Boo! Tournament Ready, Belmont Field Hockey Welcomes C-C On Halloween In 1st Round

Photo: Seniors on Seniors Night at Belmont High School.

Belmont Field Hockey is only thinking all treats and no rock as the 7th seeded Marauders host 10th ranked Concord Carlisle Regional on Halloween in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 North Sectionals.

The game will have an early start, 2:30 p.m., at Harris Field on Oct. 31.

The Patriots come to town with a 12-4-2 record as runners-up to Weston in the Dual County League, Small School division. Belmont finished the season at 12-4-0, second to Lexington in the Middlesex Liberty division race.

The postseason comes as Belmont has seeming rightened the ship after going through a stretch where the Marauders could not convert their good play into wins. It’s two Lexington league games were relatively even in all aspects except the final score as the Minutemen outpaced Belmont 7-1 over the two games. In its rematch against Winchester (having won the initial encounter, 3-0), Belmont arrived at an empty field and no one to be found. It turned out a scheduling change left Belmont waiting for two hours in the cold before losing 4-2 in a lackluster affair.

But coming down the stretch, it appeared the Marauders had rediscovered its earlier strong form starting the season on a seven-game winning streak that concluded with an outstanding effort against 10-time Division 2 state champs Watertown, outplaying the Raiders on the field (13 penalty corners to 1 and 8 shots to 2) but came out on the wrong end of a 2-0 score.

For longtime head coach Jess Smith, the final two games of the regular season saw an increase in scoring chances while a tweaking of her defense has solidified the backline.

“For the tournament, I wanted a home game and not play a Middlesex League team in the first round,” said Smith. “Playing someone new is helpful for the kid’s mindset because playing someone three times is a nightmare.” 

On Seniors Night, Oct. 24, Belmont concluded the sweep over a nine-win Reading team, handily defeating the Rockets, 3-1. Co-captain forward Morgan Chase scored along with fellow senior left wing Hana Power in the first half followed by junior midfield Katie Guden in the second. The Marauders dominated the middle of the field not allowing the Rockets to use its breakout speed on the counter-attack. Guden produced the play of the game when her “ankle breaker” NBA-style crossover move left a Rocket defender on the turf to the amusement of her teammates (and it must be said to the victim herself).

Reading has played Belmont and Concord Carlisle twice this season, losing 2-1 at Concord and tying the Patriots, 1-1, in the reverse fixture.

“I was really happy how they played against Reading. They were determined to return to how they were playing in the first part of the season,” she said. “They showed up and played the entire 60 minutes.” 

Belmont traveled to Arlington for a late autumn last game to finish off the regular season, coming away with a 5-1 win where Smith was able to bring in bench players and switch around positions. Guden, Power, Lettiere (2) and senior right wing and Chase tallied in the game. 

“They started the game out slow, but by the end, we could have scored a lot more than five goals. I think the kids are starting to feel that they are tournament ready,” said Smith.

Belmont Boys’ Soccer Meets Playoff Arch-Rival Concord In Semis After Dispatching Billerica, Winchester

Photo: Belmont junior Alex Rokosz goes up for a loose ball vs. Billerica. 

There is one thing about the upcoming Division 2 North Sectional semifinal matchup between Belmont and Concord-Carlisle Regional that spectators can already count on.

It will be entertaining. 

The game scheduled for Friday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at Woburn High School have enough back stories to fill a book, the first being the Patriots’ sense of vengeance to what the Marauders did to Concord who last year was favorited for the D2 state championship. In the opening round sectional match, Belmont shocked Concord, 2-1, in overtime to knock the one-loss Patriots out of the tourney.

And if revenge is best served cold, Concord can take to heart that Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s.

But then, one would have a hint that Friday’s game will be a must-see collision as the teams have a history of playoff clashes.

In 2014, the teams met in the Sectional semifinals when the Patriots came away with a solid 1-0 victory on its way to the Eastern Mass title. And in 2012, the two squads came together in another first rounder where the overmatched Marauders held a 2-0 lead over their hosts late only to fall 3-2 in overtime in a game where bad manners between participants were on display.

And with both teams having something of a history of playing with a chip on their shoulders, it’s expected for the match to mirror the spirited nature of a “Classico,” with the necessary number of stiff challenges and frantic pleas to the referees typical in post-season elimination games between good teams.

The teams arrive at the semis in good form. Belmont is on an eight-game winning streak while Concord Carlisle lost to one team (Acton/Boxborough, twice) this season. And each has two playoff wins under their belts; the Patriots bumped off number-one seed North Andover, 4-1, on Tuesday after defeating Central Catholic, 3-1, in its opener on Saturday. 

Belmont began its postseason with a strong 2-1 win over league rival Winchester on Friday and a convincing 4-0 thumping of Billerica Tuesday.

“This is where we expected to be after two very good wins,” said Belmont Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane, who lead the team to an 11-3-2 regular season mark and the fifth-seed in the sectionals.

Belmont secured the opening win through a second-half penalty goal by senior forward Jake Carson after senior Andrew Karalis gave Belmont the first half lead.

Tuesday’s game was somewhat of a mismatch as the Marauders were able to combine precise passing with speed down the wings to launch dangerous attacks that Billerica’s back line had difficulty handling.

“We came out the same way as we do every game which speaks for how hard we are working to beat a playoff team like that,” said senior goalkeeper and co-captain Nate “The Professor” Espelin. 

But it was Belmont’s last line of defense that provided the offensive spark that resulted in the Marauders’ first tally. Espelin launched a 60-meter goal kick that bounced past a pair of Indian defenders onto the feet of speeding junior midfielder Seamus Dullaghan who put the breakaway by Billerica goalie Kyle Canario at the 19-minute mark.

Before the Belmont fans had time to sit down, the Marauders struck again at 20 minutes as Karalis headed a Laurent Brabo free kick by Canario.

Belmont could’ve piled on the goals if not of a series of outstanding saves by Canario. But the Marauders struck one last time in the half at 36 minutes as sophomore Ross Taylor quick-footed a Karalis pass into the net. 

Billerica had its chances early in the second half including an indirect freekick inside the penalty box after a less than professorial play by Espelin. Yet a lack of execution on the kick and during the game doomed the Indians. Espelin would end the night with his second assist of the game as another bullet of a goal kick founding senior co-captain Brabo who slotted the insurance goal into the back of the net. 

The game had its moments of chippiness that unfortunately devolved into a few particularly nasty challenges – a pair of yellow cards were held aloft by the refs – with the archetypical chirping that accompanies the boys’ game.

“Disappointed how the game finished. We lost mental fortitude at the end of the game, and we need to discuss that,” said Bisceglia-Kane.

“Everyone on the team has a little bit of an attitude and can be a problem at times. But obviously in the playoffs having the confidence that we can win every game is important,” said Espelin.

“But as I always say, motivation doesn’t win games. Hard work and doing the right things does,” he said. 

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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Sports: Bartels’ Arm, Bat Lead Marauders Over Concord Carlisle in Opener

Photo: Cole “Stone” Bartels

You knew that senior pitching sensation Cole Bartels can win a game with his right arm. Yesterday, Monday, April 11, the senior captain showed that he could win a few with his bat.

In Belmont High’s season opener (move over, Red Sox) at Grant Field, the Division 1 commit showed mid-season form as he mowed down the Concord-Carlisle Regional nine, striking out 13 over five innings – five of final six victims caught looking – while going 4-4 at the plate including a first-inning homer as Bartels led the Marauders to an 11-2 drubbing of the Patriots.

“I’ll take a Cole Bartels the way he was pitching today,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach James Brown, who is looking to improve from finishing the past three seasons with a 11-9 record. 

After punching out two of the first three batters to start the game, Bartels came to the plate with center fielder Bryan Goodwin (who reached base on an error) on second when he took a non-breaking ball over the fence in left to give Belmont a quick 2-0 lead. DH Ryan Noone brought home catcher Cal Christofori (single) and first bagger Dennis Crowley (double) on an sharp hit ball that was kicked around by the third baseman to give the Marauders a big four run lead. 

The early advantage – a rare occasion last year – gave Bartels the upperhand over the Patriots, which went to the Division 2 North semifinals last season, and he took advantage by mixing up his fast and breaking balls which left the batters guessing what was coming next. 

Bartels helped his own cause in the second as he drove home left fielder Trevor Kelly (who singled and took second on a wild pitch) on a single to center. 

While he did experience some wildness in the third – going to full counts on four of the five batters and allowing a walk and an unearned run – Bartels was in control for his five innings on the mound, registering the six final outs by strikeout while giving up two walks and a hit over that stretch.

Second base Noah Riley nearly joined Bartels with an opening day dinger as his fourth inning blast hit the bottom of the fence in dead center for a double. He came home (Riley reached third on an error) in a cloud of dust as he slid/flopped on home plate beating the throw on Kelly’s fielder’s choice.

Other Marauders doing things in the box was David Bailey who went 2-2 with a run after coming in in the fifth.

Belmont is on the road Tuesday, April 12 against the Big Red Machine of Melrose which went 13-7 last season. 

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