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.” 

Belmont Rugby Teams Meet Familiar Rivals In Saturday’s State Finals [VIDEO]

Photo: Senior Scrumhalf Joe Viale racing down the pitch vs. St. John’s Prep

With a pair of dominating performances in the state championship semifinals last week, Belmont High School’s boys’ and girls’ Rugby squads now prepare to meet familiar foes in the state finals in a rare doubleheader where girls and boys high school teams will be seeking championships on the same day this Saturday, June 23.

The number one-ranked boys’ (6-0) in Division 1 will meet defending championships and second seed Boston College High School (5-1) in the late match of the three championship finals taking place at Newton South High School at 4 p.m

In the middle match at 2 p.m., the first seed and defending champs Belmont (7-0) is match up against second-ranked Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School (5-2) in the Division 1 Girls’ finals. 

The Belmont teams earned their place in the championship match with convincing victories in the semifinals that took place at Harris Field. On Tuesday, June 12, Belmont’s girls’ defeated the Needham High squad, 54-7, in a game that was more competitive than the earlier encounter between the teams.

Saturday’s opponent Lincoln Sudbury has been the one team which has placed the most pressure on the Marauders. It took Gabby Viale‘s ten-meter “tap and go” dash up the middle for a try on the last play of the game to give Belmont a 17-12 away victory on April 25. In the reverse fixture on June 12, Belmont’s defense and tackling kept a surging Warriors’ at bay for the 14-12 win, the margin of victory provided by junior Johanna Matulonis‘ converting both two-point conversion kicks after trys. 

Belmont will be relying on Senior Scrumhalf Jessica Rosenstein – who will be playing collegiately at national champs Lindenwood next year – to deliver the ball to the backline and direct the offense. Expect the team to rely on Number 8 Grace Christensen to take inside runs while Viale will be relied on to continue her season-long game-breaking runs while the back row wingers – highlighting juniors Hannah Hlotyak, Clare Martin, and Kiera Booth – will play a central role advancing the ball. 

The Marauders will need to protect the ruck – when a runner is stopped, their teammates attempt to push back the opponents so the scrumhalf can release the ball to the back row – and win the scrum when Belmont’s front eight players battle Lincoln-Sudbury’s front eight for the ball. 

On defense, watch for Belmont tackling attempt to counter the speed and physical nature of the Warriors.

If there is one advantage Belmont will carry into the game will be its experience – Saturday will be consecutive championship matches for nearly all the players on the field – and knowledge of the game which will 

Belmont Boys’ completed the season undefeated and rarely challenged in the late going of matches. And they showed its superiority in the semifinals as they dispatched St. John’s Prep High, 33-3, on Wednesday.

Boston College High squeaked into the championship game with a 12-10 semifinal victory over Lincoln Sudbury. Belmont defeated the Eagles on a rainy April 25, 26-14, with BC High scoring a late try. 

The Marauders will look to its senior front-runners, captain and flanker Will Lozano and scrumhalf Joe Viale, who will provide leadership by example on both sides of the ball, leading the attack into the heart of the BC High squad while being the first line of defense with an emphasis on stealing the ball from the ruck or during the run of play. 

And it will be in the ruck, side out and especially the scrum where Belmont will attempt to continue its season-long dominance. Despite being outweighed by BC High and St. John’s Prep by a significant amount, the forwards – front row Jake Parsons, Ryuichi Ohhata, and Mark Morash; locks Andra Duda and Maxwell Baskerville; flankers Connor Shea and Lozano; and 8-man Sam Sagherian – have controlled the majority of scrum restarts by working in concert as a single unit, resulting in the Marauders dictating how the game is played.

Look for Belmont to control the line-outs with Baskerville as the jumper who is lifted to capture the ball. Center back Sam Harris and wings Joe Altomare will give Belmont a great amount of pace in the open field. 

And the Marauders is expected to have an advantage in the kicking game as senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo has been hitting conversions and penalty kicks from well past 30 meters.

Rugby: Boys’ Outplay Defending Champ BC High; Final Play Gives Girls’ Win Over L-S

Photo:Senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo running for Belmont’s first try against BC High.

In a battle of rugby royalty, Belmont High Boys’ is wearing the crown after a convincing 26-14 victory over defending Division 1 state champions Boston College High School on a soaked Harris Field, Wednesday, April 25.

After defeating last season’s number 1 and 2 teams (the Marauders thrashed St. John’s Prep, 38-23) in its first two matches of the season, Belmont can claim the top spot in Division 1 in Massachusetts.

While both teams had its hands full with the wet conditions, Belmont’s skill and tactics won out against the Eagles. As with their game against St. John’s Prep, it was Belmont’s dominance controlling the scrum where Belmont’s front seven was outweighed by both prep schools highlighting the Marauders’ control of the game.

Senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo eluded two BC High defenders to scamper 40 meters for Belmont initial try at the 11-minute mark and then easily converted the two-point conversion kick. (Brabo is fast becoming the program’s best ever kicker having scored a 45-meter penalty kick.)

It took the Marauders only five minutes to double the score to 14-0 when after soon after a great kick to touch to advance the ball near the BC High goal line, senior Sam Harris punched to through to score Belmont’s second try.

BC High halved the lead to 14-7 during its longest possession of the game, but Belmont would not be denied its third score when Will Lozano ran up the middle with five minutes remaining in the half to make the score 21-7. 

Both teams came close to score in the initial 10 minutes of the second half but dropped balls and great defensive stances by the Eagles and Marauders halted the threats, Belmont would finish its scoring in the 57th minute to raise the score to 26-7 before BC High used some brute force to register its second try two minutes into extra time.

Girls’ Use Last Play To Eek Out Victory At Lincoln-Sudbury

On the final play of a game, Belmont High’s junior fullback Gabriella Viale tapped the ball to herself and scored the match-winning try as Belmont’s Girls’ Rugby defeated hosts Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 17-12, in a contest played in a constant downpour on Wednesday, April 25.

Despite finding itself down 12-10 in the final 20 minutes, “[The team] was impressive since no one lost their cool, they never panicked. They were always composed,” said Belmont head coach Kate McCabe of her team.

After defeating its first two opponents by a combined 138-0, Belmont soon discovered the Warriors – which the Marauders squeaked out a 10-5 home victory last year – were ready to take on the defending state champions.

“They were really tough and super aggressive at the start of the game,” said Viale, who said the game certainly affected by the heavy rain with many dropped balls. 

Belmont took the lead 5-0 through Viale before the Warriors tied the match at 5 going into the half. Junior Number Eight Grace Christensen gave Belmont the lead, 10-5, with a strong try early in the second half only to see Lincoln-Sudbury score and make the conversion kick to go ahead 12-10. 

“It took a little while to get used to what they were doing but in the final 20 minutes we were playing within their 20 [meter],” said McCabe.

While they were on the front foot, Belmont waited until the games final seconds to score. A penalty was called on the Warriors near its goal line allowing Belmont to restart play as Lincoln-Sudbury was running back to line up defensively. Rather than pass the ball back, Viale tapped the ball with her boot and sprinted for the try. With Calista Weissman’s conversation kick, the ref blew the final whistle.

Belmont’s rematch with Lincoln Sudbury is May 30 at Harris Field.

Girl Ruggers Feted by Town For Historic State Championship

Photo: Girls Rugby state champions with the Board of Selectmen.

It’s been three months since a group of Belmont High “ruggers” captured the historic first-ever state-sanctioned girls rugby championship in the US on a warm late spring day in Beverly.

This week, the victory was hailed officially by the town as the Board of Selectmen issued a proclamation celebrating the victory at Monday’s board meeting, Sept. 18.

Belmont High School Girls’ Head Coach Kate McCabe and a good number of the players attended the reading of the declaration by Chair Jim Williams, received a nice round of applause and got their photos taken afterward. 

Belmont High School Girls’ Head Coach Kate McCabe and captain Sara Nelson speaking before the Belmont Board of Selectmen.

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).

STATE CHAMPS! Belmont Takes Girls’ Rugby Title Over Algonquin

Photo: Smiles from the Belmont High Girls Rugby, state champions.

Belmont High School Girls’ Head Coach Kate McCabe told her team during the season that “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.”

McCabe’s adage turned out to be spot-on prophetic as the Marauders used a punishing defense to propel its offense to  17 unanswered points as Belmont defeated Algonquin Regional High School, 17-14, to win the inaugural MIAA Girls’ Rugby State Championship on a hot Saturday afternoon at Endicott College, June 10.

After falling behind 14-0 in the first 25 minutes, the Marauders’ used a “no stars” team approach to claw back into the game, sparked by two pivotal plays by a pair of sophomores and the determined leadership of a group of graduated seniors.

“There is not a girl that has been playing with us this entire season that doesn’t deserve credit for what we did out there,” said senior captain Sara Nelson who three years ago was one of the original players who helped started the girls’ program.

“It’s such a team effort, and I love them all,” said Nelson.

“I’m so excited for them,” said McCabe walking off the field with the state championship trophy in her hands.

“They worked so hard; they really wanted it especially the senior class. They made [the state championship] their goal, and I’m just thrilled they got it,” said McCabe, which included Anne Baker, Molly Goldberg, Aisling Madden, Georgia Parsons, Mariel Somers and Nelson.

Not only was the game the first ever state championship for the Girls’ (as well as two divisions of Boys’) it was a historic game as it was the first title game in the US sponsored by a state high school interscholastic association. It is hoped that the championships will spur other state associations to add rugby – the fastest growing high school and college sport in the US – to its list of varsity sports.

Not that Belmont made it easy on themselves to take the championship as the first 25 minutes found the Marauders’ digging a fairly deep hole for themselves as early mistakes and inability to stop the T-Hawks backs resulted in a quick 14-0 deficit. Algonquin’s senior fullback Kendall Scholl found herself turning the corner on Belmont’s defense to score a long distance try only four minutes into the game.

The match-up was following a familiar script of the previous two meetings between the teams – Belmont won 20-10 away and tied the T-Hawks 10-1o at Harris Field – in which Algonquin started out strong scoring the first try. 

For nearly the remainder of the half, Belmont had its back to the goal line. After one stellar defensive stance in which the Marauders stopped Algonquin for more than two minutes from within five meters, the T-Hawks pushed Belmont back so its big front line player Charlotte DiGovanni could fall forward with a disputed try as many saw the ball fall out of her hands before it was touched down with 11 minutes to play.

“We did not make it easy on ourselves, that is for sure,” said McCabe. “I think that first half we played a little afraid. We didn’t want to make mistakes, but we made a lot of mistakes.”

With time running down in the half, Algonquin would lose its best all-around player, senior Sam Dickie, to a shoulder injury. Soon after, Belmont would get the break they needed as sophomore fullback Gabriella Viale took the ball from 25 meters out and ran through the T-Hawk line for an uncontested try with no time on referee Kelly Craven’s watch to cut the lead to 14-7 at the half.

“I just saw a gap, and I took it,” said Viale.

McCabe said Belmont needed to take more chances in the final 35 minutes which the Marauders did, stealing a pair of critical scrums and advancing the ball within five meters of the goal 10 minutes into the half but lost possession to an infraction.

But the subsequent kick by Algonquin – a team can advance down the field by kicking it up the pitch and out of bounds – was caught by Belmont’s sophomore right wing Hannah Hlotyak who scampered up the sideline 20 meters. Less than a minute later, senior “8” Georgia Parsons powered through a slew of Algonquin players for Belmont’s second try.

“I told myself that I was going to score try, try to score more than one,” said Parsons, whose ankle was tightly wrapped after injuring it three days before the game. Parson – who was the varsity soccer goalkeeper in the fall – missed the conversion to bring the score to 14-12. 

Belmont continued to press Algonquin on both offense and defense as the T-Hawks tired considerably, unable to move the ball effectively against a Marauder defense which each player called out assignments. Many times Algonquin players could only hand off the ball as there was no room to maneuver.

On offense, junior scrum half Jessica Rosenstein – who takes the ball from the scrum and delivers it to the backs – was quarterbacking the offense with spot-on back passes while junior flanker Kailee Pellicane had a series of punishing runs while doing the dirty work of clearing out Algonquin players attempting to steal the ball after a Belmont runner was tackled. 

Up front, the forwards, lead by the senior Head Prop duo of Baker and Goldberg supported by sophomore Locks Grace Christensen and Samantha Dignan and flankers; senior Somers and Pellicane dominated the scrums and rucks which left the Algonquin front line exhausted for most of the second half.

With 17 minutes remaining, Belmont moved to its left where they found room to run. Sophomore Amanda Hanley took the ball on a 25-meter romp to inside five meters where junior Rachel Iler-Keniston picked up the ball and dove in for the try. The conversion from the acute angle failed to give Belmont a slim 17-14 lead.

Six minutes later, Algonquin came close to turning the table on Belmont as a quick restart saw a T-Hawk fullback break through an opening into the clear. With only open turf between her and the end zone, it appeared she was going in for a sure tying try when Viale ran her down with a game-saving tackle 15 meters from the goal line. 

“I saw the girl break away and I was like, ‘you’re no getting past me,’ and I went for it,” said Viale who competes in winter track. 

That would be as close Algonquin would come to scoring as Belmont’s fly backs began picking up large chunks of real estate while substitutes such as Heather Swanson contributed by making a critical steal from an Algonquin ruck. 

After the field clock had stopped at two minutes for what seemed to be 10 minutes and with Craven looking at her watch, Rosenstein kicked the ball out of touch after a penalty. It was then the final whistle blew, and after a few seconds of drained relief, the celebration began. Each player received a championship medal, and Nelson accepted the state championship trophy with the coaches. After photos of them with the trophy and banner, the entire team then ran through a “tunnel of honor” created by supporters and several members of the boys’ team who came to cheer the girls.

McCabe said for Belmont, the victory is vindication for the seniors who came out as sophomores to start what was then a fairly unknown sport for girls in the state. 

“For girls’ rugby, I hope this starts a trend., I hope more schools have girl rugby teams. I hope we see more really tough games like this. The fans were going crazy. It was a great game of rugby,” she said.

When asked what it was like winning a state championship, “it had not sunk in yet” said Nelson with a beaming smile and tears in her eyes.

Belmont Girls’ Rugby Prepares for Historic First-Ever State Finals Sat. June 10

Photo: Preparing for history.

It’s two days before she will lead her team into the first-ever state Girls’ Rugby final and Belmont High Head Coach Kate McCabe is not particularly happy.

On Belmont High’s Harris Field, McCabe ordered the three dozen or so girls who were out practicing to perform 10 burpees, a quick penalty for not being ready to restart after a water break.

“You have two and a half hours here to prepare for the game,” said McCabe, a social studies teachers at the school as well as the coach who started the program three years ago with a handful of hopefuls who practiced in the mud as she taught them the game.

“Let’s not waste any time,” she said.

The team then got down to business, running through plays with a focus on tackling and protecting the ball.

McCabe and the squad are taking their undefeated season – three wins and a tie – and strong play with them as they enter the Endicott College football stadium at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 to take on rival Algonquin Regional High School for the third time with a state championship trophy as their goal.

The game – played between the two Boys’ title games – is special not just that it’s the first-ever state championship in rugby, it is also the first finals sanctioned by a state high school interscholastic association, a breakthrough that gives the sport a boost towards acceptance by high schools in Massachusetts and in other states.

“It means a lot for the program and I’m really proud for women’s rugby,” said McCabe last month.

For Sara Nelson, one of the first girls to go out for the team three years ago and is now the team’s sole captain, “it’s great that we get to represent the sport in the finals.”