Sports: Trio Of Belmont Teams Shut Out Red Devils In Season Openers

Photo: Carey Allard on the ball

Three Belmont High School fall sports team opened their 2017 seasons on Thursday, Sept. 7 with impressive shut out victories on the opening day of their campaigns.

Girls Soccer: Belmont 6, Burlington 0

This is a warning for teams in the Middlesex League; don’t get Belmont’s Carey Allard angry. She’ll just score more goals.

That’s what an undermanned Burlington High squad discovered when they attempted to cover and mark the All-Star left forward a bit too aggressively. After being her ankles clipped and body pushed off the ball during the early moments of the first half, the Marauders’ Division 1-commit (she’s heading to UNC-Wilmington next fall) was determined to answer the physical play by punishing the defense.

With Belmont already dominating the game leading 2-0, Allard put her distinctive stamp on the game by scoring a true hat-trick within a 16-minute span, to put the match out of reach by the half.

“[Allard’s] going to score,” said Paul Graham, who has coached the team for the past quarter century.

“When she shoots from the outside like that, there’s no goalie is going to stop her.”

Allard wasn’t finished, scoring her best for last, driving by three defenders and sidestepping a fourth before placing a sharp shot deftly just inside the right post to give Belmont a 6-0 opening day win over Burlington.

“I thought all 23 players played well,” said Graham, using everyone on the bench in the home opener. 

He pointed to midfield co-captain Emma Sass’ mastery of the middle of the pitch leading to Belmont controlling the game. “She’s just so strong, controls the ball well and sees the field so well,” said Graham.

Belmont wasted no time showing its dominance scoring at the one minute mark with senior co-captain Courtney Gray spinning and dropping a shot over the head of the Burlington goaltender and into the net. Ten minutes later, Morgan Krauss doubled the lead with a shot from the right side of the goal. 

Graham also praised his back three of juniors Meagan Tan and Emily Dexter and senior Natalie Marcus-Bauer. “They played superior. They dominated when they got the ball and passed it around,” said Graham.

The true test of Belmont’s potential will come when it goes toe-to-toe with the power teams in the Middlesex League. One of those is Wilmington which the Marauders will battle away from home on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.

Field Hockey: Belmont 9, Burlington 0

Six Marauders scored as Coach Jessica Smith’s field hockey squad opened the flood gates against host Burlington as Belmont seeks its third consecutive Middlesex Liberty Division title.  

“It was a great team effort,” said Smtih, who used each of the 21 players on her roster.

Leading Belmont offensively was sophomore Katie Guden and junior Morgan Chase who ended the night with three points with two goals and an assist, joining Hana Powers who also pocketed a pair. Co-capt. Senior Bridget Gardiner also had three points with a goal and two assists while her fellow captain senior Alexa Sabatino had a goal and an assist. Jordan Lettiere completed the scoring with her first strike of the campaign.

“It was really fun to watch this young team in action. The passing and shots on net were fabulous,” said Smith.

“[Katie] Guden was fantastic. She is a force when moving the ball and her passes were outstanding. Gardiner also played a fabulous game.  The midfield, in general, was very involved both defensively and offensively. They including Lillie Devitt were key in all transitions,” said Smith.

While Belmont lost two Division 1 College players – midfield/sweeper AnnMarie Habelow (Louisville) and defender Julia Chase (UNH) – and a three-year starter on defense (Molly Goldberg) to graduation, it appears Smith has found a solid back row with Meri Hana and Johanna Crowley as fullbacks and sweeper Emma Donahue (niece of Watertown legionary head coach Eileen Donahue) playing in front of veteran goaltender Chrissy MacLeod. 

Boys Soccer: Belmont 3, Burlington 0

Marauder senior goalkeeper Nate Espelin stopped a penalty and earned the 3-0 shutout as Belmont High’s Boys Soccer started the 2017 season beating host Burlington on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 7.

Leading 2-0 ten minutes into the second half, a tripping foul by Belmont’s Kostas Tingos within the penalty area gave the Red Devils the opportunity to half the lead with plenty of time still to play. But like a good poker player, Espelin saw a big time “tell” from the Burlington player as he approached the ball sitting at the 11-meter mark.

“He pointed to the left side of the net like he was going to kick it there. But I guessed that’s where he wanted me to go, so I moved to the right,” said Espelin, who preserved the two goal margin.

During the match, it held the majority of possession and momentum,  Belmont ­– ranked 15th in the Boston Globe pre-season Top 20 poll – jumped into the lead when junior midfielder Seamus Dullaghan tucked in a rebound of a Jake Carson shot with eight minutes left in the first half.

The Marauders doubled its advantage when Andrew Karalis converted a penalty kick four minutes into the second half.

Belmont final score belongs to the highlight reel as Carson scored from beyond 30 meters on a direct free kick midway through the final frame.

Belmont will play its home opener on Friday, Sept. 8 at 3:45 p.m. against Wilmington.

Sports: Upset Soccer Saturday! Girls’ Down Winchester in PKs, Boys’ Put Away C-C in OT

Photo: Marina Karalis after winning the playoff game vs. Winchester.

A pair of youngsters scored the biggest goals of the season for both of Belmont High School soccer teams as the boys’ and girls’ in dramatic fashion upset two top five seeds in the first round of the Division 2 North Sectionals on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Freshman Marina Karalis, who spent most of the season on junior varsity, buried a sudden death penalty kick past Winchester junior keeper Silvia Dowdell on the team’s sixth attempt as the Marauders shocked the Sachems, 4-3, in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in regular time and after two 10-minute extra periods.

“I actually was really scared [going to the 11-meter penalty spot] but once I put the ball down, I said ‘I can do this,'” said Karalis who was brought up to the varsity after a series of injuries left three starters on the bench.

Over in Concord, Belmont stunned one-loss Concord-Carlisle Regional, 2-1, as sophomore midfielder Seamus Dullaghan tucked in the winning goal past Colonials’ goalie Will Palmer “at the death” in the first 10-minute overtime.

Third time’s a charm as girls’ knock off Sachems

Belmont came to Winchester having been comprehensively defeated in both league matches with the Middlesex League Liberty champions, losing 5-2 on Belmont’s Seniors Night Oct. 25 and 3-0 on their last visit to Winchester on Sept. 27.

“When we found out we were playing Winchester, we were bummed because it was the only team we did not want to play,” said Georgia Parsons, the team’s senior goalkeeper.

“But as we practiced, we just turned it around and took this negative and turned it into a positive,” she said.

With Belmont in an end-of-the-season slump – having gone 0-3-2 in its final five league games – Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham switched the team’s formation to a more defensive 4-4-2 (four back line defenders and four midfielders). The new defensive alignment – with senior co-captain Rachel Berets, junior Natalie Marcus Bauer and sophomores Emily Dexter and Megan Tan – filled in space on the field which the Sachems exploited in the earlier matches.

Graham and his assistant, Michelle Henry, also focused on speed, placing the Cella sisters – senior co-captain Julia (a state finalist in track) and sophomore Olivia – on the wings to keep the Sachems defense from targeting league scoring champion junior Carey Allard.

In the front of midfielders junior Emma Sass and senior Anna Alibrandi, sophomore Ella Gagnon used her size and speed to clog passing lanes and act as a second outlet for the offense.

The changes proved effective as Belmont shut down Winchester’s scoring stalwarts, senior Yasmine Boukari and junior striker Kate Ryan, for the first 40 minutes, playing what Graham called “the best half we’ve played all season” as the Marauders held the hosts to a scoreless draw at halftime.

Winchester, who came in with 13 wins (13-4-2), was able to keep the ball in Belmont’s end “but like the [New England] Patriots, while we did bend, we did not break in the back,” said Graham.

“It’s tournament, and everyone is so focused,” said Parson.

Belmont’s defense was breached early in the second half on a set piece as Ryan headed in a loose ball off a corner with 35 minutes remaining in the game.

But in just 145 seconds the Marauders had its equalizer from Allard who, despite being drapped by senior midfielder Phoebe Sauer, hit a 20-meter wonder strike that hit the left corner of the net out of Dowdell’s reach at the 33-minute mark.

A few minutes later, Allard nearly gave Belmont the lead when she was sent in alone against Dowdell only to see her chip sail inches over the crossbar.

The remainder of both the half and both overtimes were physical affairs, with the Sachems willing to throw its weight around and to challenge Belmont’s possession as the Marauders could not find an offensive rhythm, only bothering Winchester on the counter attack.

And the Sachems came close several times to winning it all; the closest was Boukari’s hard shot from her solo run down the right side that Parsons got her fingertips to nudge it just wide of the far post.

With his team feeling the effects of an hour and a half of rough and tumble play and the home team pushing forward, Graham started substituting players with one purpose in mind: get to penalty kicks.

“[Winchester] was dominating us in the final 15 minutes and I told [Henry] ‘I’m going to stall for time so I could get into PKs’,” said Graham.

And Belmont’s reputation when the game is determined at the 11-meter spot is much like the German National Team which hasn’t lost a tournament game on penalties.

“We practice them every practice, not just the shotters but our goalies. And I just knew [Parsons] would get one,” said Graham.

“All I knew is that I was ready. We always practice penalty kicks at the end of practice, and I know my abilities, and I knew I was going to be able to stop a shot. I really believed in myself,” said Parsons.

Despite misses by Allard (a save) and Drew Bates (over the crossbar), Julia Cella, Sass and Berets scored to tie the score at three goals after the mandatory five shots.

On Wnchester’s sixth kick, Parsons dove left and parried senior Isabel Bush’s shot just past the post.

It was then up to Karalis who received last second words of encouragement from Allard before striding up and placing a well-placed shot well beyond Dowdell’s reach.

“I looked at the goalie, and I looked left, but I shot it right, so I tried to trick her,” said the ninth-grader.

When asked why he selected the only freshman on the team to take such an important attempt, Graham said “I have confidence in her. Some of the kids asked not to shot, and I respect that. So after the fifth shot, I went over to Marina and said, ‘You’re sixth, ‘ and she did the job.”

As for the game, Graham – who last year won his 300th game as Marauders head coach – expressed the victory in the simplest of phrases.

“Another state victory. I love it,” he said with a smile.

Belmont next plays at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day, against Boston Latin. The game will be played at Boston English High School on the Jamaica Plain/Roxbury line in Boston.

Boys’ Send Colonials’ Packing

After falling behind 1-0 at half-time, Belmont picked up the pace and began dominating the second half as its defense, led by senior co-captain Edward Stafford, put the clamps on the Colonial forwards.

“In the first half, we were playing to the other team’s strengths like balls in the air,” said senior striker Daron Hamparian.

“At halftime, we realized that we need to play to our strengths which include passes on the ground to succeed,” said the team co-captain who hit the top left post on a free kick from 30 meters just minutes before the team’s opening goal.

The Marauders’ first goal was a thing of beauty as keeper Nate Espelin’s long goal kick was gathered by Belmont’s stylish midfielder Luckson Dambo whose pinpoint through ball found junior Marc Musser who finished with a flourish to tied up the score.

The Marauders relied on Espelin to keep the Marauders in the game as the junior made an acrobatic stop on Colonial defender Will Tappen a minute before the tying score.

With the match appearing to head to a second overtime period, Belmont put the game away on the counter. Dullaghan’s initial shot on goal off a Hamparian cross was blocked by a defender. The bouncing ball was picked up by junior Jake Carson who slotted it towards the net. The shot was deflected by Palmer and hit the post, rebounding out to Dullaghan who tapped it in with less than a minute remaining. 

“We played hard for a full 88 minutes, and it worked out in the end. It was a true team effort that we feel will propel us to the next game,” said Hamparian.

Belmont next plays Masco Regional in Topsfield on Tuesday, Election Day, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. 

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Soccer Night in Belmont Kicks Off Under the Lights Saturday, Oct. 1

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Soccer getting the word out on the first “Soccer Night in Belmont.” 

The Belmont High School Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity Soccer teams will headline the inaugural “Soccer Night in Belmont” on Saturday, October 1, joined at the event by hundreds of younger players from Belmont 2nd Soccer and the Belmont Soccer Association, coaches, and other members of the Belmont soccer community.

Soccer Night in Belmont will feature a doubleheader under the lights at Harris Field with the Boys’  taking on Wayland High at 5:30 p.m. followed the BHS Girls’ vs. Middlesex League rival Reading High at 7:30 p.m. 

Preceding each game, 2nd Soccer and BSA players will parading out with players during the pre-game ceremonies, acting as ball boys and girls, and competing in mini-games on Harris Field during halftime of the games.

“This event will not only showcase our successful varsity teams, but will recognize the role of Belmont 2nd Soccer and BSA in nurturing the talent that makes up these teams year in and year out,” said event organizer John Carson.

“We hope to have a big crowd, and it will be 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.”

Admission to Soccer Night in Belmont is free, and the first 100 elementary grade kids wearing their team uniform will receive a commemorative soccer ball donated by Belmont Savings Bank.  Concessions, organized by Parents of Music Students (POMS) including pizza, hot dogs, snacks and drinks will be available so families can come for the games and feed the kids at the same time.  

Soccer Night in Belmont is sponsored by Belmont 2nd Soccer, Belmont Soccer Association, Belmont Savings Bank, The Rising, Phoenix Landing, with special thanks to Friends of Belmont Soccer (FOBS), and Belmont High School Athletic Director Jim Davis.

Further information for soccer players who wish to participate on the field will be distributed through their 2nd Soccer and BSA coaches in the coming weeks.  Those wishing to volunteer at the event should contact 

Sports: Down Early, Girls’ Soccer Stun Wilmington as Allard’s Hat Trick Secures

Photo: It’s all tied up!

After conceding three goals in the first 15 minutes of its game against the three-time Middlesex League champions Wilmington High School, it felt like that it would be an early night for the Belmont High Girls’ Soccer.

“I told them to keep their heads up and just play their game,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach Paul Graham, Tuesday night, Sept. 13, against a team had had not lost a league match since 2013.

But even Graham was unprepared for what happened in the next 65 minutes.

Relying on one of the hottest players in the state and taking the game to the Wildcats, a relatively young Belmont squad erased the three-goal deficit to stun Wilmington, 3-3, in a tie hardly anyone saw coming.

“Stealing a point was huge and to do it coming back against that club, a ranked team when we were down three to nothing. This was a total team ‘win,'” said Graham, whose team lost to Wilmington, 5-1, last year.

The catalyst for Belmont was junior all-star Carey Allard who bagged the hat-trick to bring the Marauders (2-0-1) back from what appeared to be a certain home defeat.

“As soon as it happened, we all got a little down. But after halftime, we got our heads back in it and fought until we tied it,” said Allard who scored her first late in the first period with a running volley from a pass by junior midfielder Emma Sass and the second at the penalty spot.

The final goal, with just under 10 minutes remaining was, simply put, a mistake. Coming down the right side, Allard cut along the touch line and sent the ball over the Wildcat’s goalkeeper and into the far corner at the acutest of angles. 

“That was supposed to be a cross, but I hit it all wrong. I guess I got lucky,” said Allard who has tallied eight goals in three games.

For Graham, the tie was, in a sense, a team victory as players outhustled the competition from winning 50/50 balls to muscling Wilmington away from making a dangerous move towards the Marauders’ goal.

Placing juniors Emma Sass, Eliza Filler and sophomore Olivia Cella in the midfield in the later part of first and in the second halves proved problematic for the Wildcat playmakers “because while they’re not the biggest girls, they are fast and nipped at [Wilmington’s] heels if they are beaten.”

Graham said the game will be a bookmark for future games against the steel of the Middlesex League in coming days.

“We had them on their back heel by the end of the game,”said Graham, praising sophomore forward Ella Gagnon for attacking Wilmington’s defense which gave Allard the little bit of space she needed to work her magic. 


Sports: Allard Lead Belmont Girls’ To Late Win At Stoneham, Now 2-0

Photo: A happy Belmont team swarm Carey Allard after the junior scored the winning goal at Stoneham.

Give Carey Allard an inch … well, you know the rest.

Belmont wins.

The junior all-star forward used a moment of indecision by Stoneham defender Mari Avola who had dogged her successfully for 74 minutes, charging by her using track sprinter speed to break alone against Stoneham’s keeper. The Division 1 commit quickly slipped the ball into the left side of the netting to give Belmont a 1-0 win on a warm, humid Saturday afternoon, Sept. 10, keeping the Marauders’ perfect after its first two games.

On Thursday, Sept. 8, Belmont opened the season with a 5-1 win at Melrose with Allard scoring Belmont’s first four goals of the season.

For Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham, the team’s performance at Stoneham was “just good enough for us to win.”

“Something always happens on this field,” said Graham of the grass surface that is noticeably narrow.

“I’ve been 22-0, and I can only win 1-0 here. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

“Thank goodness we have Allard. She’s a difference maker,” he said.

But for much of the match, Allard could not shake her shadow Avola who played Belmont’s main scoring threat tight and physical including a yellow card Avola picked up with 10 minutes remaining in the game. While Belmont did have its chances – junior Emily Duffy breakaway in the second half was parried away as well as a post being hit – the team did not dominate the game as it did against Melrose.

Stoneham’s pressure put Belmont’s midfield and defense on the back heel for portions of the match especially in the second half, as Stoneham hit the crossbar and narrowly missed the post on a header midway through the half. The one shot the Spartans had within the box was stopped by senior goalkeeper Georgia Parsons who recorded her first clean sheet this season.

With both sides having chances in the final minutes, it was likely the first goal by either team would be the winner. After a threat by Stoneham was kicked downfield by sophomore forward Ella Gagnon, it was time for Allard to make her mark on the game.

“Ella played a great ball, and I saw that [Avola] was getting in front of me, so I just went with her and then cut her off,” said Allard, who lost her voice after the game.

Allard said her scoring prowess is due to her “teammates playing me great passes. I’m just the one who finishes them for goals.”

Allard will need to be at her best as Belmont meet ranked Wilmington at home on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

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Sports: Postseason Begins Thursday for Four Belmont High Teams


A quartet of Belmont High School teams will begin their postseasons within a few hours of each other on Thursday, Nov. 5 

Belmont Field Hockey will host Central Catholic of Lawrence in a first-round Div. 1 North Sectional match at 4 p.m. at Harris Field. Here is your chance to see the 4th-ranked Marauders (14-2) in action against the 13th-seeded Raiders (10-6-2).

Belmont Girls’ Soccer travels to the edge of Logan Airport to take on the 6th-ranked Jets of East Boston High School (11-3-2) in a first rounder in the Div. 2 North Sectionals at 3:30 p.m. The Marauders are ranked 10th with a record of 11-6-0. 

Girls’ Swimming and Diving are in Waltham at Bentley College to participate in the Middlesex League meet. The event at the school’s Dana Center gets started at 2:30 p.m.

Finally, Cheerleading will be off to Woburn for the Middlesex League meet that begins at 7 p.m.

Sports: Belmont Girls’ Soccer Jets Off to East Boston for Playoff Opener

Photo: Belmont High School Girls’ Soccer team.

The Belmont High Girls’ Soccer team will be heading to Eastie on Thursday, Nov. 5 to begin postseason play as the 10th-ranked Marauders visit the 7th-seeded Jets of East Boston High School in the first round of the MIAA Div. 2 North Sectionals.

Head coach Paul Graham’s team (11-6-0) will take on the Jets (11-3-2) which is coming off being upset by Latin Academy, 4-2, in the City League title game, the first time since 2010 East Boston has not been the champs.

The game will take place in the newly renovated East Boston Memorial Park adjacent to Logan Airport on Thursday. It is unknown at what time the game will be held.

If victorious, Belmont will meet the winner of the second-seed Marblehead High (15-2-1) and Melrose (7-9-2). A Melrose upset would result in a home game for Belmont on Monday, Nov. 9. A Marblehead win will result in a long, difficult drive to the home of the Magicians.

Sports: Graham Takes 300th Victory as Belmont Shuts Down Lexington, 1-0

Photo: Belmont High head coach Paul Graham and the team after the coach’s 300th victory.

The white polo shirt said it all.

“300 WINS

Belmont Girls’ Soccer”

It took a little longer than he had hoped, but, finally, Belmont High Girls’ Soccer head coach Paul Graham secured his 300th victory with a 1-0 shutout victory at Lexington on a brilliant fall Thursday afternoon, Sept. 24. 

Sophomore forward Carey Allard’s goal midway through the first half was all the Marauders (3-3-0) needed to break a three-game losing streak and hand Graham the landmark victory.

“I’m thrilled,” said Graham, who has held the helm since 1993.

“This is a big weight off my shoulders and … the girls’ shoulders. After the loss to Woburn, a few had tears in their eyes because they thought they let me down. I don’t want that,” said Graham.

When asked where he placed the accomplishment, Graham said he’s been lucky to have been “able to coach in Belmont, growing up in the town, living here all my life. To reach this success in my own hometown, it’s just great,” he said.

After the final whistle sounded, Graham received a congratulatory hug from his assistant, Stacey Marino, while the team headed across the field to return with each player holding a placard spelling out “300!” The Lexington team provided Graham the game ball and the Belmont team presented their coach the celebratory polo.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Graham as he followed his happy team off the field.

“This is why I coach and this is why I’ll continue to coach. Just to see the smiles on these kid’s face. It’s worth a million dollars,” he said. 

Just being able to coach in Belmont, growing up in the town, living here all my life. To reach this success in my own hometown, it’s just great. 


Sports: Girls’ Soccer Falls to Steel of League to Drop to .500

Photo: Belmont’s Emma Sass (10) and Kristen Gay (24) attempt to head the ball during the team’s match with Arlington. 

It was a learning experience for the young Belmont High School Girls’ Soccer team as they met the steel of the schedule, falling to the Middlesex League’s dominant teams this week.

The Marauders lost to host and defending Middlesex/Liberty champs Wilmington, 5-1, on Thursday, Sept. 17 before greeting Arlington High for a noon matinee at Harris Field on a hot Saturday, Sept. 19.

But home cooking did help Belmont (2-2) as they fell to Arlington, 3-1.  

While Belmont played well in spurts, it could not control the midfield against a physical SpyPonder crew who were able to string short combination passes through the heart of the field to put Belmont’s young back line (two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior) on the back foot.

Due to the pressure, the Marauder midfielders were required to help out which left Belmont’s forwards on their own to bring the ball upfield. 

“Our midfielders have to be more aggressive to the ball,” said Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham who remains a game away from his 300th victory. 

“For two games in a row, we lost the midfield and we can’t our attack right because we are on our heels when we need to go forward. When we did that, we had some great plays because we are pushing it where we should be going,” said Graham. 

Arlington scored in the first 10 minutes on a flukish shot by forward Mackenzie Roy that floated over Belmont goalie Georgia Parson into the net. 

Arlington was comfortable to keep the ball in the middle of the field while Belmont’s best offensive target was sophomore left wing Carrie Allard who was out sprinting the SpyPonder defenders. But Arlington alway appeared to have players coming back to help out at any semblance of a Marauder attack. 

Graham praised the play of sophomore defender Natalie Marcus-Bauer who he said was able to dictate the play in front of her, forcing the Arlington forwards to take shots and passes they didn’t want to. 

“She’s a leader back there,” Graham said. 

While Belmont started the second half with a couple of deep runs toward’s Arlington’s goal, it would be short lived as Arlington’s physical play – challenging each pass or run with a legal shove or bump – appeared to put the Marauders’ off its rhythm.

“That seemed to bother us,” said Graham.

With 10 minutes remaining, Arlington’s Anna Kohlberg scored an open net goal coming off the wing to tap in a pass from the corner. notched two goals for the Spy Ponders, and Anna Kohlberg had a goal and two assists. Roy would collect her brace five minutes later as a result of three rapid passes that allowed the forward to turn and shot from 15 meters. 

Belmont would end the shut out when a penalty was called in the box with a minute left and Julia Rifkin buried a penalty kick inside the right post beyond the goalie’s hands.

Belmont is at Woburn on Monday, Sept. 21. 


Old School Head Coach: Graham Closing In on 300th Win

Photo: Paul Graham, head coach of the Belmont High Girls’ Soccer team.

Two years ago, a representative of the Eastern Mass Soccer Coaches Association asked Paul Graham, the long-time head coach of Belmont High’s Girls’ Soccer program, just how many wins his teams had compiled in his nearly a quarter of a century at the helm of the Marauders.

Just one problem: Graham never thought to compile his wins record.

“People kept asking me how many wins I have, and I had no clue,” he said, just that it was a significant number since his teams had made the playoffs every year but one since he took over the position in 1993.

“I did know it was a lot,” Graham told the Belmontonian last week on Harris Field during a team practice.

After going through countless high school yearbooks, memorabilia and plaques, Graham discovered he was creeping towards a milestone: 300 victories.

While it’s taken a bit longer to reach that peak – Graham thought he would have crossed the line last year – Graham stands a single victory from the mark.

(Belmont host Arlington at noon, Saturday, Sept. 19) 

And while Graham can’t recall the very first win, in doing the research, Graham was flooded with memories of his three decades in charge. 

“I’d see a photo and say, ‘I remember his game and I remember this player.’ It was awesome,” he said.

“It was great to reminisce about kids like Linsey Nohl sand Sarah Hilgenberg from days way, way back,” rolling off names and families such as the O’Briens and Muzziolis that he coached for nearly a decade. 

“That’s what it’s all about.”


Paul Graham’s first year coaching at Belmont High School in 1993.

A proud “townie,” Graham was born, raised and educated in Belmont (Belmont High, ’64) before heading to Norwich University (class of 1970 and in the school’s Hall of Fame as a goaltender and iii) and then teaching high school for five years in Milton, Vt.

He returned home after marrying his wife of 45 years, Patricia, and raised two boys – Timothy and Micheal – and two girls – Courtney and Katelyn – as Graham begin a career in the food services business. He is currently New England General Manager at Woburn-based Preferred Meal Systems New England, one of the largest suppliers of school meals in the region. 

Graham kept his interest in sports, as a coach starting in 1976 in Belmont’s youth programs – helping bring soccer to town – as a referee and on the Recreation Commission.

Graham was assisting the boys’ program when the girls’ team position became available.

“After coaching boys for 23 years, I was getting burned out,” he said.

With his daughter Courtney on the team, Graham decided to take on the challenge of managing a talented, but subpar program with a total of seven victories in the previous three years.

“I was sick seeing that they weren’t more successful,” he said.

Graham recalled telling Belmont High School Principal Foster Wright that while he could not “promise wins, but I can promise you they will play as a team. The rest will come.”

That change came quickly. Thet first year, the team – with Nohl (who played at William & Mary) and Hilgenberg (an All-American at Wellesley College) – won 12 games and made the tournament, the first of a run of 19 consecutive seasons in the playoffs, three Middlesex League titles, twice named Eastern Mass. Coach of the Year and is in the Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

Over that time, Graham and his girls have won eight Div. 2 North Sectionals, and subsequently lost each of their semifinal matches, never reaching a state finals.

“I’m 0 for 8, and that’s not good,” Graham said with a smile.

“Someday, it’ll come,” he said.

But if it doesn’t, the cap for Graham for nearly a quarter century of coaching is less the wins then the success his players have on the field and after they graduate.

“Yeah, it’s a great accomplishment, 300 wins, but like I told you, I’m here for the kids,” said Graham.

“I’ve had a ton of honors and thankful for that. But I can’t stress enough if I can help a child reach a goal than I’ve done my job. Wins are great, everything is easy when  you‘re winning, but I want to have some part of kids’ success while they’re attending Belmont High,” he said.