCabe said every meeting with the Warriors “is a battle and whatever the first game of the season [a Belmont win, 39-26, in April] is doesn’t guarantee what the last game of the season is.”

The match was a tale of two halves, with second-seed Lincoln-Sudbury (5-3) playing a possession game from the kickoff, holding onto the ball for nine of the first 10 minutes while putting Belmont (7-0) under pressure by employing a wide-open game from the back. L-S came close to scoring midway through the half when the Warriors appeared to have crossed the try line but lacked control of the ball.

“We weren’t expecting them to be coming this hard,” said Belmont’s Number 8 Val Detheux. “They’ve been more wide offense and I think we got surprised by that.”

That first half Belmont demonstrated its tackling ability which is the underrated part of its game. An example occurred with the Warriors driving five meters to try, standout tackling first by open-side flanker Alex Townsend then inside center Helen Feldhaus sent L-S ball carriers back 10 meters stalling the push.

“We had amazing tacking from our captain, [senior fly-back] Evie Hamer, who shouldn’t have had to make those many tackles. She was phenomenal,” said McCabe, who also gave kudos to all the backs for shutting down the tightly organized L-S attack out wide.

In the waning moments of the half, Belmont finally took advantage of a sustained possession finding room on its right side to come within a few meters of the try. Despite being knocked off the play earlier, Detheux reentered the pile of players and squirmed the ball over the line for the game’s first score with three minutes remaining. A missed conversion allowed Belmont to walk off the pitch with a precarious 5-0 lead.

The halftime break provided the opportunity for Belmont to regroup and reset its offensive.

“We were able to to kind of settle down, play our pattern, really work what we know and then some of that space finally opened up,” said McCabe, who pointed to Marauders forwards especially the two locks, Lulu Conroy and Giulia Vecchi, who ran up the gut of the Warrior line luring the L-S forwards into the middle of the field, allowing more space for Belmont’s backs to “strike out wide.”

The Marauders’ quickly brought the ball down to the Warrior end and five minutes into the half, sophomore left wing Mia Taylor took the ball from 20 meters out, broke two tackles and dove over the try line to up the score to 10-0. Just a few minutes later, Taylor once again sprinted down the left side to found clear sailing to give Belmont a 15-0 advantage at the 46 minute mark.

Belmont’s third try of the half was its most creative as right wing Allie Caputo gathered a Belmont downfield kick at midfield and laid off to a streaking Detheux who outsprinted the L-S back line for her second and the rout was on at the 55 minute mark. In a moment of rugby camaraderie, Detheux was congratulated with a hug by a L-S player after the touch.

“I play a lot of outside club rugby and I know half of these players,” said Detheux. “Yeah, we’re friends.”

Belmont finished the scoring with 40 meter treks from Caputo – who paid for the try by being knocked off the pitch with a NFL tackle – and de la Fuente who sprinted clear then lunged for the try line after getting caught five meters out.

With the final whistle, the Marauders completed its perfect season and is taking home another state championship trophy to the newly-built high school which has yet to have a display case installed.

“We’ll find a closet to put them in for now,” said Adam Pritchard, Belmont’s acting Athletic Director.

“I’m so honored to be able to play with all these amazing seniors in their last year or as they go off to play rugby in college,” said Taylor. “I’m just so honored to be chosen to wear this jersey and be a part of this champion team.”

In the year marking a half century since the enactment of Title IX, McCabe sees her sport as a vehicle for equality in sports.

“I just want so many girls in Massachusetts to have the experience of stepping on the field and knowing that they are playing a full-out contact sport where they are dominating, where they are strong, where they’re recognized for their athleticism that they’re putting on the field,” said McCabe.

“In a world that’s seeking egalitarianism, that’s what rugby is. It’s fun and I want more teams out here.”

Belmont Boys’ Rugby Host St John’s Prep June 10 In Tourney Semis; Girls’ Await State Finals June 18

Photo: Belmont Boys’ and Girls’ ruggers are seeking to repeat the dual state championships in 2019

It’s tournament time and Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ ruggers will be seeking to repeat its dual state championships from 2019.

Second-seed Belmont Boys’ will host third-ranked St. John’s Prep in the MIAA Division 1 semifinals at Harris Field at 6:30 p.m., Friday, June 10. The contest will be a rematch of the final game of the season when Belmont (5-1-0) traveled to Danvers and took down the previously undefeated Eagles,14-12.

If they win next week’s game, the Marauders will head to the D1 state finals on Saturday, June 18 at 4 p.m. at Curry College in Milton, to face the winner of defending champions and number 1 seed Boston College (3-2-0) vs the winner of the Milton High (the only team to defeat Belmont this season)/Xaverian Brothers tussle on June 2.

After going undefeated this season, the Belmont Girls’ are an automatic qualifier to the state Division 1 finals where they will meet the winner of the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional/Brookline High contest. The match will take place on Saturday, June 18 at 2 p.m. at Curry College.

This marks the fourth consecutive trip to the state championship match for the Marauders (5-0-0) where they will seek a four-peat, being victorious in every finals since the sport was accepted in the MIAA in 2017.

Belmont Girls’ Rugby Starts Defense Of State Titles With 39-26 Victory Over Top Rival Lincoln-Sudbury

Photo: Off to the races: Belmont High’s Val Detheux scoring her second try from across the midway line in three minutes as the Marauders’ defeated Lincoln-Sudbury, 39-26, to open the 2022 rugby season.

Playing its first competitive match in nearly three years, the Belmont High Girls’ Rugby XV squared off with its chief challenger, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, in the 2022 season opener as the Marauders’ began its defense of its three consecutive MIAA state championships from 2017-2019.

It’s always a red letter date when long-time rivals meet, especially early on in the season as it gives a good indication where both teams are heading. And the Marauders’ offense clicked from the start, putting L-S – which the Marauders defeated in the previous two state finals – into a 22-0 half time hole leading to the 39-26 victory at Harris Field.

First half scrum, Belmont High vs. Lincoln-Sudbury in 2022 season opener.

“There are a lot of nerves coming into this game,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Kate McCabe after the match. “It’s hard to start with Lincoln-Sudbury and, man, they do not disappoint. It was a really hard hitting game and they seemingly got better and better as the game went on.”

When Belmont processed the ball, it demonstrated the duel threat of scoring off of grinding out multi-phased drives as with its first two scores – by sophomore left wing Lucy Kabrhel and senior scrumhalf ”Jef” Endo-Ferguson – or slash the defense with standout solo runs as Belmont crossed the goal line three times from 70-plus meters out. The highlight of the long distance ventures strikes from junior “eight” Val Detheux whose second of her two tries (which came three minutes apart) saw her slip through the middle of the L-S squad and outpace the back line to the try line.

“It’s really important to step sideways because when someone is ready to tackle you, they are low to the ground so they won’t be able to reach as far., So if you step, it’s easy to pass them,” she said.

Belmont scrumhalf ”Jef” Endo-Ferguson takes down Lincoln-Sudbury’s 9.

Detheux said playing the important Eight position with a full complement of 15 players – last year, the team played Rugby Sevens – was “scary” and ”it all happened very quickly.” But getting help from Endo-Ferguson and senior Flyhalf Evie Hamer ”was important that we work as a team, talking and sending the ball to the right places.”

Belmont showed how dangerous its offensive can be when receiving the ball with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first half 80 meters from the goal line. Rather than run out the clock, the Marauders’ team and individual speed, some impressive passes as well as defending the ball during the ruck paid dividends resulting in a four try half.

McCabe pointed to the play of senior fullback Cecilia de la Fuente who said the pace on her striker line runs ”were phenomenal” and a series of solo shoulder tackles by senior inside center Helen Feldhaus “were what we needed at that moment because Lincoln ever was coming was speed.”

Second half action between Belmont High and Lincoln Sudbury girls’ rugby season opener.

With the exception of Detheux, the team’s eight forwards are made up of seniors whose experience will be key to a return to a finals. It was the unit responsible for repelling L-S twice inside the 10 meter line early in the match and stealing a number of rucks especially in the first half.

But it’s not all the dirty work inside the scrum or taking opponent runners so the ground for the front. Senior hook Narine Mahserejian contributed to the offense going off on several runs including a notable 30-meter dash that had the sideline screaming.

“I do like to take the ball and crash it into them. I like to run through the defense and try to get a couple of meters in,’ said Mahserejian.

The one deficiency in Belmont’s game was when L-S exploited some less than stellar tackling in the final 15 minutes of the match, a detail McCabe did not overlook.

“Honestly, we’ve been working for four weeks and they put a lot of those pieces together on the field,” said McCabe. “And it was beautiful to see and people stepped up in a big way in the attack. I know that this is just the foundation and that we have a full season to build on it.

“So it’s a great place to start but there’s some work to be done, for sure.”

Belmont High’s left wing Lucy Kabrhel scores the first try of the girls’ rugby season vs. Lincoln-Sudbury.

Belmont Playoff Teams Include Baseball At Home (Sort Of) And A Rugby Twofor

Photo: Playoffs in Belmont for the next week.

Baseball will be playing in Belmont, just not where you hoped they would and both Rugby squads are hosting their semifinals as a doubleheader as Belmont High School sports teams are the the midst of tournament action.

On Thursday, June 6, the Belmont High School Baseball Team will host  Masconomet Regional in the MIAA Division 2 North Tournament. But the home game will not take place at Brendan Grant Field. Rather, the game will be played at the Belmont Hill School varsity baseball diamond off Marsh Street. The game begins at 3:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, June 12, Harris Field will be the location of a rare rugby doubleheader as Boys’ and Girls’ Rugby host respective state Division 1 semifinals as both Marauders squads are second seeds in the MIAA playoffs.

The Boys’ will take on Lincoln Sudbury Regional at 5:30 p.m. while the Girls’ hosts Needham at 7:30 p.m.

Belmont’s McCabe Named MIAA’s Girls’ Rugby Coach of the Year

Photo:

Well, it’s about time!

Kathryn McCabe, who helped establish the successful and popular girls’ rugby program at Belmont High School in 2015 and who led the Marauders to consecutive (2017-18) state championships, was this week named the recipient of the 2019 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Girls’ Rugby Coach of the Year Award.

McCabe’s selection was based upon excellence of character, impact upon students and community, and her coaching credentials.  The selection was made from all nominations by a screening committee of MIAA Coaching Education Instructors.

The Coach of the Year Award will be presented to McCabe, who is an educator at Belmont High, at the MIAA Annual Awards Recognition Banquet on Thursday, May 23, at the Doubletree Hotel in Milford.

Belmont Girls’ Rugby Romps In Season Opening Matches

Photo: Belmont High Junior Callie Weissman on the run vs. Lincoln Sudbury.

The two-time consecutive state champions Belmont High Girls’ Rugby program got down to the business of defending its crown beginning the season with a pair of dominate performances.

The Marauders’ open its campaign for a third banner by defeating last year’s championship finalist Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 57-28, at Harris Field, Friday, April 5. On Wednesday, April 10, Belmont shut out 2017 finalist Algonquin Regional, 52-0.

Asked about the outstanding performance of her team, Belmont Head Coach Kate McCabe said “we’re really lucky to have a mature squad. We have a lot of seniors and that says also a lot about the depth that they are building for the future.”

In the first game, Belmont was led by last year’s Boston Globe All-Scholastic senior Gabriella (Gabby) Viale as the Marauders took control early on both sides of the ball and never allowed Lincoln-Sudbury to establish an offensive rhythm.

It was Viale four trys – the equivalent of a touchdown – that showed . The first came when Viale made a quick start before Lincoln Sudbury was set and outran its backline to the end zone. Her second was a 60 meters solo scamper after breaking through the L/S defense, the third was the culmination of a series of grind-it-out runs. Viale’s fourth was simply sublime as she kicked the ball over the approaching defense, ran through the L/S line to scoop up the ball for her final try.

“My backline was doing such a good job of using the space, cutting and taking the angles that I was able to make those plays,” said Viale.

Replacing graduated all-scholastic Jessica Rosenstein in the critical scrum-half role, sophomore Sadie Kabhrel belied her youth by defending the ball exiting the ruck and scrum while completing nearly all her releases out to the wings.

“She would not let anyone push her around,” said Viale. “Sadie’s been fantastic with her passes as she’s getting them out really wide and we didn’t have that many drop balls.”

Belmont was up 37-7 at the halftime break and was never threatened.

“We came out with so much power it will only get better from here,” said Viale, who has established herself as one the premier players in the state. “Everyone came out so hard and really wanted it.”

In the second match against the T-Hawks, Belmont’s aggressive defense led by the likes of left wing Ana Oteri (who in the previous game took down Lincoln Sudbury’s quick wings with a series of heavy tackles), Number 8 Sam Dignan and Prop Grace Christensen, kept Algonquin on its side of the field.

The game’s offensive punch came from junior Callie Weissman who plays on the front row as the tighthead (right) prop, not normally the position that comes up with multiple trys which Weissman collected.

“I was really excited for this match because I was feeling really strong during warm up, so just being able to get the ball and to have the space to charge through the line was great, Weissman said.

Despite starting the season on a strong note, McCabe doesn’t have plans to keep the squad’s roster static for the rest of the campaign.

“I think we’re checking out a bunch of options. Just because someone has played a position doesn’t mean that’s where we’re going to play them in the future. We are not going to be complacent where we are,” said McCabe.

“These girls watch themselves play and recognize what they need to work on. They are really honest about saying things that go well and things that [the coaches] ask them to be better about,” said McCabe who took more than a dozen players on the rugby club’s spring trip abroad, this year heading to northern Spain.

Belmont High Girls Rugby To Be Honored By Red Sox Aug. 20: Get Your Tickets

Photo: Belmont High’s Girls’ Rugby team.

The Boston Red Sox organization will honor the Belmont High School 2018 Girls Varsity Rugby Team after winning the 2018 MIAA Division 1 State Championship in a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park before its game against the Cleveland Indians on Monday, Aug. 20

The Marauders won its second consecutive state championship defeating Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 20-10, on June 23.

The Red Sox has made available for the Belmont community to purchase tickets and support the team and school. Please go to the website listed below to purchase tickets: https://groupmatics.events/BelmontHSChamps

CHAMPS AGAIN: Belmont Girls’ Rugby Repeat As State Champions Defeating Lincoln Sudbury

Photo: Senior Jess Rosenstein raise the state championship trophy.

Belmont High Girls’ Rugby Head Coach Kate McCabe huddled with her team just before the beginning of the second half of the state championship finals against Lincoln Sudbury Regional. Trailing 10-8, Belmont had been outplayed by the Warriors for long stretches of the match held at Newton South High School.

“Right now Lincoln Sudbury wants this game,” she told the team, looking at each player as she spoke. “I want you to want this game more. I want you to want to win this game,” said McCabe, imploring her squad to win each encounter on the field both as individuals and as a team. Now’s the time, she told them, to have the desire to win a state title.

And the Marauders responded with a dominating hard-fought second half punctuated with a pair of inspired trys by junior flyhalf Gabriella “Gabby” Viale – adding to her first-half strike – to defeat Lincoln-Sudbury, 20-10, to repeat as MIAA Division 1 state girls’ rugby champions.

“I can’t say enough about this team. They rose to the occasion when [the game] was on the line,” said McCabe after celebrating with her team with the state tournament trophy.

“I can’t describe it,” said team captain senior scrumhalf Jess Rosenstein who accepted the state championship trophy with fellow senior center Kiera Booth. “It’s great,” she said, pointing out the victory was due to a true team effort. “It’s all our[s] [championship].”

Top seed Belmont (8-0) won the two regular-season games against second-ranked Lincoln Sudbury (5-3) by five (17-12) and two points (14-12) in physical contests and the championship match played in sporadic sprinkles under overcast skies was just as rough and tumble as the previous matches. And it was the Warriors that took the game to the Marauders, keeping control of the ball while threatening to break runs from the back.

When Belmont did have the ball, it was losing possession in the ruck – when a player must release the ball after being tackled – as the Warriors moved the Marauders off the ball. 

“That was a sticking point which we had worked on so we knew that was going to happen,” said McCabe. “LS really pressured us on our first pass from the ruck and scrum and that took away our options.” 

Lincoln Sudbury struck first when junior center Shelley Zuckerman romped around Belmont’s right end to score the first of her two tries in the half to give the Warriors a 5-0 lead. 

Belmont responded on a flukish play as the Marauders’ drove the ball within 10 meters to the goal when a quick stoppage had both teams suddenly stop play. The only player to realize that the ball was free was Viale to picked it up and ran to try. The conversion attempt from an acute angle by junior lock Johanna Matulonis was missed to leave the game level at 5-5.

“I had these opportunities. I saw it and I had to go,” said Viale who has scored in consecutive championship games.

Belmont took a lead on Matunlonis’ penalty kick from nearly 22 meters with the wind to her back. That lead was shortlived as Zuckerman scored her second from 20 meters out to give the Warriors a 10-8 lead into the half. 

The Warriors came out of the half on fire as it quickly drove the ball to the Belmont 10 meters and then nearly scored on a solo run after a Marauder defensive kick, but for a last-gasp stop by junior fullback Clare Martin.

“Clare Martin was making amazing tackles all game, some were try-saving tackles,” said McCabe.

But once it weathered the assault, Belmont put its stamp on the game, retaining control and drove to the Warrior’s try line. Belmont came close to scoring, once losing the ruck within 5 meters to the line and once crossing the try line but did not touch the ball to the ground. The Marauders kept control in the Warriors’ end despite junior lock Sam Dignan being sent for 10 minutes to the “sin bin” with a yellow card. Both teams would soon be playing 14 aside when a Warrior was sent off with her own yellow.

The constant pressure Belmont placed on Lincoln Sudbury by running straight at its front line by junior 8-man Grace Christensen, Matulonis and sophomore prop Madeline Mulken finally gave Belmont open space along the flanks and Viale capitalized by taking a final pass down the right side to outpace the Warrior defenders to sweep 20 meters into try midway in the half. Matulonis’s successful conversion gave Belmont a 15-10 lead. 

The remainder of the half saw a tiring Warrior team unable to break Belmont’s defense, only passing the half line once in the final 18 minutes. Belmont once again drove into the offensive zone, keeping possession for a majority of the last minutes. After a penalty on the Warriors 25 meters from the try line, Viale quickly restarted play with a “tap-and-go” and ran by the Lincoln Sudbury defenders for her final try giving Belmont an insurmountable 20-10 margin with less than four minutes to play.

“I couldn’t have done it without the work of my teammates,” said Viale.

“Lincoln Sudbury was phenomenal today. At times we lost our focus that potentially could have changed the entire game,” said McCabe. “But at halftime, I asked them to make a difference in the game. It was that desire, the willingness to own how each of them played which made the difference.”