Photo: The Belmont High seniors on their night
Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer Head Coach Niman Kenkre knew if there’s a game to win on the team’s schedule, it’s going to be Seniors Night, which, coincidentally, was Kenkre’s birthday.
And they did, as three seniors scored three second half goals – two in the final two minutes – as the Marauders took down visiting Burlington, 3-0, Wednesday, Oct. 13.
Senior attack Mateo Estrada-Donahue got the game winner 10 minutes into the second half from a quick hitter at the top of the box that scooted into the left corner of the goal. Anthony Dokhan smartly converted a penalty before Charlie November stole the ball from the Burlington goalie and tapped in his first varsity goal of his career.
The win gave the Marauders an all important last season boost in the MIAA Power Rankings – you can throw out the old win-loss record/total points to determine who’s going to the playoffs – has Belmont 34th in Division 1, a mere two places from being eligible for the state tournament.
The win came at the right time – and not just being on his birthday – as the team went through “a difficult stretch” according to Kenkre. After starting the campaign with three consecutive wins, the Marauders lost seven contests in row, some in excruciating late goals to opponents they had dominated during the game.
“We were so optimistic after our start,” he said, with the belief they would make a run to win the Middlesex League. “Then everything that could go wrong went wrong” including injuries and last second goals.
“It’s so easy for players to get dispirited. I’ve seen professional teams go down the tubes with losing streaks less bad than ours,” said Kenkre, who played professionally in Iceland.
Despite three-plus weeks of defeat after defeat, the team didn’t waver from the game philosophy installed at the start of the season that realized the Marauders couldn’t be competitive with most of its opponents attempting to play a physical running game, rather relying on short passes and movement off the ball.
And last week saw the turning of the ship as the Marauders took five of a possible six points defeating Watertown, 2-0, to stop the slide, tying Wakefield, 1-1, for the first away points since the first week of the season and taking down Burlington.
“I’m expecting a strong end to the season. We can control is in our hands and then, hopefully, the power ranking formula will be in our favor and we can we can get in [the tournament] and that would be wonderful,” said Kenkre.
And while its the results on the pitch that ultimately matters, Kenkre got a bit emotional after the Burlington tussle on the camaraderie the players have for each other and him.
“I mean it’s just such an amazing group of guys and the thing is, it really speaks volumes to their character, that they have this spirit, this love for each other for me, for our coaching staff, even though it’s been a hard time for all of us,” said Kenkre.
“And for them to stay strong through all, to stay together and have the support and love that they show for me, it’s an incredible feeling and I couldn’t be happier. And for it to all come together with such a nice victory on my birthday, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that.