Photo: Belmont High’s Kiki Christofori (#22, center) after scoring the only goal of the game vs. Masco.
On a cold Nov. 5, 2016, Marina Karalis, a freshman who was called up from the JV just weeks before, scored the winning penalty kick to give Belmont High Girls’ soccer an upset playoff victory over hosts Winchester.
Fast forward four years almost to the day, Karalis – now one of only a handful of seniors on a youthful team – came through once again as she assisted in a Kiki Christofori goal with just over 12 minutes to play to upset Masconomet Regional (the 7th seed with an 11-4-4 record), 1-0, to move on to the Division 2 North Sectional quarterfinals against second-seed Beverly High.
Belmont (the 10th seed at 9-7-2) will meet the Panthers (2nd ranked at 15-2-1) at Beverly High on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.
“It’s so weird to think that I’m the senior on the team and not being yelled at [by seniors],” said a smiling Karalis after the game. “I remember having [seniors] as role models and now having to be that person. So I’m so proud of everyone working their butts off the whole game and glad that such hard work paid off.”
For Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham, Karalis’ leadership and play in the center of the field provided to be the difference in the game’s outcome.
“Marina was a general out there. It was tough because the field (Masco plays on an uneven grass pitch with a distinct slope) because the ball wasn’t coming to her true but she still dominated the entire midfield,” he said.
Belmont’s goal came from a quick turn of play as Karalis sent a deft pass to Christofori to the right of Masco’s netminder.
“I think somebody was kind of on the right side of me. It was in the heat of the moment that I took the shot and it went through the goalies’ legs,” said Christofori.
The match was a back and forth affair for nearly the entire game in which shots on goal were few as both teams appeared to struggle in the high grass pitch.
“It was like playing in the mud,” said Graham.
While Masco’s quickness was its main threat, it was countered by the outstanding play from Belmont’s backline of junior Ashley Green, senior Olivia Zarzycki and junior Katelyn Sawyer – that limited Masco to a mere three shots on goal for the game.
“[Green] was the boss back there, yelling and screaming and having everyone covered. And the rotation between her and [Sawyer] was unbelievable. Katelyn played her best game of the year today and it’s her birthday.”
Looking forward to the tourney, Graham believes the up and down season has made the current lineup resilient to whatever is thrown at them.
“We’re a tough out. We’ve played everyone tough this year be it Winchester (a 1-1 tie at home), Arlington, anyone. I honestly don’t think anyone really wants to play us because no one knows who we really are,” said Graham.
Asked what was the best part of winning the game, Karalis answered with the bravado of someone who doesn’t want the season to end.
“We’re practicing tomorrow.”