Twin Winners: Belmont High Boys’, Girls’ Tennis Drain SpyPonders, 4-1, To Reach Double Digit Wins; Next A Triple Play Vs Top 10 Teams

Photo: Belmont High’s first doubles Henry Moriarty executing the perfect stab volley vs. Reading

With victories over Arlington on Friday, Belmont High’s Girls’ and Boys’ tennis teams have secured double-digit victories this season. This week, both teams will prepare for the state tournaments with a stern challenge as they will take on three Boston Globe top-10 teams, including the number-one squads from Lexington.

Belmont High Girls’ Tennis

After the team beat the visitors, 4-1, at Winn Brook Elementary School on Friday, May 10, Belmont High Girls’ Tennis Head Coach Eileen White thought back to the last time the Marauders had taken the measure of the SpyPonders, not just once but home and away.

“I can’t tell you when we last beat [Arlington] once,” said White. “It’s been, like, years.” 

The 2024 edition of Girls’ Tennis is officially on a roll. Currently, it is on a seven-match winning streak—having last lost on April 25 to Winchester—and is entering the Boston Globe Top 20 at 14th. Belmont is 11th in the Division 1 MIAA power rankings posted earlier this week.

The record is all the more impressive because the team has yet to have an uninterrupted week of practice and games due to rain, sleet, and an eclipse. 

“Knowing we’ll play in the tournament, we’ll have pretty focused practices. That’ll be good for us actually to be able to practice,” said White.

Sophomore Armela Mahadi, who transferred to Belmont High from Singapore last year, is stepping into the main singles role this season. Playing second singles, Mahadi faced Arlington’s Kate Wolfson, who took their first match in April to three sets. “So I came into this game really stressed ‘cuz the game could have gone either way.”

Mahadi came out with an aggressive style, thinking of “playing to win as that’s the only approach to take as [Wolfson] is such a strong opponent,” and she took the first set 6-1. In the second set, Mahadi said her “game plan shifted a bit, and I was playing not to lose,” resulting in a close set where each player held their service.

“Tennis is a mindset kind of sport, so today it just came down to who would outplay who,” she said, with the Marauder pulling out the second, 6-4. “It was a really fun match and a great experience, as the tournament is coming.”

Sophomore Giselle Fond (second singles) and junior Holly Kong (third) rounded out the singles, with Kong taking the “W” in a slow, steady baseline match. It was the doubles securing Wednesday’s victory as both pairs – juniors Sophie Merrow and Ingrid Hellsvik (6-1, 6-2) and junior Amy Chen and sophomore Avery Cai (6-0, 0-6, 6-1) – prevailed.

“It was very exciting. I’m very proud of them,” said White of the players.

In the coming week, the Marauders will face the three teams they lost to this year. They will play away on Monday, May 13, at number 4 Westford Academy—which escaped with a 3-2 victory at Belmont in April—before heading the next day to Lexington to meet the number one-ranked and undefeated Minutemen. The squad will return to Winn Brook on Thursday for an encounter against sixth-ranked Winchester.

“I think being matched up with the top teams is always good for us because we play really well against them even though usually those girls are a little bit more talented. But that’s good for us because [our [players] need to be playing against elevated opposition. That’s how you get better at tennis; you are always playing people better than you,” said White.

Belmont High Boys’ Tennis

A seven-match winning roll is pretty impressive. How about an eight-game winning streak? Belmont High Boys’ Tennis – coming off consecutive deep runs in the post-season – are setting themselves for a third straight tournament run this year in Division 1 after spending years in D2. And that’s where Marauders Head Coach Dave Benson expected them to be at this time of the season, with a record of 11-3 and battling for second in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division.

We’ve had high expectations coming in,” said Benson, who helped bring Belmont to the state semi-finals two years ago. While there have been “some adversities” with injuries, including to all-star senior captain Charlie Osburn, “we’re back on track, and I think the guys are feeling good and looking good.”

In its rematch against the SpyPonders (10-4) held in Arlington Friday, May 10, Belmont Julian Wong – who took over first singles – returned from losing the first set and falling behind in the second to pull off a big three-set victory. Osborn, who played second singles, swept his opponent in two sets while junior co-captain Soyam Pokharel dropped his first singles match of the season.

Belmont would secure the win with the first doubles of Ben Miller and Henry Moriarty, who used a high-energy game with their trademark fist pumping and racket tapping to take a three-set grind win. Belmont polished off its 4-1 victory with a straight set win by newly put together second doubles of Brady Chan and Kolya Radojevic.

Like the girls, the next to last week will see the Marauders host number 8 Westford on Monday and number 1 Lexington on Tuesday with a day trip to number 5 Winchester on Thursday.

“We can stay with all those teams as we prepare of the tournament,” said Osburn.

Belmont Softball Is Back! Marauders Down Wilmington, 3-2, To Up Record To 6-4

Photo: Belmont High School senior pitcher Ellie Espelin in action against Wilmington

During a recent softball game, an opponent asked Josie Kim a question as Belmont’s outstanding junior catcher stood on second base during a Marauders rally.

“When did you guys get so good?” quire the player.

Many people have been asking that same question this season since Belmont has been wandering in the wilderness for the past 15 years, bereft of a winning record and coming off a lonely two-win season last year.

But with the team playing at its brand-new ballpark and with the right mix of veterans and newcomers, this season’s Marauder team is no longer an automatic “W” on other teams’ schedules as it has been in the past decade.

“We have no star players, but we work as a team. We are underrated because we were so bad for such a long time,” said Kim,

On Friday, April 26, all the elements of the new era came together as the Marauders produced a program-defining victory, holding off perennial Middlesex Freedom leaders Wilmington, 3-2, at Clay Pit Pond Park (the “Pond”). The victory over the Wildcats moves the Marauders to 6-4 midway through the season.

The last time Belmont processed a winning record and earned a playoff spot was in 2008 when the 11-9 Marauders was anchored by strikeout artist Kayla Hoyer (’09), who led all eastern Mass pitchers with 232 Ks.

Belmont High’s second base Eva Grant at bat vs Wilmington.

The program’s sudden turn of fortune comes from players who participate in club softball and a group of outstanding athletes with some past experience in the sport. While the Marauders have taken a huge step towards becoming a competitive squad, growing pains remain, especially against the established teams in the Middlesex League. Case in point: a recent three-game stretch, including against Lexington (18-4) and Arlington (10-0), in which Belmont was over and out-matched.

But Friday – played before dozens of parents and fans filling the backstop stands and some created their own bleachers in left field – showed the potential for finishing the season with a record above .500, and an automatic invite to the state tournament is very real. In Friday’s game, as many balls ended up in the Pond as there were total hits; the team won with its brand of timely hitting – 11 hits, including four doubles – and outstanding defense, highlighted by a pair of double plays, each ending with Kim tagging out a Wildcat at the plate.

“It was pretty much just the throw. I just sat there and caught it. And then all I had to do was go backward with the tags,” said Kim.

Kim’s battery mate, senior ace Ellie Espelin, put her stamp on the game against the Wildcats’ first-year pitcher Izzy Maiella. Belmont’s most experienced hurler picked up seven strikeouts (on nine hits and four walks), many of which got her out of jams. On Friday, the heat worked best for Espelin.

Belmont’s battery: Catcher Josie Kim and Pitcher Ellie Espelin

“I was doing fastball [and curve] and then the change-up, but the fastball was the best pitch today,” said Espelin, with Kim nodding in approval. Taking the measure of Wilmington runs in the family, as Espelin is the sister of Belmont High baseball all-star Nate Espelin, who struck out a school record 19 batters in a 1-0 complete-game shutout over the Wildcats in 2018.

“It was a long week, and I was happy that I hit my spots most of the time,” said Espelin.

Belmont got on the scoreboard first after a one-out double by first-year first base Elsie Lakin-Shultz (2 hits), who advanced to third on an Espelin single (who helped her own cause with three hits, including a double) and scored on a fielder’s choice RBI via left fielder Mia Ferrari. Wilmington rallied in the fourth to tie the game on a walk, a single, a sacrifice, and a groundout. But the Wildcat on third was stranded as Espelin struck out the next batter looking.

Belmont would jump back into the lead in the fifth, with centerfielder Amelia Ormond scoring all the way from first on a Tessa Burroso single to center. The shortstop would cross home on the next pitch when Kim (2 hits) drilled a double to the fence in left to increase the lead to 3-1. The Wildcats would push home a run in the sixth on three infield singles.

The Wildcats would not go quietly as Wilmington’s Ali McElligott launched her second triple of the game with two outs. But Espelin would shut the door by getting Eva Boudreau to swing at a 3-0 count and ground weakly for the easy 1 to 3.

While this is Espelin’s final season, Belmont has a young pitcher waiting in the wings in Olivia Ormond, who threw a four-hit shutout in her first varsity start and helped her own cause by slugging an in-the-park home run to lead the Marauders to a 16-0 victory over Cambridge Rindge and Latin on April 23.

Belmont’s Head Coach Joe Tuzzolo said, “I am impressed with the girls today. They battled the entire way. It was a tight game, and we haven’t been in that many tight games. They showed a lot of composure. We jumped to a lead and saw it disappear because Wilmington is a really good team. But our kids made the plays when it counted.”

“Since the middle of March, when we started, the kids have made great strides, and it showed today,” said Tuzzolo, who also appealed to the Belmont community.

“With the warmer weather, we’d love to see even more fans come to see us play.”

In the bleachers

Belmont Girls’ Lacrosse ‘Bright’ Star Reaches Century Mark

Photo: Belmont High Girls Lacrosse’s Niamh Lesnik with her teammates celebrating the sophomore reaching 100 goals.

The game played Monday afternoon didn’t go Belmont’s way, a 9-8 overtime loss to Wayland. But in the fading twilight of Harris Field the team had something to celebrate: midfield Niamh Lesnik reached 100 career goals in the first half.

Niamh accomplished the milestone as a sophomore, a feat realized against top-rated Middlesex League competition while performing in the dual role of a two-way midfielder.

JLesnik joins her team mates from last year, Belmont’s “Nickel and Dime” attack pair of senior Mary Mullan and junior Tess Desantis, who reached the century mark in 2023.

(Just so you know, this is how to pronounce Niamh – which is Old Irish for “bright” – from America’s favorite Irish actress.)

Belmont’s Shea Places 15th In Under20 World XC Championships; Top American For Consecutive Years [Video]

Photo: Belmont’s Ellie Shea finishing 15th at the Under20 World Cross Country Championships held in Belgrade on March 30, the first American to finish the race. (Photo credit: CITIUS MAG)

After a quiet seven months since winning races in the Under20s at the US National and Pan American Games, Belmont’s Ellie Shea put her stamp on the international cross country scene for the second time, finishing 15th at the World Athletics Cross Country Under 20 Championships held March 30 in Belgrade, Serbia.

The 18-year-old Belmont Middle and High School senior was the first American athlete across the finish line held under bright, sunny skies in Belgrade’s Friendship Park, repeating as the top American at the world championships. Last year in Australia, Shea finished 10th to lead the US to its first ever podium finish in the championships, earning a team bronze medal.

”I just wanted to make the most of it and just really be competitive,” said Shea after the race during an interview with

Wearing her trademark white framed cobalt sunglasses – which has its own on Google search page – Shea settled into the back of the large pack of front runners in the first of three laps, running the 2.1 kilometers in 6 minutes, 49 seconds. Notably, Shea was one of the few participants who hurdled the hay bale barriers to shave a few seconds on each loop.

The lead group, comprised of Ethiopians, Kenyans, and Ugandans, showed their quality in distance races as they pulled away during the second lap with Shea and fellow American Allie Zealand – teammates on last year’s U20 team – running in 16th and 17th, behind the UK’s Innes Fitzgerald who pulled away by seven seconds over the Americans with one lap remaining.

In the final loop, Shea returned to the top class runner she was last year, as she sped away from Zealand, catching and dispatching Fitzgerald before nearly nipping a pair of Ugandans and a Kenyan who were fading fast down the home stretch.

Shea finished in 20:50, completing the final lap and the home stretch (2.2K) in 7:29, finishing outside the top 12 by seven seconds. The race was won by 15-year-old Marta Alemiayo crossing the line in 19:29, leading a dominate Ethiopian team performance to sweep the first three places.

Zealand would overtake Fitzgerald to finish 16th in 21.08. The US team of Shea, Zealand, Mary Dalton (28th), Zariel Macchiato (29th), Jolena Quarzo (41st), and Maddie Gardiner (49th) would take 4th place in the team event with 88 points, edging out the UK (90) and Japan (98).

Opinion: To Save Belmont High School Sports, Vote Yes on April 2

Sweet 16 Shocker: Belmont Girls’ Hockey Upset Three-Seed Lincoln/Sudbury In Quarters, 4-1, As Costa Stops 44 Shots

Photo: Belmont/Watertown goalie Jil Costa readies to pounce on a loose puck during her team’s game vs. Lincoln/Sudbury

It was a nightmare start for Belmont/Watertown Girls’ hockey goalie Jil Costa against heavy favorites Lincoln/Sudbury Regional High in the MIAA Division 1 state championship quarterfinals.

In its first rush up the ice, Lincoln/Sudbury’s junior Ally Quinn split the defenders and sent a wrist shot to Costa’s glove side, handcuffing the sophomore netminder. The puck sneaked by and rolled on its side into the back of the net.

1-0, Warriors, after 50 seconds.

After this goal, Belmont’s Jil Costa stopped the next 44 in the 4-1 upset of Lincoln/Sudbury

“Once it went in I was a little confused, to be honest,” said Costa, one of the standout goaltenders in the state allowing less than a goal a game – 16 goals in 20 games – this season.

But rather than replay the goal in her mind, “I immediately just got it out of my head. I ignored it as if it didn’t happen and I just had to focus on the next shot,” she said.

And from that point onward, it was lights out as Costa would stop all 44 shots she faced while her teammates scored three goals in the final four minutes of the first period propelling 14th-ranked Belmont to a thrilling upset over third-seed Lincoln/Sudbury, 4-1, in the Sweet 16 contest on a rainy Saturday night, March 2, in West Concord.

Belmont Senior Mia Taylor scored the game winning goal in the first period

“We played our game, relying on [Costa] to keep it close and help her out by scoring just enough to win,” said first-year head coach Brendan Kelleher.

Belmont (15-2-3) will next meet fellow upstarts Archbishop Williams (11-10-2) from Braintree in an Elite Eight matchup on Thursday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m., 53 miles from Belmont in far-flung Kingston (which is basically west Duxbury). The 11th-seed “Archies” sent sixth-ranked Methuen packing, 2-1, on a late goal Saturday.

Saturday’s game was decided in the initial 15 minutes as Belmont withstood a continuous onslaught from the quick Warrior forwards. But it was Belmont’s approach to Lincoln/Sudbury’s overtly-aggressive game plan that proved to be the Warriors’ undoing.

Belmont’s first goal came courtesy of senior co-Capt. Lola Rocci on the power play as she slotted a Gigi Mastrangelo pass by L/S eighth grade goalie Lauren Kennedy to level the score at one.

Belmont’s Lola Rocci circling the L/S net during the team’s 4-1 upset victory

With less than 90 seconds remaining in the period, Belmont struck for a pair. Despite defending a Belmont power play, the Warriors kept pushing players into the Belmont end. But when the Warriors lost the puck in the neutral zone, second line seniors Mia Taylor and Ruby Jones jumped to create a two-on-one counter with Taylor capping the break with the game winner.

“it was just keeping that intensity up no matter who’s on the ice … and always go for it and that created the goal” said Taylor.

And it wouldn’t be a Belmont game without an outstanding solo rush and goal by Marauders’ leading scorer, senior center Maddie Driscoll, who hit the back of the net while shorthanded in the dying seconds of the opening frame to leave the ice leading 3-1.

Up by two with a half hour to play, Lincoln/Sudbury kept the pressured on Belmont’s back line and Costa yet the Marauder defensive pairs – with a great deal of assistance from the forwards – withstood each Warrior rush without surrendering ice in front of the Belmont goal and pushing Warrior forwards outside the slot so shots were taken from a safe distance.

“We were told ahead of time they had an aggressive forecheck,” said senior co-Capt. Aislin Devaney. “Our defense did a really good job blocking shots, getting the puck out, and keeping bodies on them which made it easy for [Costa] to make saves.”

Through it all, Costa was as cold as the ice surface making save after save, leaving Lincoln Sudbury players slamming their sticks onto the ice in frustration or looking to the heavens for Divine Intervention that never came.

“A lot of practice just [having a] laser focus on the puck and … just make the save,” said Costa.

Belmont’s Evie Long (second from right) scoring the fourth goal of the game late in the third

It was left up to sophomore Evie Long to put a ribbon on the upset. After receiving a pinpoint drop pass from Driscoll, the winger scooped up her own rebound and backhanded Belmont’s fourth tally high into the net with four minutes left in the game.

“We’re keeping the rink open,” said assistant coach Josh Gilonna, borrowing a phrase used by Belmont Boys’ Hockey during a recent deep run in the tournament. “We’re going to play again.”

Driscoll’s Winner In 2OT The Difference In Belmont/Watertown’s 1-0 Victory Over Billerica In Div. 1 Playoff Opener

Photo: Belmont/Watertown’s Molly Driscoll in action against Billerica/Chelmsford

A wrist shot from Watertown High Senior center Molly Driscoll that sent the puck slowly dribbling into the net 30 seconds into a second overtime period gave Belmont/Watertown a 1-0 shutout victory over Billerica/Chelmsford in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 Girls’ Hockey tournament held on Thursday, Feb. 29.

Playing on her home ice at the John A Ryan Rink in Watertown, Driscoll received a pass from her fellow co-captain, winger Lola Rocci, as both teams were playing three-a-side. The Boston University-commit in field hockey redirected the puck through Billerica/Chelmsford goalie Giovanna Gulinello’s pads which then took its time to cross the goal line for the only score of the night.

Belmont’s Jil Costa in net vs Billerica

“It was Molly Driscoll doing what Molly Driscoll does,” said Belmont Head Coach Brendan Kelleher about the senior center’s heroics. He praised Rocci on Belmont’s rush up the rink “carrying the puck up ice with a [player] draped all over. She has nothing in the tank but she kept her feet moving the whole time. She got free and fed it to Molly.”

“It was a great high school hockey game,” said Kelleher in his inaugural season leading the team. “Give Billerica a lot of credit. When you get to those sudden victory games, someone’s got to win, and someone’s got to lose. The paying spectators got their money’s worth.”

Fourteenth-ranked Belmont/Watertown (14-2-3) now advances to the Division 1 “Sweet 16” where it takes on 3rd-seed Lincoln/Sudbury Regional (17-2-1) in an afternoon matinee on Saturday, March 2. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. at the Valley Rink in West Concord.

No place for the faint hearted in the crease

On the other end of the ice sophomore goalie Jil Costa earned her 10th shutout of the season, keeping a clean sheet for 51 minutes and 30 seconds as she spearheaded another defensive masterclass from a team that has given up a measly 15 goals in 19 games. The best of her clutch saves was with five seconds remaining in the first overtime when Costa swatted away with her stick blade a high puck heading towards goal, a reaction “that’s got to be on [ESPN’s] SportsCenter Top 10 plays,” said Kelleher.

Fronting Costa was Belmont’s defensive pairings – its core made up of Thea Monovich, Aislin Delaney, Martha Dimas and Elsie Larkin-Schultz – which continued their solid coverage they have provided the entire season, preventing clean breaks and keeping the majority of shots coming from the outside.

“I can’t say enough about pairs; they just play a great game again and again. We’ve got senior leadership back there along with freshmen that don’t playing like freshmen. It’s a confident group,” said Kelleher.

Belmont First Year Defender Elsie Larkin-Schultz

Belmont’s Player of the Match was first year defender Larkin-Schultz who provided coverage along the blue line while making a spark on offense, weaving her tall frame into the Warrior’s defensive zone.

While Billerica – a young team with just a pair of seniors while putting three 8th graders and seven first years on the varsity team – had their moments attacking Costa, Belmont had nearly double the shots taken by the Warriors. In the end, it would be left up to Driscoll, Belmont’s leading scorer and the most skilled player on the night, to end the contest.

Kelleher said while he would like to see a balanced scoring attack with all three lines – and a few defenders – getting on the scoring sheet.

“Nothing gets easier this time of year. It’s the old survive and advance. We came with the mindset that we will be back for another game.”

On The Road, Again: Just A Single Home Match For Belmont High’s Winter Teams In MIAA Tourneys

Photo: Belmont High Sophomore Jil Costa making the skate save vs. Woburn

Marauder fans will be on the road to see their favorites play as three of the four Belmont High’s Girls and Boys Hoops and Hockey teams will be visitors through out the 2024 MIAA high school state playoffs.

Belmont High Girls hockey (13-2-3) is the sole local entry to host a first-round Division 1 playoff game and it will take place in neighboring Watertown’s JA Ryan rink against Billerica Memorial (6-9-5) on the Leap Day (Thursday, Feb. 29) at 7 p.m. Despite losing a single game in regular time (the best in the Division 1 tourney) and giving up less than a goal a game – 0.833 to be exact – the Marauders just hung on to a home game as the 14th-seed due in no small part to a less than a robust scoring offense, Watch for goalie Jil Costa and first line center Molly Driscoll to stand out. The likely Sweet 16 opponent for the winner will be three-seed Lincoln-Sudbury (17-2-1) up on Route 2 in West Concord.

In a rebuilding season in which the team had a hard time creating an on-ice identity, Belmont Boys’ Hockey (8-11-3) was the first team to miss out on a home game as the 17th seed and will be journeying along Route 128 to meet Wellesley High (14-4-2) on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. at the Boston Sports Institute in Wellesley. The “lucky” winner will head to Danvers to take on the one-seed St. John’s Prep.

The one Belmont team that had high hopes on obtaining not just one but two home games was Girls Basketball. On Jan. 26, the team suffocated a good Winchester squad to secure a playoff spot with a 10-4 record, sitting just outside the top 10 in the power ranking calculations and having entered the Top 20 in some polls. But in the past month, the squad could not buy a win, losing its final seven regular season games and falling to 10-11. As the 21 seed. the Marauders will be taking its own Leap Day bus ride to the Rhode Island border to meet 12-seed Bridgewater-Raynham – losers of three of its final four games – on Thursday, Feb. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

It’s not how you earned a playoff spot, just that you did it. Just ask a talented but at times uninspiring Belmont High Boys Hoops squad. With a gaudy 37th ranking in the MIAA power rankings, the Marauders needed in the past fortnight a two-point upset of a 14-6 Arlington team and a rally to defeat Billerica at home to remain above the required .500 mark (11-9) to earn a preliminary “play-in” match against Peabody. It’ll be a journey along scenic Route 128 in afternoon rush hour traffic on Tuesday, Feb. 27 with the game starting at 6 p.m. against the Tanners which made the tournament with an impressive 18-2 mark.

Belmont’s Grappler Takes First Ever MIAA Girls’ Wrestling State Championship At 106 Lbs [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont High’s Ava Svistunov in the first-ever finals of the MIAA D1 State Girls Wrestling Championship at 106 lbs.

When hearing last year there would likely be a separate state tournament for girls’ wrestling, Belmont High’s Ava Svistunov and Craig Janjigian, the team’s head coach, said they knew that if her progression continued in the sport, she would be topping the podium.

“We both said it, that I could win,” said Svistunov.

Svistunov with Belmont High Head Coach Craig Janjigian (left) and assistant Head Coach Andrew McCahill.

One year later, their shared vision came true as Svistunov placed her mark on Belmont High sports history, winning the Division 1 state championship at 106 lbs. at the inaugural MIAA Girls Wrestling tournament.

The 15-year-old sophomore dominated the final against Claire Roney of Wellesley High, shutting out the top seed, 7-0, in the Saturday, Feb. 17 match at Newton South High School.

“It’s a big deal, probably,” said Svistunov, still contemplating what she had done five minutes earlier.

“[Svistunov] got the job done. She dominated this tournement,” said Janjigian, who also brought three male wrestlers to the championships.

Belmont High’s Ava Svistunov won the first-ever MIAA D1 State Girls Wrestling Championship finals at 106 lbs.

Svistunov will next wrestle in the Massachusetts Girls’ All-State tourney in Salem on Saturday, Feb. 20, when the top grapplers from across the three divisions will meet to determine the best wrestlers in each of a dozen weight groups.

It was an impressive run through the tourney for Svistunov, who started early Saturday morning by pinning Jasin Abdella of Leominster in 37 seconds in the opening period. Svistunov would have her most difficult challenge in the semifinals against second seed Abigail Muller, also from Leominster. Muller would go up 2-0 early on a quick counter that landed Svistunov on her back. She would recover and score two points on a reversal just before the period ended. The second (of three 2-minute) period saw Svistunov take down Muller to go up 4-2. And for the next five minutes of the contest, Svistunov would use her weight to secure Muller – who would finish third – to the mat and counter every attempt the increasingly exhausted Leominster wrestler made to escape her opponent’s grasp.

The finals against Roney saw Svistunov being efficient and relentless, going up 4-0 early in the match and never looking back, employing the same punishing ground game she employed with Muller. It may not have been the most action-packed of the finals, but it was certainly the most effective. When the official ended the bout, Svistunov flew into the arms of her coaches and then went to greet her mother mat-side.

“Wonderful!” said Svistunov’s mother after the finals. “If I say anything else, I’ll start crying.”

Belmont High Hoops: Girls’, Boys’ Playoff Bound But A Way To Go Before Tourney Ready

Photo: Belmont High Senior Co-Capt. Mia Ferrari and sophomore Sophia McClendon vs. Lexington

The good news: Both Belmont varsity basketball teams are playoff bound having secured their 10th win this season.

The flip side: The Marauders Boys’ and Girls’ are not looking, just quite yet, ready to withstand a tournament game much less going on a playoff run in the MIAA Division 1 post season that starts next week.

Case in point: Seniors Night games on Feb. 9 against Lexington that both Marauder teams hosted at the Wenner Field House. It’s certain Belmont’s girls and boys will be meeting similarly skilled squads as Lexington in the playoffs which gave the games a Cassandra quality peering into the future. And while Belmont was able to keep both games outcome within a couple of baskets, the Minutemen demonstrated just a bit more basketball smart to carry off the wins by the final buzzer.

Too much second quarter Sam

In the opener of last weeks doubleheader, the Belmont Boys’ were coming off a 5-2 stretch to earn its 10th victory demolishing Woburn, 59-29. But despite a 10-6 overall record, Belmont’s all important MIAA Power Ranking – which is used to seed the teams in the playoff – was a paltry 41st in which the first 32 teams automatically make the tournament. Teams with a .500 record or better are added to the post season but must win a play-in game against the lowest automatic teams to make the 32-team tourney.

Friday’s matinee game set two teams with nearly identical records. Lexington’s power ranking was 40th and they were seeking its 10th win. The Marauders took advantage of its tall, physical forwards – senior co-Capt.’s Donovan Holway and Gabriel Meyer-Herron with junior Ryan O’Byrne – to get off to a 15-10 first quarter lead.

But the second quarter quickly turned into “Showtime with Sam” as Lexington’s Sam Myerberg had career eight minutes. The sophomore guard started by hitting consecutive 3’s, then going one for two from the free throw line then hit two more treys finishing the quarter with 17 points and 22 for the half to push the Minutemen to a 35-29 lead after the first half. Belmont relied on its big men specifically Meyer-Herron but too many times on the court the Marauders were not executing with quickness allowing Lexington to hold the advantage to the frustration of Head Coach Darren Martinez.

The Minutemen continued their onslaught this time highlighted by senior co-capt. guard Derin Ongur (19 points for the game) who canned two threes and a straight away jumper to increase the lead to 48-31 with three minutes left in the third quarter. While this could have been a good time to think about its next game, Belmont got back in the game as Meyer-Harron and O’Byrne headed inside the paint to score and drag the team to within nine at the end of three, 48-39.

Belmont up the tempo in the fourth and got to the charity stripe three times only ending up missing the six free throws they were awarded. The Marauders kept chipping away, cutting the Minutemen lead to 57-53 with two to play. But a technical foul on a Belmont player gave Lexington four shots from the line and they didn’t miss to put the lead back to eight, 61-53 with 1:05 to play. And when Myerberg hit for a three – he finished with 32 points – on the next time down the court, that was all she wrote as Lexington eased to a 68-63 win.

Stella stellar for Lexington

The nightcap saw Belmont Girls coming into the game on the wrong end of a three game losing streak, seeing them drop to 14th in the power ranking at 10-7, getting uncomfortably close to the 17th ranking which would result in the Marauders missing out on hosting a home game. Facing them was 12-4 Lexington – 8th in the power rankings- squad that defeated Belmont earlier in the season, 48-39.

After the tipoff, the Minutemen showed immediately their skills, using quick cutting runs through the paint to open space against Belmont’s zone defense for easy baskets to lead 9-4 midway through the quarter. But lead by senior capt. Mia Ferrari and sophomore Sophia McClendon, Belmont fought back to where a pair of free throws from junior Brynn Connolly to tie the score at 13 after one.

Belmont came out with purpose and snatched the lead, 18-17 off a junior co-captain Linda Sheng drive with 6:20 to play in the quarter. But just like the boys’ game, a Lexington player took hold of the game in the second quarter and didn’t let go. Junior guard Stella Crinti started with a three pointer, followed by a stop and shot basket, than a layup on the break and then handing out two pitch perfect assist to take the Minutemen from one down to 10 up before a three from finished a 13-0 run to give the Minutemen at 30-18 lead that the visitors would not give up. Belmont through Sheng would cut the lead at the half to 30-23.

If there was a statistic that showed the advantage Lexington brought to the game occurred early in the three quarter when the Minutemen took down five offensive rebounds on two possessions resulting in two baskets, one courtesy of a Crinti turnaround to up the lead back to 12 at midpoint in the quarter. Lexington led by 18 – 48-30 – when McClendon went on her one run with two in close buckets and a three to pull Belmont back to 11 only to see that Crinti player hit a three to give Lexington a 51-37 advantage with six left in the game. But Belmont made it interesting with McClendon and Sheng cutting the lead to 56-47 before – guess who – Crinti putting the knife in any hope of a miracle comeback with a straight away three making the score 59-47 as the Minutemen put this win to bed, going home 63-55 victors.

The Belmont Girls would subsequently loss their remaining three games of the regular season to finish the campaign at 10-10 and likely miss out on holding a playoff game. The Boys’ went 1-1 since the Lexington game – a loss at Winchester before winning against visiting Billerica. They have two games left this week against Westwood and Malden Catholic before the start of the playoffs.