Semis Bound Again: Belmont Boys’ Soccer Takes Down Arlington, Marblehead To Meet Winchester Wednesday

Photo: Senior Jon Brabo after scoring his second goal against Marblehead.

The 7th ranked Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer squad (12-4-2) will meet Middlesex League rivals and 6th ranked Winchester (12-3-5) one more time this season as the Marauders reach the MIAA Division 2 North semifinals for the third time in six years.

The game will be played on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. at Manning Field in Lynn. Forecasts call for temperatures in the upper 20s with winds around 10 mph so bundle up.

Poetic Justice: Belmont Opens Playoffs Beating SpyPonders In PK Thriller

With the game on the line, Belmont High’s senior goalkeeper Finbar Rhodes was in the zone.

With the opening game of the Division 2 North sectionals against neighboring Arlington High to be decided by penalty kicks, Rhodes got his gloves on four of the five shots, stopping two including Arlington’s fifth attempt giving the Marauders a 3-3 (4-3) victory on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Those watching the action likely wondered if Rhodes had some intuitive understanding of where the SpyPonders would be placing the ball.

Well, he sorta did.

Going back a year ago, it was Belmont on the short end of a penalty kick decision, 0-0 (4-2), against Arlington which went on to the Division 2 state finals. It turns out that Belmont’s coaches reviewed the video of the game and discovered that many of the same players who took those penalty kicks were on the current team.

They took that information and wrote on a stripe of athletic tape the Arlington player’s number and where they took the penalty kick a year ago. For example, “7 L” told Rhodes number 7 would likely kick the ball to his left.

On Wednesday, each SpyPonder on the tape went where the tape said he would.

“It’s a big advantage to know where [your opponent] is going,” said Rhodes with a smile after the game.

“Poetic justice,” said a Marauder on hearing the story.

In a thriller of a game that contrasted Belmont’s patient passing with Arlington’s physicality, the Marauders played some of its most comprehensive soccer for the season as they held the majority of the ball throughout the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second.

Belmont Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane gave all the credit to the players who were able to adapt to changes in positions and tactics to create the current winning lineup.

“It’s the guys and who they are, all the work that they put into the season and the composure and trust they have with each other. They kind of just have meshed together at the end of the season,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane.

“It’s just a good group of people that work well together,” he said.

It was the perfect start to the game for Belmont when senior co-captain Jon Brabo bundled in a bungled save attempt at the two and half minute mark. But the Marauders were brought back to earth when Arlington’s slotted in a rebound off Rhodes 40 seconds after the Marauders’ goal.

While the SpyPonders looked to grind down the Marauders, Belmont countered by forcing Arlington to chase the ball with a collection of short passes and constant movement from the midfield and forwards.

Belmont’s second tally came 10 minutes from the half when senior Theo DiTommaso hit a bullet from 25 meters that eluded Arlington’s goalie and settled in the left end of the goal.

It appeared Belmont had all but iced the game eight minutes into the second half when Belmont’s midfielders put together a three-pass combination ending with junior Theo Kargere sending a brilliant feathered pass onto a rushing Brabo who one-timed the ball into the net.

“We have been really connecting on those situations. It really comes down to our coaches who said [goals] will happen playing this type of game,” said Brabo.

But Arlington would not be deterred, scoring just 90 seconds later to keep the game close. The final 20 minutes saw the SpyPonders’ pressure and speed take the game from the Marauders scoring on a shot that eluded Rhodes with 18 minutes remaining in the second half.

Belmont would thwart a number of challenges by Arlington late in regular time to take the game into a pair of 10 minute overtimes. Despite returning to its game and dominating the extra time, the Marauders could not find the final touch on two near goals to end it in sudden death.

It was up to Rhodes and Belmont’s snipers to win it for the Marauders with Rhodes and his piece of tape giving the home team an immediate advantage turning back the first penalty. It was four to three Belmont in the fifth stanza when Rhodes dove to his left even before Arlington’s players sent the ball that way to parry it away.

“It’s great to redeem myself for those three [goals] that got by me,” said Rhodes.

“They’re just focused and there’s a lot of intrinsic motivation,” said Bisceglia-Kane. “It starts with the captains. Brabo and Spencer Price have unique traits and all do certain things really well like obviously Jon and Arista is more vocal. Spencer’s tends to be more quiet but when he speaks up man everybody, he has the room.”

“They just make my life a lot easier,” he said.

Brabo’s Brace the Marauders by the Magicians

With Marblehead’s upset of Lynn Classical, Marauders hosted the Magicians on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Harris Field, with Brabo ready to show his magic hadn’t worn off from the playoff encounter.

Brabo started his scoring with a hammer of a shot from 15 meters out that beat Marblehead’s goalie short side 10 minutes into the game. The senior co-captain registered his second goal 15 minutes into the second half off a corner, stretching his head over the defender’s shoulder and slotting the ball back across the goalmouth and into the net.

“Obviously I owe it all to my teammates. They put me in the position where I just have to do the last part which is finishing,” said Brabo.

Belmont’s combination passing allowed the Marauders to both keep possession and move the ball into the Magicians’ end of the pitch. This game Belmont’s back line stood up to the few Marblehead forays at Rhodes’ net.

Wednesday will be the season’s rubber match with Winchester, first losing 3-0 at home on Soccer Night at Belmont while winning away, 2-0, three weeks ago.

“We always respect Winchester. It’s a really good team in our league and they’re well coached. We’re excited with what we have and obviously we known them really well,” said Bisceglia-Kane.

“It feels great playing them again,” said Brabo.

“After that devastating loss on Soccer Night, we had a chip on our shoulder and that showed when we beat them at their house. This is the deciding game, there’s a lot riding on it. As a senior, I’m going to put my heart out there but I’m sure everyone’s gonna do the same because it’s such a huge game,” said Brabo.

Sports: Belmont Girls Hoops Upsets Marblehead, Heads to Newburyport Saturday [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont Girls’ Basketball team celebrates its victory at Marblehead.

The great American philosopher and pugilist Mike Tyson says that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

And for most of the opening quarter of its playoff game at 7th-seed Marblehead Thursday, March 3, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball took a good one on the chin as it was looking at a double-digit deficit and having yet to score a single point.

But a critical change in its game plan and contributions from nearly every player on the Marauders’ long bench – 18 players ready to play – turned the game on its head in Belmont’s favor as the visitors’ suffocating defense totally shut down the number  host Magicians for a convincing 43-28 victory in the MIAA Division 2 North sectional playoffs.

“Everyone stepped up tonight, they really did. If they were on the floor, they contributed something good for us,” said a happy Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart told the Belmontonian.

“We made mistakes, it wasn’t a perfect game. But the players came back from their mistakes which was a good step for us. We didn’t just get down and let it spiral down,” she said. 

And the game could have gotten out of hand as there could not have had an uglier start to a basketball game then Belmont’s first four minutes. From the tipoff, the Magicians were off and running, winning rebounds, forcing Belmont to take long range shots and finding lots of room against Belmont’s zone defense to make baskets seemingly at will.

By the time Hart called a timeout, Belmont was looking up at a 10-0 scoreboard. But there was no panic from the players or Hart on the sideline. 

“We have lots of time left in this game,” said Hart, as she told her starters to abandoned the zone they started the game in and revert to its time-tested man-to-man defense that has been the team’s bread and butter for the past two years.

“They came out and stunned us. We were a little nervous but Marblehead was ready to go and they took it to us,” said Hart. 

While the Magicians would score on a quick break to take a 12 point lead at the five-minute mark, Belmont’s “in your face” defense appeared to unnerve the Magicians as it committed a pair of turnovers including a 30-second violation.

Belmont found the scoreboard from sophomore guard Jenny Call (7 points) who bagged a couple of threes to help cut Marblehead’s lead to six, 14-8, entering the second quarter.

The second eight minutes was one of the best of the season from the Marauders as it outscored the Magicians 17-4 as a pair of freshmen made their mark in the game.

Guard Megan Tan had her statement game of the season, making life a misery for her counterpart, Nicole Freedo (8 points, all in the first quarter) while complementing All-Star sophomore point guard Carly Christofori on offense. Tan (a team-high 8 points) also brought her shooting game with her, scoring on the break before hitting a three at the five-minute mark to give the Marauders’ its first lead of the game, 15-14.

After Marblehead had retaken the lead, Christofori (7 points) drained her own trey to provide the Marauders a lead (18-16) they would not surrender until the final buzzer.

Coming in for senior starter Sarah Stewart who picked up two quick fouls, ninth grader center Jess Giorgio held her own against Marblehead’s big girl duo of juniors Lindsay Walker (3 points) and Abby Settlemeyer (4 points) , grabbing 9 rebounds, hitting 2 of 4 free throws and unofficially blocking five shots in a standout performance. 

Senior forward and co-captain Samri Winklaar (7 points) took advantage of the open space by hitting a pair of runners in the paint, the final hoop finishing off a 17-4 quarter to leave the court up 25-18 at the half.

Both teams came out of the break with an eye on playing defense with Belmont holding the edge with the return of Stewart. The senior would dominate under the glass, picking up phenomenal 14 rebounds, nearly all in the second half, to go with 6 points, most of those put backs from critical offensive rebounds.

The rebounding by [Giorgio] and Sarah Stewart was phenomenal. That was probably the biggest difference was the rebounding changed a lot and we were able to shot and miss and get something which wasn’t happening [early in the game],” said Hart. 

Marblehead would come within six points, 29-23, when Tan wrestled the ball away from the point guard and stuck the easy layup. A turnaround jumper from sophomore Greta Propp and a free throw from Call put Belmont up by nine, 34-25, with eight minutes to play,

By the final quarter, Marblehead had no answer for the relentless Marauder defense, scoring just a three-point basket for their only points in the quarter. By the final minute, Belmont’s reserve players were on the court, with seniors Sophia Cellucci draining a buzzer-beating three pointer and Meghan Ferraro putting in a driving shot and draining the free throw after being fouled. 

Next up for Belmont, 12-9, is a trip to Newburyport (which many of the players had no idea where it is located) on Saturday, March 5 to play the second-seed Newburyport High Clippers (17-3), with tipoff at 4 p.m. 

The Clippers, which has not played a regular game in two weeks, is led by its only senior player, Emily Pettigrew, who is supported by younger players such as sophomore Krysta Padellaro, freshmen Katie Hadden and Anna Hickman and junior Olivia Olson.

But on Thursday, the underdogs took their time leaving the court, wishing to celebrate the upset before making the one hour drive home. 

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