Belmont Volleyball Extends Record Winning Streak To 6, Tops Middlesex Liberty Division

Photo: Waiting for the serve.
Belmont High School Volleyball continued its historic winning streak by defeating perennial league powerhouse Winchester, 3-2 (18-25, 26-24, 25-23, 18-25, 15-5), on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Wenner Field House. The Marauders’ (6-0-0) six consecutive victories to begin the season breaks a long-standing team consecutive win streak that stood at five. The win places Belmont atop the Middlesex League Liberty Division standings.

“This is the most mentally tough team that I’ve ever coached,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture. “Teams like Winchester push us to play our best and that’s what we had to do to win that match. It was a team effort.”
“They aren’t afraid of making mistakes, but instead, learn and adjust. They understand that we’re going to lose points and sets but the most important thing is who wins the last one.  They have the will to win and escalate their game to match each opponent,” Couture said.
Couture pointed to the consistent play of Belmont senior co-captain Leah Babroudi throughout the match, who was 15 for 15 serving with 3 aces, and perfect on serve receive 21 for 21. 
“Leah was all over the place on defense, covering her hitters and keeping balls alive. She is one of the biggest competitors on the team and her energy on the court is contagious. She is so tough and never lets a missed dig get to her.  She just shakes it off and gets the next ball up,” said Couture, who captained Belmont in 2004.

The Marauders started off a little slow in the first, keeping pace with the Sachems until they pushed from 19-18 to 25-18 to close the first set. 

The second set was back and forth, with each team going on 3-5 point scoring runs including one by Jenny Vetrano to bring the Marauders to 24-18.  Vetrano was 18 for 18 serving with 1 ace. The Sachems sided out and Senior Captain Luna Colozzo went on a run of her own bringing the score to 24-24 before the Marauders could side out and finish off the set 26-24. 
The third set was also close throughout with the Marauders inching away later in the set to win 25-23.  As the match progressed, libero Sophia Estok continued to read Winchester’s hitters better and better making incredible digs (25 total).  Setter Mindee Lai also played superb defense and was second in digs with 17. 
Strong passes and smart hits by senior co-captain Jane Mahon (14 kills) helped the Marauders to get into a groove early in the fourth set, as they were able to side out on the first pass for the first 5 servers. However, a serving rotation error saw Belmont’s lead reduced from 10-5 to 8-6, which caused the team to lose momentum and eventually the set.

While it was too late to take back the set, which they dropped 18-25, they picked up enough steam to start off the fifth set strong.  Estok went back to serve and brought the Marauders to a 6-1 lead.  Clutch kills to by Nena Trifunovic (7 total, 4 of her last 5 swings being kills) kept the momentum going and the team never let up.  Finally at 11-5 Mahon went back to serve and finished out the match, ending the final set 15-5.


Belmont is back home in the Wenner Field House hosting Arlington on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m.

Sports Quick Hits: Volleyball On A Streak; Girls’ Soccer Rebounds; Boys’ Soccer’s First Fall

Photo: Jane Mahon doing what she does best; control the net.

A brief snapshot of the latest in Belmont High sports.

Volleyball on Record Streak; Mahon Sets Second Career Mark

Belmont High Volleyball is on a record streak at the start to the 2018 season. The Marauders’ 3-0 win over Lexington (25-21, 25-18, 25-22) on Monday, Sept. 17, ups Belmont’s record to 5-0, the best start in the program’s history and ties the longest win streak which occurred in 2014. The squad will host 4-2 (4-1 in the league) Winchester at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Wenner Field House.

Senior co-captain Jane Mahon broke the team’s career blocking record in the Lexington match. This achievement goes along with her team kills career record, both which will increase with 14 games still remaining in the regular season.

Girls’ Soccer Rebounds Against Lexington, 5-0

After Saturday morning’s frustrating defeat to Woburn, losing 3-2 after leading 2-0 at the half, Belmont Girls’ Soccer (3-1-1) took out its frustrations on visiting Lexington, scoring five times against the Minutemen. Senior forward Ella Gagnon continues her hot scoring with a pair of goals and an assist with senior wing Morgan Krause and sophomore Jenna Thomas – scoring in consecutive games – rounding out the goals. Senior goalie Chloe Tingos earned the shutout. Middlesex Liberty leader Winchester (5-0-0), ranked 9th in the Boston Globe’s Top 20 poll, will host the Marauders’ on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 4 p.m.

First defeat for fast starting Boys’ Soccer

After a smart 4-0 run to start the season, the Belmont Boys’ Soccer team (4-1-0) took a trip to Lexington where its lack of offensive punch – 7 goals in those four games – came back to haunt them falling to the 4-1-0 Minutemen, 3-0, on Monday. Despite the loss, Belmont senior keeper Tomas Griffin was named a Player of the Week in the Globe, noting he “helped the eighth-ranked Marauders (4-1) record shutouts of Middlesex League rivals Stoneham and Woburn.” Another tough scrap to come on Thursday, Sept. 20, when the Boys greet Winchester (4-1-2) to the Harris at 4 p.m.

Perfect Start Has Belmont Volleyball In Lead In Middlesex League

Photo: Belmont Junior Libero Sophia Estok readies a serve vs. Woburn.

Four wins in as many matches to start the season has Belmont High Volleyball perched atop of the Middlesex League, reaching that height after defeating an always tough Woburn High squad last Friday, Sept. 14, at the Wenner Field House. 

It was a match to remember as the Marauders battled the Tanners in a closely contested five-setter, yet another close game in the history of the rivalry.

“After losing to them twice last season they were excited to take them on this season,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture.  

The Marauders came out strong winning the first set 25-18, with a 10 point service run by senior Defensive Specialist Leah Babroudi and 4 solo blocks by senior Middle Hitter Audrey Quinn. 

Woburn made adjustments quickly and was able to take the second set 25-22, including an 8 point run of their own. 

In the third Belmont tightened the serves they received, never allowing Woburn’s servers more than 2 serves before siding out. Junior Libero Sophia Estok had an exceptional day passing and was 51 for 52 on serve receive, breaking her own single-match record.  Preventing the Tanners from long service runs allowed the Marauders to take third set 25-15. 

By the fourth set, Woburn’s middle hitters were in a groove, spiking and power tipping with dominance, often at junior setter Mindee Lai. Lai racked up 25 digs, the next closest being Babroudi with 13.  The Tanners took the set 25-19 – led by Woburn’s Tyliah Maldonado-Andre who ended the game with 21 kills – and it was on to the Marauders first fifth set of the season. 

After a quick side out, Lai extended Belmont’s lead to 3-0 before losing the serve. The Marauders managed to side out on the first serve for a full rotation, preventing Woburn from gaining momentum and slowly extended their lead.  Senior Outside Hitter Jane Mahon and junior Opposite Hitter Nena Trifunovic provided 10 and 6 kills respectively to finish off the Tanner. 

Mahon holds the career record for kills and is chasing the career blocks record.  While Jane is the most experienced hitter on the team, we still spread out our offense. 

While Couture points to Mahon – who holds the program’s career record for kills and is nearing the blocks record – as a team leader at the net, “we’ve never been a team who sets the same hitter every ball.  This year we have a lot of different types of hitters who can get the team kills.”

“Every game we begin with our cheer of ‘We play as a team. We win as a team’ and it’s never been more true, said Couture.

“We have the strongest setter and libero the team has ever had and that gives the team a solid foundation to build off of. Lai and Estok have been starters since their freshmen year when they began playing with senior captains Mahon and Babroudi,” said the Belmont coach. 

Having players that have already been through two full seasons together makes a huge difference, she noted. The majority of the starters from last year returned this year and have worked hard in the offseason.

“I think that’s the big reason we’re having such a strong start this year and I’m excited to see how far we can go,” she said.

Belmont High Volleyball Two For Two In Season Openers [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont’s Leah Babroudi at the net against Burlington.

Last year Belmont High volleyball’s young team squeaked into the playoffs with a .500 record than losing in the first round.

Now, with a year’s worth of experience under their belt and a familiarity playing as a team, Belmont’s Head Coach Jen Couture has high hopes for a strong run in the league race and for a post-season run.

And so far the team has not disappointed, winning its first two contests in the 2018 season; 3-1 (25-20, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22) in the home opener over Burlington on Wednesday and a 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-15) whitewashing of Wilmington Friday.

In its game with Burlington – a semifinalist in last year’s Division 2 North sectionals – Belmont never allowed the Devils to run off long service games while countering with a complete game plan.

“We started off the match playing with confidence,” said Couture. “Burlington took a little while to warm up and really started getting into a groove in the third set which they inevitably took. In the fourth set we just focused on minimizing unforced errors, keeping everything in play and hitting smart shots. [Belmont] didn’t get shaken or down on themselves after dropping the [previous] set and bounced back to finish the match.”

Junior captain setter Mindee Lai set a new record for assists in a single match with 35.

“Mindee always gives 100 percent effort every match and does an excellent job setting up our offense. Burlington’s middle blockers really challenge our hitters to hit to smart spots and Mindee adjusts the sets to give hitters more time to hit around the block,” said Couture.

Senior Captain Jane Mahon led the offense with 11 kills (17 total in two games) and 6 aces. Mahon, who plays as the opposite hitter and middle blocker, also led the team in blocks with 6. She’s followed by junior Nena Babroudi with 10 kills and 5 services aces.

Leading from the back was junior Libero Sophia Estok who came up big serving in the fourth set along with her solid defense. In the two games, Estok has 36 defensive digs and 38 services received while senior Leah Babroudi has 14 digs and 24 services. 

Belmont High Volleyball Playoff Short But With Promise for Next Year

Photo: Jane Mahon and 

After securing a playoff spot on the last day of the season, Belmont High Volleyball traveled to the 15-4 Cambridge Rindge & Latin last Saturday, Nov. 3 for the Marauders first sectional game in two years. And it was a quick trip in the postseason for Belmont and their Head Coach Jen Couture as the Marauders lost 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 24-26). 

“Going into the match we knew Cambridge had two amazing outside hitters both with over 200 kills before our match. If you compare stats, we were right with Cambridge in serving, service receiving, and defensively. They just had more kills and aces,” Couture said.

Video: Jane Mahon setting Belmont Volleyball’s kill record.

They often hit down over the block and [sophomore libero] Sophia Estok did a great job adjusting into the back row and was able to pick up 19 digs,” said Couture. “[Junior] Gabby Viale was the go-to hitter for the match, hitting 13 for 14 with 6 kills. Cambridge was solid all around but Gabby was able to find holes in their defense and get balls to hit the floor. 

Despite its brief time in this year’s postseason, Couture is extremely upbeat concerning the program’s future

“We have a lot of players returning and a solid foundation to build upon,” said Couture.

  • Sophomore setter Mindee Lai worked hard in the offseason to come in ready to run our 5-1 offense. Leads team in aces with 50, 3rd in digs, and 4th in kills.
  • Sophomore libero Sophia Estok who was a freshman starting Outside Hitter last year and starting libero this year. She has the record for digs in a single match and serves received in a single match and second in aces with a 93.3 percent serving percentage.
  • Sophomore Nena Trifunovic is our Outside hitter/Right side hitter with a great swing who can hit the ball anywhere on the court.  Was nursing an injury much of the season but started off with 13 kills in the first match and will definitely be a big hitter and blocker for us next season
  • Junior middle blocker Audrey Quinn is second in kills, first in blocks for the season. She’s been a big force for us at the net and is also incredibly good at covering herself when blocked so she keeps points alive. Will no doubt be a force again next season.
  • Junior outside hitter/right side hitter Gabby Viale was the ultimate utility player this season. She has also set and played the middle in practice and at playdates and it someone we could count on to get things done. Came up big in the CRLS match with some strong and smartly placed hits.
  • Junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Leah Babroudi was starting OH/DS this season, second in digs and serve receiving, with the top serving percentage. She is so mentally tough and a warrior on the court that goes all out and leaves everything on the court.
  • Junior middle blocker and captain Jane Mahon also played outside hitter for a number of matches this season.  She is a strong hitter who also is good at finding holes for short shots. Jane is first in kills for the season with 144, second in blocks. She just broke the career kills record in our final match, at 262 before heading into her final season. Jane’s player who isn’t satisfied having the most kills if she feels she could’ve played better. She’s pushing herself and her teammates to be the best players they can be is why she was selected as a captain and what will make our team go even further next season. 
“At the end of last season (when Belmont finished with a 4-14 record) I was incredibly optimistic about the future of our program,” said Couture. “I told myself next year is going to be a good year, and 2018 will be a great year. So far the prediction of this year came true and I’m excited to see what next season brings.”

Sports: Volleyball Back In Playoffs; Friday Night Clash At Cambridge

Photo: Back to the playoffs.

A ticket to the sectional playoffs for Belmont High Volleyball came down to the proverbial “win or go home” match with Wayland on Monday, Oct. 30.

Having last played in the post-season in 2014 – finishing 15-5 and reaching the quarterfinals – Marauder’s Head Coach Jen Couture said before the game the team “had it in them” to make its final game in the Wenner Field House a winning one, especially since it was happening on Seniors Night.

And they girls did do just that with a comfortable 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-22) victory over Wayland and a return to the postseason as 12th-seed Belmont (9-9) will make the short trip to just outside of Harvard Square to meet 5th-ranked Cambridge Rindge & Latin (15-4) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 in the Division 1 Central-East Sectionals.

“They fought hard and they played at a consistent energy the whole game and we didn’t let anything get to us,” said Couture after the game Monday.

Stepping up in the match and in the past few games was junior middle blocker Audrey Quinn “whose gained a lot of confidence over the season and it shows.” Led by sophomore setter Mindee Lai and fellow 10th grader libero Sophia Estok, Belmont will also rely on senior Olga Katayenko and junior Jane Mahon up at the net and seniors Jen Tan and Julia Logan retrieving and serving. 

Discussing the upcoming playoffs, Couture said getting back to the postseason “is great for the program as this shows that we are able to return to the level of consistency the good teams show.”

Volleyball: Belmont Puts A Scare Into Melrose In Five Set Thriller

Photo: Action with Belmont High Volleyball.

On Monday, Columbus Day, Belmont High Volleyball traveled to Watertown and beat the Raiders three sets to zero (25-17, 25-9, 25-23) to up its record to 5-6, exceeding the number of victories last years campaign.

But Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture would instead talk about a lose from last week. In a thrilling home match held at Wenner Field House, Belmont was upended in a five-set marathon, 22-25, 25-11, 23-25, 25-18, 15-8, to perennial Middlesex League Freedom champs Melrose on Thursday, Oct. 5.

Melrose is once again cruising through its regular season, at 13-0, and had not been extended to five sets since the previous year. That was until they met the Marauders.

“It was an amazing match,” said Couture. “Melrose has just historically been so dominant that we usually go into the match with hopes of taking a set and when we took the first set it was little surreal.”
Sophia Estok broke the one-game record for digs with 43 (besting the 40 successful serves received she set vs. Lexington) having done a great job reading the Raiders hitters. “She’s a very smart player who learns from every kill and adjusts to prevent another.” Leah Babroudi and Mindee Lai were next in digs with 21 and 17 respectively.
Jane Mahon and Lai led the offense with 10 and 7 kills, and Jen Tan chipped in 7 service aces.
Couture pointed to Lai’s overall contribution to the team’s effort on the court.
“The match … highlighted Lai’s athleticism as she also recorded three blocks and a couple of pancake [saves],” said Couture. “Lai is on the court 100 percent of the time, through many four and five set matches, chasing down every shanked ball and making great plays. It’s no wonder her teammates refer to her as ‘the Machine’.”
After winning the fourth set by seven points, Belmont was entering into well-worn territory.
“This was our fourth five-set match [of the season]” – recently defeating Wayland and Lexington in five – “but it was the first one where you could really notice the fatigue, due to the many long rallies throughout the match.  Melrose setter came out serving strong, going on a nine-point run to push its lead to 0-9. 
“I was afraid that we had given up, assuming Melrose was going to win because we had never known anything else. The set continued 2-10, 4-12, and at 5-14 before Lai came back to serve. 
Despite match point, “Lai served aggressively and consistently making it difficult for Melrose to set up a kill bringing the team to 8-14 when ultimately during a long rally Melrose setter put the ball away,” said Couture. 
“The run came just a little too late. But for those four points, something changed, and we all started to believe anything was possible. The biggest take away from the game was if we play our smart and consistently aggressive game, we can compete with any team in our league,” she said.
With a playoff berth within reach, Couture suggests a change in her line up with an eye on the future.
“Some Junior Varsity hitters have been dressing and participating in varsity matches, and I think we will be seeing some of them in more matches, to give our starters little rest so they can continue to play at their highest level until the very last point,” she said.

Sports: Volleyball All Even Over The First Four Games

Photo: Belmont Volleyball

Belmont High Volleyball is halfway to matching its total number of victories in the 2016 season as it has won two games in the four played so far.

Last week, Belmont beat Stoneham 3-1 (25-5, 23-25, 25-11, 25-14) on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Belmont came out serving strong in the first set with Leah Babroudi bringing the Marauders to 11-0 before Stoneham could side out. Another run of 9 points including 6 aces from Sophia Estok kept the ball rolling. In the second set the Spartans started passing, and with it came an effective offense that won them the set. 

The Marauders were able to adjust their play to take back control and win the last 2 sets. Katrena Daldalian played consistently aggressive all match in her hitting as well as near perfect serving, 20 for 21 with 9 aces. Outside hitters Julia Logan and Gabby Viale also contributed 8 and 3 kills respectively by hitting placement shots. 

On Friday, Sept. 15, Belmont lost to Woburn, 3-1 (25-18, 25-11, 22-25, 25-16). Estok played phenomenal defense, adjusting to hard-line hits from the outside hitters and strong right side attacks. She also led the defense with 25 digs and was also 14 for 14 serving with 2 aces. Babroudi and Daldalian contributed consistent passes on serve receive and Jane Mahon led the offense with 8 kills.

Sports: Volleyball Bounces Back With First Win; Boys, Girls Soccer On Roll

Photo: Volleyball for the win. 

During this first week of play, Belmont High School teams are finding their winning strides:

Girls Volleyball: (Friday, Sept. 8) Belmont 3, Wilmington 0

A young Belmont Volleyball (1-1) came back from a challenging first game of the season loss at Burlington with a solid win over Wilmington, 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-20) in the home opener on Friday, Sept. 8.

After a dominate first set victory, Belmont found itself down for most of the second set, trailing 18-22 after a Wilmington side out. But the set turned around on Jen Tan‘s crucial service turn as she won the final seven service chances of the set.

“That really set the tone for the last set,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture. “Jen’s serving really fires the team up and raises the energy level on the court.”

The Marauders was ahead 5-2 in the third set when outstanding sophomore Mindee Lai went on her own impressive service run, winning eight consecutive services points to up Belmont’s lead to 12-3.

Julia Logan also stepped up to play outside hitter and contributed four kills by finding holes in the defense and tooling the block,” said Couture.

Belmont victory came after a 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17) loss to Burlington. Sophomore libero Sophia Estok and junior Leah Babroudi were outstanding on serve receive, 32 for 34 and 17 for 18 against some very tough serves. Lai led the offense with 18 assists, many to sophomore outside hitter Nena Trifunovic who contributed 13 kills in her varsity debut.
Volleyball will be heading to Stoneham on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Boys Soccer: Belmont 2, Wilmington 0
It took a while for Belmont Boys’ Soccer to find a way through a stubborn Wildcat defense but the Marauders found the back of the net twice in the final 13 minutes to win its home opener, 2-0, over Wilmington at Harris Field Friday afternoon, Sept. 8.
On both goals, Belmont attacked down the left side and with a series of in-close passes, opened the field to allow Will Hoerle to score with 12 minutes remaining and Marc Muser with the assist from Andrew Mauser to close out the victory two minutes from the final whistle. Senior Nate Espelin earned his second shutout
Belmont Boys Soccer’s next game is away to Stoneham on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Girls Soccer: Belmont 3, Wilmington 1
The first significant away game of the season and Belmont (2-0-0) passed the test by defeating old nemesis Wilmington, 3-1, on the Wildcat’s home turf Saturday night, Sept 9. 
Goals by junior forward Morgan Krausse from senior Carey Allard, a long distance (estimated at 30 meters) rocket from sophomore midfielder Marina Karalis with an assist by senior Emma Sass and junior forward Elia Gagnon from Sass sealed Belmont’s second victory of the young season. 

“Great game, better than the other night,” said Head Coach Paul Graham.

Sports: Volleyball Rebounds for First Win, Girls Swimming Tested by Melrose

Photo: Jane Mahon serving.

Volleyball stones Stoneham, 3-0, to even season

After meeting one of the toughest opponents it will see this season in its opener, Belmont High Volleyball rebounded to grab its first victory of the young season, downing Stoneham 3-0 (25-10, 25-23, 25-21) in a warm Wenner Field House on Friday, Sept. 9.

With a strong defense digging numerous balls from the floor, Belmont was the beneficiary of some fortunate bounces including one of the more bizarre incidents you’ll see on the court. During the third set, after clawing back from nearly a ten point deficit to take a slim 20-19 point lead, a Stoneham player put the ball into her net, causing the Belmont players to turn to celebrate the point.

But the ball was still in play and a Stoneham player hit the ball over to the Marauders’ side where it hit sophomore Jane Mahon on her head. Realizing the situation, Belmont’s Katrena Daldalian stuck the ball over to Stoneham which lost the point due to a returning error. 

Head Coach Jen Couture named Daldalian the player of the match “for helping to shift the momentum” in the critical third, as she started serving at 12-18 and brought us to 21-19.

“It was very clutch,” said Couture, who added that Mahon also had a great match hitting 17 for 18 with 9 kills.

Belmont is 1-1 and will take on Wilmington away on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Depth propels swimming to victory over a strong Melrose squad

Anyone who thought the first meet of the year for Belmont’s swimmers against Melrose High School would be a cakewalk has not been following the local swimming scene lately. The Red Raiders are a young but strong team that finished last year’s Div. 2 state championship in 7th place. And the 2016 team brought back all its top rate competitors including junior freestyle sprinter Samantha D’Alessan and a slew of good relays.

The Red Raiders are a young but strong team that finished last year’s Div. 2 state championship in 7th place. And the 2016 team brought back all its top rate competitors including junior freestyle sprinting champ Samantha D’Alessandro and a slew of good relays.

“I knew we had to be on our toes to get by this team. They have wonderful girls and great coaches,” said Belmont’s long time head coach Ev Crosscup.

With the help of a sophomore stalwart and surprising depth in several events, Belmont was able to secure a hard-won victory, 90-75, with scoring stopped with two events remaining. 

Taking over from recently graduated swimming star Jessie Blake-West – she is competing for Brown this year – is 10th grader Nicole Kalavantis, who came off three state championship swims last year. And the sophomore picked up where she left off, powering through some very impressive times this early in the season, winning the 200 and 500 yard free with ease (2:05.57  and 5:37.07) and anchored the 200 medley and the 4×400 free relays to victories.

The Marauders’ deep bench was seen in events such as the 200 individual medley as Dervla Moore-Frederick, Angela Li and Molly Thomas finished 2, 3 and 4 to secure 9 of 16 points while Sophie Butte, Stephanie Zhang and Lulu November performed the same feat in the 100 free with Butte chomping at D’Alessandro’s heels coming home in 58.68. 

Butte came back to finish second in the 100 backstroke as Molly Thomas secured first in 1:05.66 with Moore-Frederick winning the 100 breaststroke. 

“It was a nice victory because it shows that I have some talent to work with this season,” said Crosscup.

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