The collective mindset of Belmont High School Field Hockey was on one salient fact as it took the field against host Lexington on a sunny and hot Saturday morning, Sept. 27.
“We knew this was a big game,” said Belmont’s junior forward Kerri Lynch, as Belmont, Lexington and Winchester were in a logjam for second in the Liberty Division of the Middlesex League behind undefeated Reading Memorial High School.
“This could solidify our place going into the playoffs, so, yeah, it was huge,” said Lynch.
And at the end of the hour of play, Belmont left the pitch with a statement victory as the Marauders put in a pair of second-half goals – both part of Lynch’s first career hat trick – to take down the Minutemen, 4-2, to set their place as a top team in the league.
“My team is awesome,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Jessica Smith after the game.
“So far our wins have been against teams that are under .500. But to show that you’re a good team, you have to beat the really good teams and we just proved it,” Smith told the Belmontonian after the game.
Belmont took the lead just four minutes into the game as Lynch hit her first by rounding Lexington’s goalie and doubled the lead midway through the period with a quick shot from forward Kate McCarthy. Despite being tied up, 2-2, early in the second half, the Marauders went out in front with Lynch’s second tally less than three minutes later.
“Everyone on the field touched the balls that led to our goals. They are stringing passes from the back to our forwards,” said Smith.
The victory was a complete team effort as Belmont won most of the individual battles on the field as they took the game to the Minutemen who defeated the Marauders last year in the first round of the Div. 1 playoffs.
One such match up occurred with 12 minutes remaining in the game with Belmont leading 3-2. A Lexington pass down the Belmont left wing sent a pair of Minutemen towards Belmont goal with senior defender Emma Pejko the last line of defense.
Pejko left the player she was marking to attack the forward baring down on goal. Pejko lowered her stick horizontally to both stop the attack and then, after several seconds of a one-on-one duel down close to the turf, win possession.
“[Pejko] is the smartest player on our team academically and she seems to make the right choices on the field. She cognitively and innately knows what she has to do. That would have been a goal if she had not made that decision,” said Smith, who lavished praise on the back line of Pejko, Lauren Noonan, Molly Thayer and Annemarie Habelow.
“They work very well because they don’t just count on one person and that’s what you need to have a good defense,” Smith told the Belmontonian.
Dominating the midfield was senior stalwart Suzanne Noone who tracked down Lexington’s players attempting to move through the center of the pitch while Habelow, playing a high center defense, was quick to transition the attack with long passes deep in the Minutemen end.
The game’s final goal – which gave Belmont a two-goal cushion with four minutes left in the game – “was just a nice tip that was probably all luck. But they’re always good so we’ll take what we get,” said Lynch.
It’s going to be another tough challenge for the Marauders as they welcome Winchester to Harris Field for a Monday evening game, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m.