Belmont Boys’ Soccer Looks For Late Push To Secure Playoff Spot

Photo: The Belmont High seniors on their night

Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer Head Coach Niman Kenkre knew if there’s a game to win on the team’s schedule, it’s going to be Seniors Night, which, coincidentally, was Kenkre’s birthday.

And they did, as three seniors scored three second half goals – two in the final two minutes – as the Marauders took down visiting Burlington, 3-0, Wednesday, Oct. 13.

Senior attack Mateo Estrada-Donahue got the game winner 10 minutes into the second half from a quick hitter at the top of the box that scooted into the left corner of the goal. Anthony Dokhan smartly converted a penalty before Charlie November stole the ball from the Burlington goalie and tapped in his first varsity goal of his career.

The win gave the Marauders an all important last season boost in the MIAA Power Rankings – you can throw out the old win-loss record/total points to determine who’s going to the playoffs – has Belmont 34th in Division 1, a mere two places from being eligible for the state tournament.

The win came at the right time – and not just being on his birthday – as the team went through “a difficult stretch” according to Kenkre. After starting the campaign with three consecutive wins, the Marauders lost seven contests in row, some in excruciating late goals to opponents they had dominated during the game.

“We were so optimistic after our start,” he said, with the belief they would make a run to win the Middlesex League. “Then everything that could go wrong went wrong” including injuries and last second goals.

“It’s so easy for players to get dispirited. I’ve seen professional teams go down the tubes with losing streaks less bad than ours,” said Kenkre, who played professionally in Iceland.

Despite three-plus weeks of defeat after defeat, the team didn’t waver from the game philosophy installed at the start of the season that realized the Marauders couldn’t be competitive with most of its opponents attempting to play a physical running game, rather relying on short passes and movement off the ball.

And last week saw the turning of the ship as the Marauders took five of a possible six points defeating Watertown, 2-0, to stop the slide, tying Wakefield, 1-1, for the first away points since the first week of the season and taking down Burlington.

“I’m expecting a strong end to the season. We can control is in our hands and then, hopefully, the power ranking formula will be in our favor and we can we can get in [the tournament] and that would be wonderful,” said Kenkre.

And while its the results on the pitch that ultimately matters, Kenkre got a bit emotional after the Burlington tussle on the camaraderie the players have for each other and him.

“I mean it’s just such an amazing group of guys and the thing is, it really speaks volumes to their character, that they have this spirit, this love for each other for me, for our coaching staff, even though it’s been a hard time for all of us,” said Kenkre.

“And for them to stay strong through all, to stay together and have the support and love that they show for me, it’s an incredible feeling and I couldn’t be happier. And for it to all come together with such a nice victory on my birthday, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Belmont High Football Takes Home Opener With 26-7 Win Over Burlington

Photo: Belmont High sophomore WR Kevin Logan scored the Marauders first TD of the morning vs. Burlington in Belmont’s 26-7 victory.

It wasn’t the promised start to the home opener new Belmont High School football head coach Brian McCray was hoping for.

Originally to be held in an expected packed Harris Field under the Friday Night Lights, the contest against Burlington High was postponed due to a forecast of pending thunderstorms – that never materialized – and rescheduled for cartoon-friendly 10 a.m. Saturday morning. A few fans had drifted into the stands by kick off to see Burlington score on the very first play from scrimmage as dynamic senior running back Adam Eldeeb raced 65 yards down the left sideliine to give the Red Devils a 7-0 lead after 21 seconds.

“We started out very slow and sluggish start, that’s for sure. It seems that we need someone to score on us for us to start playing,” McCray said after addressing his team after the victory.

But Eldeeb early touchdown would be the final time Burlington (0-3) would cross the goal line as a strong defensive showing along with an effective run/pass mix result in 20 second half points as Belmont (2-1, 1-1 in the Middlesex League) secured the 26-7 home opening victory.

“We made a couple of adjustments on the offensive side that really helped us tremendously,” said McCray. “Our conditioning also showed as we had nobody really tired so we were able to make those adjustments and that made all the difference at the end of the game,” he said.

A sophomores accounted for a pair of Belmont’s four touchdowns as running back Adrien Gurung scampered for runs of 62 and 64 yards while big senior wide receiver Kevin Logan was on the end of two strikes from senior quarterback Ryan Broderick, the first when he out jumping a defender with 54 seconds to go in the second quarter to knot the score at 7 at halftime.

Gurung’s second 100+ yard game – the first vs. Cambridge – was made up of a majority of hit the middle of the line behind senior Tony Zhao, sophomore Ryan Holloran and junior Asa Rosenmeier, and gut out a handful of yards. But when the opportunity opened before him, the sophomore used his quickness to pop through a gap and outdistanced the Red Devil DBs in the third (on the first play of the half) and fourth quarters.

It took a while for Broderick to click with Logan but its was hard to miss the 6’5”, 205 lbs tower over anyone trying to defend him. Broderick found the sophomore in the flats for 35 yards before launching a jump ball 15 yards into the end zone that Logan out jumped the back at the end of the second. The Broderick/Logan combo hooked up a second time on a slant pattern from five yards out.

On the defensive side, Belmont was able to bottle up the Red Devil backfield while halting Burlington each of the five times it attempted to move the sticks on fourth down including on their second possession deep in Belmont territory. Sophomore Max Cornelius was particularly effective clogging up the middle and hauling down Burlington runners at the line including on two big plays early in the second quarter while the defense’s second Cornelius, junior linebacker Jake Cornelius, was in the backfield making a big shoe string take down to force a fourth down which Belmont would stop.

”The kids really believe in the defense we are trying to do. They’re very aggressive and we coach them to be in the best position possible to make plays and they seem to do that today,” said McCray.

The Marauders had two big take aways in the morning, a fumble recovery by sophomore Brian Logan on one of Burlington’s fourth down attempts and a Taylor Arno interception where the senior defensive back launched skyward to cut off Ronan Noke’s pass to give Belmont the ball leading to the team’s first TD.

Next up for Belmont is a home encounter with powerhouse Reading (3-0) a top-10 team (in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald Top-20) that scrapped by Danvers last week.

”It’s a great opportunity for us. It will be a test so we have got to study hard. And when you study hard, sometimes you pass,” said McCray. “So we’re hoping that this week we’ll get an ‘A’ on the test.”

Belmont High Volleyball Two For Two In Season Openers [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont’s Leah Babroudi at the net against Burlington.

Last year Belmont High volleyball’s young team squeaked into the playoffs with a .500 record than losing in the first round.

Now, with a year’s worth of experience under their belt and a familiarity playing as a team, Belmont’s Head Coach Jen Couture has high hopes for a strong run in the league race and for a post-season run.

And so far the team has not disappointed, winning its first two contests in the 2018 season; 3-1 (25-20, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22) in the home opener over Burlington on Wednesday and a 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-15) whitewashing of Wilmington Friday.

In its game with Burlington – a semifinalist in last year’s Division 2 North sectionals – Belmont never allowed the Devils to run off long service games while countering with a complete game plan.

“We started off the match playing with confidence,” said Couture. “Burlington took a little while to warm up and really started getting into a groove in the third set which they inevitably took. In the fourth set we just focused on minimizing unforced errors, keeping everything in play and hitting smart shots. [Belmont] didn’t get shaken or down on themselves after dropping the [previous] set and bounced back to finish the match.”

Junior captain setter Mindee Lai set a new record for assists in a single match with 35.

“Mindee always gives 100 percent effort every match and does an excellent job setting up our offense. Burlington’s middle blockers really challenge our hitters to hit to smart spots and Mindee adjusts the sets to give hitters more time to hit around the block,” said Couture.

Senior Captain Jane Mahon led the offense with 11 kills (17 total in two games) and 6 aces. Mahon, who plays as the opposite hitter and middle blocker, also led the team in blocks with 6. She’s followed by junior Nena Babroudi with 10 kills and 5 services aces.

Leading from the back was junior Libero Sophia Estok who came up big serving in the fourth set along with her solid defense. In the two games, Estok has 36 defensive digs and 38 services received while senior Leah Babroudi has 14 digs and 24 services. 

Belmont Girls’ Lacrosse Takes Two at Home After Spring Recess

Photo: Belmont High Senior Sophia Eisenbach-Smith (center in white) in action.

Behind a goal-scoring binge from speedy senior Left Wing Attack Sophia Eisenbach-Smith, the Belmont High School Girls’ Lacrosse team took two well-earned victories at its home at Harris Field to move its record to 3-5. 

The multi-sport (soccer and basketball) standout Eisenbach-Smith tallied 14 goals in the two games, leading Belmont by Wilmington High, 15-8, on Wednesday, April 29, and over Burlington High Red Devils, 19-12, on Friday, May 1.

Friday’s victory over the visiting Red Devils was the team’s best game of the season, said Belmont’s Head Coach Aimee Doherty.

“We played very well beginning to end. The girls showed a lot of heart which I have been nagging them about. They stepped it up with the ground balls. And while we had some turnovers, we got a lot of them back by fighting for it so that made a huge difference,” she said. 

After falling behind 2-4 midway through the first half, the Marauders went on a 6 to 2 goal run to go into halftime up 8-6, as junior attack Lizzy Frick (3 goals) scored on a penalty with a minute remaining.

The second half has been a worrisome time for the Marauders this season when Belmont, but not this game as despite not having a great deal of possession in the first 10 minutes. Up 10-9, the Marauders started connecting on its passing, freeing up attackers for some open shots and goals starting with junior Sophia Pollack (3 goals) to make it 11-9 at the 12 minute mark. 

And when the passes weren’t there, sophomore Annemarie Habelow ran 40 meters up the middle of the defenders to score giving Belmont a 12-9 lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Preserving the lead were sophomore goalie Anastasia MacEwen – who made several in-close saves – and defenders juniors Bridget Treanor, Leah Bram and sophomore Margot Kubasek who crowded the slot in front of MacEwen.

Up 14-10 (through goals by Eisenbach-Smith and Kerri Lynch), with eight minutes remaining, Belmont swept up the victory with a great display of passes that put Belmont’s forwards, like Ellen Bragg (2 goals) one-on-one with the Burlington goalie. Fittingly, Belmont’s final goal was scored with 30 seconds remaining by Eisenbach-Smith, her eighth of the match. 

“Our passing was excellent today. Accuracy is something we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks and I think we nailed it today. Those passes were dead on,” said Doherty.

Next up for the girls are Winchester on Saturday, May 2 (after the SAT tests) and Monday, May 4 at arch-rival Watertown. 

Belmont Girls’ Basketball De-Pressed Burlington, Runs Record to 8-3

A pair of forwards stepped up to lead Belmont High School Girls’ Basketball to consecutive away game wins this past week as the Marauders continue on the programs best start, 8-3, in more than a decade.

Junior Sarah Stewart had 12 points and 9 rebounds as Belmont defeated Wilmington, 60-43, on Tuesday, Jan. 20 while senior Elena Bragg connected for 11 points (while being near perfect from the free throw line) and 8 rebounds in the Marauders’ 53-43 victory over a good Burlington High (6-5) squad as it snapped the Red Devils’ four game winning streak on Friday, Jan. 23. 

While Belmont rushed to a 20-3 lead against Wilmington to won convincingly, the Marauders faced a team similar to itself on Friday as the hosts prided itself on playing an aggressive defense style.

But Belmont came out gunning from the start as freshman guard Carly Christofori (10 points) hit the first of two first quarter three point shots for the first basket of the game fallowed by jumper by Bragg as Belmont caused the Red Devils to turn over the ball three times in the first two minutes.

When Burlington attempted a use a full-court press – when the defensive team pressures their opponents for the entire length of the court by putting two players on the person with the ball – Belmont’s backcourt of Christofori and Sophia Eschenbach-Smith (5 points) attacked it with long passes that resulted in easy layups for Bragg and Irini Nikolaidis (6 points and 7 rebounds). 

“Our defense was amazing in the first quarter,” said Eschenbach-Smith, who Head Coach Melissa Hart called “stone cold” leading the team.

“We were playing so well because we were communicating and that helped a lot when they were pressing us,” she said.

Forced out of their preferred defense, Burlington allowed Belmont to dictate the game which saw the Marauders take advantage by picking up offensive rebounds and force the Red Devils to foul Belmont players. When Christofoi hit her second three pointer, Belmont saw its lead grow to 15-2 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

But Burlington started playing a tough man-to-man defense and reduced the margin to 3 points (18-16) behind senior guard Arianna Rivera (6 points in the quarter) before junior all-around player Samari Winklaar (6 points) hit a long three pointer to stop the bleeding mid-way through the second quarter. A bucket and foul shot by Christofori and a power move by Stewart (6 points) saw the lead go back to 10 by the half, 29-19.

The second half saw Belmont nurse its lead for the final 16 minutes, during which Burlington could only crawl within five points (34-29). Yet the Red Devils could never get a scoring run against the Marauders’ suffocating defense that included senior center Linda Herlihy (4 points), Bragg and Stewart successfully boxing out a collection of tall Burlington forwards.

“Eight and three. We’re on our way,” said Hart, saying she saw a great deal of composure from the team to preserve the margin of it lead through the game.

Hart also acknowledged the bench players “who come to practice each day and works so hard to make everyone a better player. They’re the reason we are the team nearing the playoffs. They are our unsung heroes.”