In Match Of Unbeatens, Belmont High Field Hockey Sprints Past Winchester, 3-0

Photo: Puppy pile for Belmont’s second goal with sophomore Emma O’Donovan taking the prize.

In an early season matchup of the creme of the Middlesex League Liberty crop, Belmont High Field Hockey provided Friday afternoon that team speed is dangerous for opponents as the Marauders ran past defending league champions Winchester High, 3-0.

“It’s all the 400s [meter] runs I make them do,” said Belmont Head Coach Jess Smith as her team, ranked 15th in the Boston Globe Top 20 poll, remains undefeated at 4-0-0 while Winchester, ranked 6th in the Globe poll, drops to 2-1-0.

“We knew we were good but to beat someone like [Winchester, which last year made the Division 1 North finals] makes it’s not just talking. The win makes it ‘legit,'” said Smith.

Senior co-captain and wing Morgan Chase, junior midfield Katie Guden and sophomore forward Emma O’Donovan scored in the first half as the Marauders kept the majority of possession for most of the first 30 minutes.

For Smith, the victory was a combination of her player’s quickness and their commitment to ball movement.

“I think our speed is killer,” she said. “We have athletic kids, we are super aggressive all over the field, and our passing is extremely good,” said Smith. “No one can run faster than a ball so if we can keep passing it up the field that quickly, we’re gonna get into the [scoring] circle faster than their backs.”

The Marauders’ team up-tempo pace showed as it took away passing lanes in the middle of the field. Belmont also took the majority of 50/50 balls as well as stealing the ball on man-to-man clashes with Belmont’s senior forward and co-captain Jordan Lettiere, the prime suspect in many of those heists. 

Along the back line, junior Meaghan Noone effectively shut down Winchester’s right side attacks. Junior Emma Donahue was once again a significant presence in the middle as sophomore Hayley Koenigsberg kept Winchester’s outstanding senior forward Claire Moloney-Kolenberg in check off the left wing in the battle of the great German/Dutch surnames.

“You just have to get psyched up, getting really low to stop their good girl. And I’m thinking about trying to get it back up to the midfielders,” said Noone. 

Quarterbacking the midfield, three-year varsity starter Guden’s stellar stick handling skills allowed Belmont to keep the pressure on Winchester’s midfield and backs.

“My game plan just get it in the [scoring] circle early, play as aggressive as I want to play, and look to pass it because it’s not a one-person game,” said Guden.

Junior Molly Calkins earned the solo shut out in her first varsity start as the Marauders’ goalkeeper.

“I was so nervous when [Smith] said I was going to start, I said ‘Oh no!’ But once we got onto the field, we all just worked together and communicated really well,” said Calkins who stopped four shots.

Smith and the team face a crowded week of games, four in five days, with an away game Tuesday at an excellent Lexington team the highlight. But for now, Smith is reluctant to change anything about the squad.

“We have this great lineup, the players work really well together, they’re confident and their speedy. That’s how we are going to approach every game, with confidence and speed,” she said.

With Wins, Belmont Girls Hoopsters Receive Media Attention, For Better Or Worse

Photo: Another day, another reporter – Boston Globe correspondent Tyler Blint-Welsh – wanting to talk to Belmont High senior captain Carly Christofori and freshman Maiya Bergdorf.

It was another victory for the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team on Tuesday, Jan. 9, against an overpowered Winchester squad. 

And for the second consecutive game, a reporter from one of Boston’s daily newspapers was lurking after the game, wanting to speak to members of the “hot” new team on the scene.

Tuesday it was Boston Globe correspondent Tyler Blint-Welsh who asked to talk to senior captain Carly Christofori and leading scorer freshman Maiya Bergdorf, two of the standouts in the 69-21 victory over the Sachems. Last week, it was Boston Herald who came with a photographer and reporter, picking out players and coaches to speak. 

For Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart, the attention her team is receiving – and especially the recognition of the hard work put in by the upperclassmen – is well earned, having stepped up in the team’s first year playing in the top-level Division 1. At 6-1 (its lone loss to D1 powerhouse Newton South and its superstar Veronica Burton), the Marauders find themselves in the Top 10 in both daily papers girls’ basketball polls.

“I’m really proud that they are getting this attention,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart after the game.

“This is such a wonderful group; they put the time in the offseason and during the season. They have focused whether it’s in the games or at practices.”  

There indeed wasn’t this much attention towards the team since … well, probably ever. Despite an excellent run last season with one of the best shut down defenses in the state, the team earned a few throwaway articles even after going 16-4 and won the number one seed in the North Division 2 playoffs.

“It took us a while to be looked at, and when we did get the articles, we lost to Arlington Catholic [in the semifinals of the Division 2 North sectionals],” said Hart after Tuesday game. 

But with the newfound press coverage comes the expected blowback; teams and coaches now know who you are and will be itching to take down the upstart. 

“It’s nice to have the underdog mentality and not have a target on your back. But this is the way it goes when you have a string of successful seasons,” said Hart.

Hart said while the team has earned respect with all the hard work over the years, “now everyone’s looking for you, trying to topple one of the top 10 teams. No one is coming into a game with us and thinking that they are not up for the game,” she said.

“It is what it is, I can’t make them longshots. I can only tell the kids that we have to always work for everything and fight for everything because now people are gunning for us. And that will make having a successful season tougher to achieve,” Hart pointed out.

“We have a lot of good teams in the league: we were lucky to get out of our game with Woburn with a win, Lexington and Reading will be hard to break down, Melrose and Wakefield are strong and even Arlington on the nights they are on will be difficult to beat,” said Hart. 

Still, Hart likes the challenge before her as the team will soon reach the midpoint of the season. 

“I don’t underestimate what we can do in the league. We are a tough team for our opponents because they can’t focus on one player. We don’t pound it to our center every time we come down the court or try to isolate one shooter. We have so many good players; if we are egalitarian in our play, we will be successful.”

“We have our work cut out for us to live up to our reputation,” she said.

Not that Hart sees her team failing to meet the team’s goals.

“They’re kind as a group and great teammates, and that’s why their chemistry is so good. And now the whole program is built on their unselfishness and hard work.”

Boys Soccer Hits High On Soccer Night But Find Scoring Wanting Since

Photo: Belmont’s Jake Carson celebrate his goal vs. Winchester.

Jake Carson sure knew how to end “Soccer Night In Belmont” on a high note.

The Belmont High senior co-captain broke an offside trap from the Winchester High School back line and slotted the ball by goalie Justin Polcari – who was spectacular in net making three full stretch saves – in the final eight minutes of the game for the winning goal as the Marauders defeated the  Sachems – at the time ranked 7th in the Boston Globe’s weekly Top 20 poll – 2-0 on Saturday night, Sept. 23.

“The ball came across and [Winchester’s defenders] stepped up to put Andre [Duda] offsides, but that move let me run into space,” said Carson. With only Polcari between him and the net, Carson cut the ball back “and placed it into the corner and hoped for the best.” The pass that sent Carson away came from sophomore Will Hoerle. 

Oh, just so you know, “Soccer Night in Belmont” – the wildly successful soccer festival that brought more than 800 players, parents, and spectators to Harris Field – was founded by Jake’s dad, John Carson.

“It was probably one of the best feelings I had this soccer season, if not my whole career,” he said.

Belmont sealed the win when Duda himself beat another trap, catching up to a pass from the senior defender and co-captain Kostas Tingos and put the ball by Polcari with three minutes remaining. 

For Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane, while the match was special because it was played before a large crowd – about ten times the size of a regular season game – “but it’s just one-sixteenth of our season and then into the playoffs hopefully.”

“You have to temper the expectations of the players thinking that this means more, but whenever you play Winchester … they are always great to play against. It was just a fun overall match,” he said.

Bisceglia-Kane said this associate head coach, Matt Berk – who was Bisceglia-Kane’s teammate at Brandeis – has made a big difference in freeing up the team’s practices for specialized training sessions. 

After the high of Saturday – which led to Belmont being named the 9th ranked team by the Globe – the weekend’s scoring boom turned into a bust as the Marauders lost at home Monday to winless Reading, 2-1, (giving up a pair in the second half) before being shut out 1-0 to league leader, Arlington on Wednesday, Sept 27. At midweek, Belmont’s record stood at 4-3-1.

Bisceglia-Kane said that scoring ultimately comes down to the scoring chances the team creates. “And sometimes it’s just luck.” 

Sports: Allard’s Wonder Goal Gives Unbeaten Belmont 3-2 Win Over Winchester

Photo: Carey Allard celebrates the winning goal vs. Winchester.

When Winchester forward Anna Carazza’s centering “pass” dropped into Belmont’s net with 12 minutes remaining in Saturday’s exciting battle of the unbeaten between Belmont and Winchester, it appeared the game’s momentum was about to turn in the Sachems’ favor.

But as Winchester – ranked 7th in the Boston Globe’s top 20 poll – celebrated, 60 meters down the pitch Belmont’s Carey Allard was preparing to enter the match, a substitution no one had expected.

Six days earlier, the four-year varsity starter suffered a high ankle sprain against Lexington ending up wearing a medical boot and on crutches. By game day, Allard was able to warm up with her teammates but told Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham she wasn’t fit enough to start against Winchester.

For 70 minutes, Allard sat on the Marauders bench, watching with more than 800 fans on “Soccer Night in Belmont.’

Then with 10 minutes to go, Graham approached his All-Star captain with a question.

“[Graham] asked if I thought I could play the final 10 minutes and I said, ‘Why not?'” Allard told the Belmontonian after the game. 

A Division 1 commit heading to the University of North Carolina – Wilmington next fall, Allard has been the Sachem’s nemesis over the past four years including scoring a long-range stunner in last year’s first-round playoff game that ended in Belmont’s upset victory. With that in mind, Winchester junior Hannah Markham was assigned the task of playing Allard with a tight man-to-man coverage. After eight minutes, Allard had a few brief touches and nothing more.

Winchester’s focus on Allard opened the field to allow other Marauders the opportunity to attack the goal. Sophomore Marina Karalis came close to scoring twice 20 seconds apart; once striking the ball over the crossbar and barely missing the right post. 

As the field clock fast approached the final two minutes and Winchester moving up the pitch, freshman forward Grace Kane – who took Allard’s place in the starting lineup – stepped in front of a pass and fed the senior co-captain who was nearly 25 meters to the left of Winchester’s goal.

One touch, a half turn, and Allard looked at Winchester’s net.

“I honestly said, ‘This is my chance,'” said Allard

The ball flew heading for the right top corner then curving inside the far post by Winchester’s senior goalkeeper Silvia Dowdell. 3-2 Belmont.

Allard’s wonder goal in the final two minutes put the exclamation mark on what was an early season classic pitting two undefeated teams playing at their best before a packed Harris Field in the opener of Belmont’s annual soccer celebration.

“Allard is a threat anytime she’s in that range,” said Graham, who saw his team improve to 5-0-0, tied with undefeated Woburn at the top of the Middlesex League Liberty division. The only blemish to the game’s result; despite defeating a top ten team and recording a perfect record, the Marauders have yet to break the Globe’s Top 20 poll. 

It was a game that saw each team take control of the field, lead changes and physical plays with girls ending up on the turf throughout the contest. 

Winchester had the better of Belmont early on, with their collective speed and quickness putting a damp on Belmont’s plans to set a more controlled pace to the game.

Winchester opened the scoring on a deep cross from finding a streaking senior captain Shelley Blumsack beating Belmont’s defender to put the ball into the upper net.

Winchester’s lead could have been two or three times what they had but for decisive defensive work by the backline anchored by senior captain Natalie Marcus-Bauer who made two sliding tackles deep in the penalty box on solo runs by Winchester wingers.

“I was just focused on containing [any challenge] and forcing them out to the side,” she said, knowing she could rely on the other defenders including juniors Megan Tan and Emily Dexter, while 

Belmont tied the score 18 minutes into the first half on two consecutive free kicks, the second at the edge of the box after a Winchester push. Senior midfielder and co-captain Emma Sass curling shot hit the right post then came out for an onrushing senior forward Morgan Krauss – who was named the player of the match by members of the Soccer Night in Belmont – who headed the rebound inside the left frame.

After going into the half tied at one, Krauss doubled Belmont’s advantage midway through the second half, taking in a Kane pass and rifling it by Dowdell.

But ever so slightly, Winchester found a half step advantage and began pressing resulting in Carazza’s goal. 

For Graham, the victory was a culmunation of switching this alignment – starting with a 3-4-3 and ending with a 4-4-2 and the knowledge that he could put in most of the players on the bench without a drop off in performance. 

“I used 17 players including two freshmen and a number of seniors who don’t start and they all played well. That’s a luxury to have,’ said Graham.

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: Belmont’s Comeback Victory Over Winchester Brings Playoffs Closer

Photo: Belmont senior Dylan Ferdinand intercepts Winchester pass that led to Belmont winning TD. 

Senior Running Back Ben Jones’ third touchdown with 19 seconds remaining proved the margin of victory as Belmont High School scored 21 second half points to defeat visiting Winchester High (2-4) Sachems, 28-21, under the Friday night lights, Oct. 14, and send the Marauders (3-3) closer to the MIAA playoffs.

“Ben Jones was a horse, Cal [Christofori] was a horse, Jake Pollack was a horse, the defense came up with a huge, huge interception that gave us the chance to drive the field. A real team effort,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin after the game.

When asked about a possible playoff appearance, which Belmont has not been a part since 2009, senior co-captain Kevin Martin said this group of players has begun to dispell the past reputation of Belmont football as not being good enough to be invited to the postseason.

“‘Why not us’ has been our mantra this season. Right now it looks like we’re in but why not beat Lexington [Belmont’s opponent next Saturday] and bring a home game to Harris,” said Martin on Senior Night. 

Jones ran for 190 yards on 28 carries along with 26 receiving yards. Fellow senior QB Christofori threw for 108 yards – many of those yards to junior WR Pollack – and had a running touchdown as the team gained 356 total yards. 

Winchester’s QB Liam Fitzpatrick led the offense for the Sachems with a throwing and running touchdowns. With Belmont keying on his running, the Marauders were exposed by Fitzpatrick’s arm who went 13 of 23 for 248 yards, completing several long passes to his favorite receiver Henry McDonough.

“Fitzpatrick is such a good running quarterback that is what we were concerned with, and it did come back to bite us because he went over the top of our linebackers,” said Kumin.

After a scoreless first quarter – which included a dropped TD by Winchester on its first drive – The Sachems took a 7-0 lead after a sustained drive, including converting on a fourth and one, ending with a screen pass to McDonough who scored at 8:29.

After Belmont could not garner a first down on the next possession, Winchester used trickery with running back Pat Costello taking the hike then handing to Fitzgerald who found McDonough for a 40-yard pass to the Belmont 8. Two plays later, Fitzgerald waltzed into the end zone to put the Sachems up 14-0 with just under six minutes.

Belmont responded with a seven play, 62-yard drive ending with Jones taking it in for his first TD of the night at the two minutes remaining. But the drive nearly came to a premature end when Jones fumbled the ball just after picking up the first down on the 20. Yet senior OLB/WR Dylan Ferdinand outraced Winchester’s linebackers to recover the bouncing ball at the 6-yard line. 

But just as important, the Belmont defense finally stopped Winchester’s offense after it quickly reached the Belmont 35 yard line.  

The Marauders kept the momentum rolling into the second half as Jones nearly singlehandedly to0k the offense down the field allowing Christofori to sneak the ball into the end zone to knot up the game at 14 at the 7-minute mark. 

Winchester’s Fitzpatrick took to the air to retake the lead highlighted by a 38-yard pass to receiver Max Ebner to the Belmont 8. His two-yard TD gave the Sachem’s its final lead of the game with 3:45 left in the mark. 

But in this rock em’ sock em’-styled game, Belmont got down the field quickly with a Christofori 10 yard scamper followed by a 19-yard pass to Pollack to bring the ball to the Winchester 25. A quick hitting 14 yard rush by Belmont’s big junior fullback Adam Deese rumbled the ball to the 1-yard line where Jones finished the drive with a one-yard plunge and a 21-21 tie.

With its air attack successful for most of the night, Winchester’s Fitzgerald winged it to McDonough at midfield. But attempted to repeat the pass down the middle of the field, Ferdinand intercept the pass on Belmont’s 16-yard line at 7:47 remaining in the biggest play of the game.

“My coaches always tell me to turn and look when I’m out in coverage. And I actually listened to them this time. Good things happen when you listen to the coach,” said Ferdinand. 

Belmont would then keep the ball for the following 7:28 on a grinding, time-consuming drive that included a fourth down Jones run (he would carry the ball 10 times) and a Jones run off the right side of the offense to the one-yard line with less than 30 seconds left. When Jones walked into the end zone one play later, he was so exhausted he didn’t celebrate the 28-21 lead and had to be helped back to the sideline.

“We just have faith in our offense that it can execute when we need them to. So it was a no-brainer for us to go for it on fourth down because we want to get the win the right way,” said Kumin. 

When Jones walked into the end zone one play later, he was so exhausted he didn’t celebrate the 28-21 lead and had to be helped back to the sideline. 

After the game, with a crowd of students and residents outside the White Field House cheering and making noise, players were excited about the near future with the playoffs on the horizon. 

“Anything can happen in the playoffs in high school football. If we are the eight seed and we are playing the one seed, you could say, ‘Why even play the game?’ But we are going to play whoever we get because you never know. We hope to have a good run,” said Martin.  

“This team plays with heart. It’s not a one-player team; it’s everybody together. That’s what Coach Q has been telling us from day one, that it’s family,” said Ferdinand.

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Sports: Girls’ Hoops Off The Snide with Winchester Win, One Game from Playoffs

Photo: Defense is the name of the game for Belmont.

For Belmont High Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Melissa Hart and her team, the postseason has already begun.

“I feel like every game is our first tournament game,” said Hart after the Marauders halted a four-game losing streak with a solid 54-30 victory over winless Winchester (0-16) Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 9.  

The win brings Belmont (9-6) within one game of clinching a spot in the Division 2 North playoffs. Belmont needs to capture one win in their final five matches to secure a place in the dance.

“It really is game to game for us,” said Hart. Belmont plays a much improved Reading Memorial High team away before heading to a North Shore tournament and finishing up with Lexington at home on Feb. 25. 

The game was close early as both teams had not taken the court for a while due to Friday’s snowstorm.

The long layoff – a week since its last game, a loss to undefeated Woburn – “affected our shooting a little tonight, so we were a little cold,” said Hart, noting it took nearly three minutes before the first basket – a three-pointer from Belmont’s sophomore point guard Carly Christofori (14 points), with the Sachems taking a 9-8 lead entering the second quarter.

As with the past five games, Belmont was able to stay close with an aggressive defense, holding Winchester to four points in the second to take a 19-13 lead into the half, scoring the last 6 points of the quarter behind sixth man sophomore Alexa Sabatino who had a clever assist to frosh Megan Tan (5 points with a three) and scored her only basket off a steal.

“Our defense, in the end, is what made the difference. We keep telling them that,” said Hart.

Winchester did creep back into the game behind junior captain Julie Fitzgerald who scored 7 of her co-game-high 14 points in the third (all from free throws) as the Sachems pulled within 5 (25-20) with 3:40 left in the quarter before Tan and sophomore forward Jenny Call (5 points) hit outside threes to give Belmont a 31-25 lead entering the final eight minutes.

Unlike the past few games, Belmont’s offense came to life as the defense wore down the Sachems. A layup by senior co-captain Irini Nikolaidis (8 points), a bucket and one and a steal and layup by Christofori gave Belmont a 12 point lead with six minutes remaining, and that was the game. 

Co-captain Samri Winklaar hit for 8 points, Greta Propp (6 points) went 2-4 from the line along with two hoops while role players Sofia Cellucci (with a great three pointer) and Riley Haight (2 points) got in the book. 

Belmont held Winchester to five points in the fourth as the squad swarmed the ball time and time again.

“Offenses are great but defenses are better,” said Hart.

Just as the Denver Broncos. 

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Sports: Belmont Football Defeat Winchester, 35-28, Behind Johnson’s 4 TDs [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont High Mekhai Johnson literally carrying defenders on his run against Winchester.

Belmont High’s Mekhai Johnson proved this weekend once again why he’s one of the best running backs in MIAA Division 3 as the senior scored four touchdowns while rushing for a career-high 250 yards to lead the Marauders past host Winchester, 35-28, on a crisp, sunny Saturday morning, Oct. 17.

The win was Belmont’s first Middlesex League victory in more than three years.

“The offensive line opened a lot of holes up. Then when [I] got past the line of scrimmage on the second level, I just took off,” said Johnson, who ran for touchdowns of 3, 36, 80 and 23 yards.

(Video courtesy Marauders Media)

Johnson’s running effectiveness allowed junior quarterback Cal Christofori to find his senior receiving corp of Joseph Shaughnessy, Justin Wagner and Grant Gilbert on critical long yardage downs.

“Everybody just coming up and making big plays at big moments,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin, who saw his team’s record go to 2-4.

“We wanted to establish the run because then we knew we could get things going with Joe Shaughnessy … and we were excited about what he did for us catching a huge touchdown in the [fourth] quarter,” Kumin said.

“This was a great Middlesex League win,” he said.

It was an eight-yard pass from Christofori to Shaughnessy that put Belmont up 35-21 with 3:12 remaining in the game that proved the game winner as Winchester came back to score its touchdown in just over a minute to cut the margin to 35-28. 

The game showcased Belmont at its best, controlling the ball and demonstrating a defense that did not allow a single same breaking run or pass from the Sachems. 

Belmont took the opening kickoff and took nine minutes off the clock to travel 72 yards downfield to set up Johnson’s first score, the three-yard run off left tackle. The big plays were a pair of Christofori to Shaughnessy hook-ups for 12 and 21 yards, the last one coming on a fourth down and 4 at the 28. The missed point after gave Belmont a 6-0 lead.

The Marauder defense stepped up on Winchester’s first drive as junior defensive back Kevin Martin intercepted sophomore QB Liam Fitzpatrick’s pass on Belmont’s 25-yard line. On the next play, Gilbert took a Christofori pass and slipped by two Winchester defenders to rumble 39 yards to the Winchester 25. Two plays later, Johnson took a pitch and ran right 36 yards to give Belmont a 13-0 lead.

Belmont’s first offensive play after Winchester scored on a Fitzpatrick pass, Johnson took a handoff and steamrolled through a hole made by his offensive line to outrun untouched by the Sachem defense for 80 yards to give the Marauders a 20-7 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the first half. 

But Winchester got within 6 points as they scored with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.

Early in the third quarter, just as it appeared that Belmont’s improving defense was ready to stop Winchester on a fourth down play, Fitzpatrick’s deflected pass landed into the hands of receiver Sam Curtin who skipped 33-yards for the touchdown, giving Winchester the lead 21-20. 

But Kumin said after the Sachem touchdown, the team did not allow the fluck play alter its positive approach to the game.

“It’s a testament to our players that they shook it off,” said Kumin. 

Back on offense, Belmont converted a fourth and one yard (on Christofori’s two-yard plunge) before Johnson securing his fourth touchdown on the 38-yard rumble down the right side with 3 minutes remaining in the third. Christofori’s found Gilbert on the two-point conversion to give Belmont a 28-21 lead.

Belmont’s defense now stepped up behind the big men in the middle – led by Justin Aroyan and Lowell Haska – who plugged the running lanes and forced Fitzpatrick to hurry his throws, forcing Winchester to punt on Belmont’s 40 with 10 minutes left in the game.

“We told the defense they had to step up as we did against Woburn (a hard-fought 18-15 loss) rallying to the football and make tackles. And we did that making a couple of big stops, a big interception from Martin.” 

Belmont would give the ball back to Winchester, but the Sachems could not make first down. The Marauders benefited from a weak Sachems’ punt to start its game-winning drive at the 43. The big play in the drive was Wagner’s catch from Christofori for 15 yards on a third and 12 from the 45, which prompted the big receiver to give a “Gronk” first down pose. 

Kumin had high praise for the offensive line that had its hands full last week against Reading. 

“We are starting three sophomores right in the middle (the guards and center) in Andrew Mazzone, Dennis Crowley, and Ryan Noone. We are excited about those guys on the interior line with Haska and Chris Piccione stepping up and taking care of business as bookend tackles.” 

“O-linemen are always a little bit weird, and those five guys are definitely that. But they’re weird together and weird in the right way,” he said. 

Belmont returns to Harris Field on Friday when the welcome Lexington which is seeking its first win of the season.

Sports: Field Hockey’s Second-Half Collapse Drops Marauders from Unbeaten

Photo: Belmont High School Field Hockey.

This one hurts.

After dominating 18th-ranked Winchester for nearly three-quarters of the match, a monumental collapse by Belmont High allowed the host Sachems to score four unanswered goals in the final 12 minutes of the game to shock Belmont, 5-4, handing the 19th-ranked Marauders’ its first loss of the season on Monday, Sept. 28.

“I’m currently still trying to get over the loss,” said an emotional Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith.

“Although we talked about not being complacent, our level of play dropped and Winchester took advantage of our lulls. Defensively we made a ton of errors,” said Smith, whose team now stands a half game behind Winchester for the lead of the 

Demonstrating why it’s one of the highest scoring high school teams in Eastern Massachusetts, Belmont (6-1-0) raced to a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game against one-loss (7-1-0) Winchester, its only defeat by five-time consecutive state champions Watertown.

Leading off the scoring was senior forward Katherine McCarthy from freshman standout, Morgan Chase, before junior AnnMarie Habelow showed why she is one of the best players in the state by scoring unassisted and then delivering the ball to McCarthy, who slammed home her brace.

Winchester finally got on the scoreboard at the 17-minute mark, but Chase returned the lead back to three two minutes later with an unassisted tally.

In the second half, Winchester pressed Belmont within the attacking circle and began winning penalty corner, which proved to be critical in the Sachems’ comeback. Sophomore goalie Christina MacLeod had 10 saves on a busy night. 

Winchester senior Melissa Zavez led the charge back scoring with 12 minutes remaining from junior Julie Bockoff. Fellow senior Carla DiBiase brought the home team within a goal with 10 minutes remaining unassisted. Finally, senior Megan Drew tied the game up at the 55-minute mark and scored the winner with just three minutes remaining in the game. Three of the Sachems’ four second-half goals came from penalty corners. 

“We gave up too many defensive corners and we were losing our players after the initial shot, said Smith.

“I’m just hoping that we learned a huge lesson from this loss. If we’re going to lose, it’s essential that we learn something from it. I’d rather [that] lesson happen now than in the tournament,” said Smith.

The team will host Burlington on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. and will greet Reading on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m., the second part of a Saturday matinee with Belmont High Girls’ Soccer. 


Belmont Girls’ Track Takes League Title, First in Nearly 40 Years

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Spring Track in action.

“Hotel California” and lots of disco was playing on the radio, “Star Wars” was the monster hit at the movies, TV viewers loved “Laverne & Shirley,” leisure suits were big for men and women wore high-waisted bell-bottoms and the “Farrah-flip.”

And in that same year of 1977, Belmont High’s Girls’ Spring Track came home with the league championship. And it would take nearly five decades before another Belmont team would be able to raise the trophy again. 

On Tuesday, May 12, just as the final relay finished with Belmont defeating hosts Winchester, 88-48, several senior got hold of a water bucket filled with ice and doused Head Coach Melissa Glotzbecker with a celebratory dunking as the team completed the season undefeated (6-0) and atop the Middlesex League, which took 38 years to repeat.

Then, as part of a tradition with victorious girls teams, the squad cheered and yelled from Belmont Center to the school from the buses transporting them back home. 

“We had no idea it was that long since the last title,” said Glotzbecker. Since no one could recall the last title, she went to the Wenner Field House to view the championship banners on the wall to finally determine how very long it had been. 

“So we’re proud that we’ll be putting up another [banner] for the school to see,” the former St. Lawrence distance runner said.

Belmont was able to defeat traditionally large and strong programs such as Lexington and Reading due to this year’s squads depth, said Glotzbecker. 

“We are really strong in so many events and that makes us very diverse in terms of scoring,” said Glotzbecker, noting the team has qualified multiple runners, jumpers, and field events athletes to the Div. III state championships at Durfee High School in late May, not sending participants in the shot, discus and pole vault, the last which Belmont does not compete. 

“But it’s not just those who are scoring that makes up this team, everyone who worked hard this year contributed to the success of the team. We wouldn’t be this good without being pushed and supported by the entire team,” she said. 

Next for the team is the Div. III relays at Burlington on Saturday, May 16, “which will be fun as it’s a true team event” before preparing for the Middlesex League meet on Tuesday, May 19, at Regis College.