Preview: Belmont High Volleyball ‘Work Hard No Excuses’ [Video]

Photo: Su Jing Chen (left) and Fiona Martin, co-captains of Belmont’s Girls’ Volleyball team.

Season after season, Belmont High School participates in a wide range of MIAA and club sports, which a majority of students participate. But for the most part, the squads are represented by their records or on the scoreboard.

The Belmontonian will give an opportunity for each team to present their hopes for the fall season ahead. Some are powerhouses; others will be rebuilding. But they all have expectations to build on.

The first team profiled is Girls’ Volleyball which is attempting to rebound from just missing the postseason by a single game and return to the 2014 15-5 team ranked 7th in the Div. 2 North Sectionals.

Sports: Belmont Volleyball Stage Epic Comeback Victory, Stunning Woburn

Photo: Belmont celebrates its improbable comeback victory over Woburn.

Belmont High School Volleyball’s pending loss to host Woburn High on Thursday, Oct. 15 was signed, sealed and all but delivered.

Having dropped the first two sets and trailing the Tanners 21-8 in the third, it appeared the Marauders would lose their third straight game and all but end their chances of returning to the MIAA postseason for a school-record third year in a row.

But a combination of pinpoint serving from a pair of senior leaders and a demonstration of heart and guts from those on the court gave the Marauders the opening it needed to defeat Woburn 3-2 (21-25, 12-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-10) and complete the most epic rally in program history.

“In my five years coaching this team I’ve never witnessed such a comeback,” proclaimed Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture.

“They were able to completely forget the first two sets and transform into the team they needed to be to win that game. Everyone was cheering and screaming. It was a magical atmosphere. There were even some tears at the end of the match,” she said.

The win ups Belmont’s record to 8-7, leaving the Marauders needing to win two of its remaining four games to secure a spot in the playoffs. 

Woburn won a somewhat tightly contested first set, 25-21, before taking the second quickly, 25 to 12.

“The team started off flat. We weren’t moving or communicating at all,” said Couture.

The Tanner’s quickly took charge of the third set, building a 21 to 8 lead and “running away with the match,” said Couture.

With the side out to Belmont, senior back row starter Su Jing Chen took the ball and the game in her hands as she went on a 12-point serving run before Woburn sided out bringing the score to 20-22.

The Marauders won the ball back with an immediate side out (21-22), and Chen’s fellow senior Shannon Corrigan served out the set, giving Belmont the improbable set victory as the Marauders outscored the Tanners, 17-1, after trailing by 13 points.

But the Marauders was still behind two sets to one against a team that defeated it earlier in the season. Belmont surged to a 7–1 lead in the fourth set but Woburn came back to knot the score up at 14. The score seesawed to where Belmont had a slim single-point lead 20-19, Before the Marauders outscored the Tanners, 5-2, to take the fourth set 25–21.

In the 15-point winner take-all-final set, Woburn took an early 6-4 lead before Belmont scored 4 out of the next 5 points to lead 8 to 7.

Belmont moved to a two-point lead at 10-8. Woburn drew to within one at 10-9 but would never come closer as Belmont won 5 of the next 6 points to win the set, 15-10, to complete the victory.

Couture pointed to several players as keys to the comeback, noting that senior co-captain Katelyn Messer was solid in her hitting and contributed superb defense.
“[Messer] was everywhere on the court. She read the hitters so well and was able to anticipate where to be on defense,” Couture said.
Messer’s fellow senior co-captain Faye Reagan and junior Colleen McVay provided beautiful, consistent sets on the front line while freshman Jane Mahon in her varsity debut recorded three kills and a solo block, in addition to clutch serving in the 5th set.
Couture said junior front row Fiona Martin “had a fabulous day in the middle hitting 32 for 33 with five kills.”
“Martin” was incredibly consistent and did a great job of moving the ball around the court and mixing up her attacks.”
Next for Belmont is traveling to Lexington on Monday, a team the Marauders defeated earlier in the season.

Sports: Field Hockey Romp Again, Volleyball Takes First Win Over Stoneham

Photo: Volleyball in action.

Field Hockey: Stoneham 2, Belmont 7

With a young defense still making progress as a unified squad, Belmont High School Field Hockey has found a unique approach to winning games while the ‘D’ gets up to speed.

Score goals. Lots of them.

On Friday, Sept. 11, Belmont (2-0-0) defeated host Stoneham, 7-2, scoring a combined 13 goals in its first two games while letting up just the pair. 

“I’m happy with how the offense is scoring,” said Belmont Head Coach Jessie Smith.

“It’s always nice to be scoring seven goals a game. Although we played on a grass field which makes the game a bit more messy, the goals were all quite nice,” Smith said, as junior midfield standout AnnMarie Hebalow scored the hat trick with two unassisted goals and a penalty stroke, a brace coming in the first half.

“She took quick, hard shots today that were very effective,” said Smith.

Senior center forward Kerri Lynch scored her fifth goal of the season with the assist from Serena Nally who got on the goal scoring column with an assist from Hebalow. Newcomer Bridget Gardiner finished the five-goal first half with an assist from Kate McCarthy

Nally got her second goal in the second half with a Habelow assist, as she finished the game with five points.

“Defensively I’m hoping we can step it up a bit,” said Smith. “We need to work on checking our speed, recovering, and moving the ball to the offensive end when we gain control of the ball.

Volleyball: Stoneham 0, Belmont 3

Travel is always enlightening and for Belmont’s Volleyball team, it is also beneficial as the Marauders (1-1) defeated Stoneham on Friday, Sept. 11, 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-9).
The team was led by senior captain Faye Reagan, who contributed many key service runs – she was 22 for 23 serving with 8 aces in the game – particularly when the squad was down 18-21 in the second set and she went on a 7-point run.  
Fiona Martin also played a great game offensively, contributing three aces and leading the team in kills with four. 
“[Martin] was consistent, confident and aggressive the entire match.  Sophomore Julia Logan also had a great night at the service line, serving 7 for 7 with 5 aces,” said head coach Jen Couture.

Couture said that in the match the Marauders lost to defending league champions Melrose, 3-0 (25-13, 25-16, 25-8) on Wednesday, Sept. 9, senior captain Katelyn Messer led the front row with 3 kills and 4 blocks. 

“She has the power to intimidate opponents by her presence in the front row.  Her blocks and powerful kills energize the team,” said Couture. 

Sports: Lynch Pins Field Hockey Win in Opener, Volleyball Fall to Powerhouse

Photo: Belmont High Field Hockey.

Field Hockey: Melrose 0, Belmont 6

Belmont Head Coach Jessie Smith was hoping that senior forward Kerri Lynch – one of the strong core of returning starters from last year’s playoff team – would profit from being the forward the squad would be targeting to score this season.

After the opening game of the 2015 season on Wednesday, it appears that Lynch is taking to her new role just fine.

In the season opener against host Melrose, Lynch scored four times and assisted on another to lead the Marauders to an emphatic 6-0 shutout.

“Lynch is playing center forward for us and she clearly played an excellent game today,” said Smith. “Kerri is extremely athletic and she knows how to score. I’m hoping to see a lot more of this in the next two months.”

Sophomore Christine MacLeod – who is coming off a very strong softball season as the Marauders’ leading pitcher – had 6 saves in net in her first start on the varsity.

“We came out a little flat initially, but really stepped it up in the second half,” said Smith. “The passing in the second half led to multiple goals. The kids are using 10-15 yard passes really nicely.”

Smith praised senior defender and captain Molly Thayer as she is “so steady and so reliable” and pointed out that “Kate McCarthy really stepped up her play today. Her goal in the second half was a beautiful drive from the edge of the circle.” 

Smith added that Serena Nally “is excellent at center midfield. She has a quick shot and she’s able to distribute the ball so well.”

Volleyball: Melrose 3, Belmont 0

Last year, Melrose Volleyball was one of the best in the state, in the top 20 poll for the entire year, going 20-2 in the regular season and was the number 1 seed in the regional playoffs. So Belmont, coming off a 16-6 record, knew it would be a tough hill to climb in the season opener. The results, a Belmont loss,  25-13, 25-16, 25-8, will serve as a marker for the rest of the season for the young Marauders. 

Sports: Volleyball’s Historic Journey Ends at 6-Foot, 2-Inch Roadblock

Belmont High School’s Volleyball historic journey ended Tuesday night, Nov. 4 when it ran into a six-foot, two-inch roadblock stationed in the middle of the Arlington Catholic High School court.

The big obstacle Belmont faced was Cougar’s middle blocker “Demi” Fogarty, who did not just possess killer skills in a 72-inch frame but was accompanied by a supporting cast which could hold their own against most teams in the Div. 2 North Sectionals without Demiana situated at the net.

While the Marauders (who arrived 35 minutes late due a bus flub up) kept their spirits high though out the quarterfinal match played in a gym straight from “American Graffiti” – small, old fashioned with squeaky, wooden floors that bounced when you jumped on it – they couldn’t keep the ball from Fogarty’s wide wingspan as the junior swatted away balls and smashed passes for point after point for Arlington Catholic (19-3).

After 45 minutes, Belmont, who entered the tournament as the seventh seed, walked off the court after losing to the second-seed in a three-set sweep (25-13, 25-9, 25-19).

Belmont’s season ends with a record 16 wins (16-6) and a playoff win – a 3-2 victory over Danvers High on Friday, Oct. 31 – the first since 2010.

While Belmont had scouted AC’s first playoff game against Tewksbury and had practiced on double blocking Fogarty, the became quickly evident that the middle hitter was going to be a handful as she slammed an above-the-net kill for the first point of the game.

While Belmont was able to capitalize on some iffy play selection from the Cougars, the home team was also able to set up Fogarty or six-foot sophomore Lena Perez to strike a power shot at the Marauders’ back line.

Senior middle blocker Alexandra Davis‘ kill gave the Marauders’ its final lead in the first game at 6 before AC went on a 12-4 run behind Fogarty and senior libero Danielle Sullivan.

The second set saw senior setter Becki Sandvos contribute with a few nifty kills from a mid court position yet the Cougars were ever present at the net, able to turn back Belmont’s kill attempts or force shots high and out.

“[Senior] Rosy Fitzgerald was extremely consistent and was 20-for-21 hitting with eight kills. She also was 10-for-10 digging and 16-for-18 on serve receive,” said Coutour.

“Senior libero Sam Nelson also had a good game with great passes and was 22 for 22 on serve receive,” the coach said.
“Yvette Kleinbock had our only big serving run early on in the third set” with six straight points to knotted the score up at 12, said Coutour.
But after the Belmont side out, “Fogarty rotated into the front row and we had a hard time getting any momentum back,” said the coach.
The 2014 season will remembered for the eight seniors – Davis, Julia Dexter, Fitzgerald, Kleinbock, Nelson, Yeonjae Park, Sandvos and Julie Yu – who anchored the team to more than a dozen straight set wins and losses to only playoff-bound teams.


Sports: After Nail Biter, Volleyball Attempts to Bag a Cougar Tonight

It went quickly from treat to trick for the Belmont High School Volleyball squad on Halloween.

After building a comfortable two-set advantage in the opening-round playoff match held at Belmont’s Wenner Field House on Friday, Oct. 31, the Marauders saw that lead turn into a pumpkin by a young but talented Danvers High squad which stormed back to tie match.

During the one-minute break before playing the critical fifth set, Belmont senior co-captain Alexandra Davis recalled how “we all took a deep breath and told ourselves ‘first to eight in the fifth’,” referring to reach the eight point mark first in the abbreviated 15-point final set.

“We work a lot on mentally preparing ourselves to push through hard times. We said we had to stay in ‘green light’, always ready to go,” said the middle blocker.

And that little bit of mental stability allowed Belmont to pull out a nail biter against the Falcons, 3 sets to 2 (25-19, 25-21, 18-25, 16-25, 15-9) in the first round of the MIAA Div. 2 North sectionals.

“We wanted this game more and came out aggressive and didn’t miss while [Danvers] didn’t know how to handle the pressure,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture.

Friday was Belmont’s first playoff win since 2010.

Today, Tuesday, Nov. 4, the seventh-seed Belmont takes the short trip to Arlington to meet Arlington Catholic HS in the quarterfinals match beginning at 6 p.m.

The 16-5 Marauders will attempt to bag the second-seed Cougars (18-3) which won its first round game with Tewksbury High, 3-0. AC is ranked 17th in the Boston Globe Volleyball Top 20. Leading the Cougars are junior middle blocker Demi Fogarty and sophomore Monica Royo from the back.

Belmont opened the Halloween matinee with impressive serving by junior opposite hitter Kabita Das and the combined blocking from junior Kately Messer (who ended the set with a block winner) and Davis, who had a critical block point when the score was tied at 17.

“We came into the game wanting this so we came out strong so we could set the tone of the game. So I thought it was my part to take charge,” said Davis.

“I’ve been working on my blocks and my timing a lot. It was a great feeling getting them,” she said.

The second set was tied at 18 (after Danvers went on a 11 to 4 run) when senior Rosy Fitzgerald had a kill from junior setter Faye Regan and a block winner and senior co-captain Becki Sandvos hit a slicing winner to push the score to 24-21 with Fitzgerald getting the final set-winning shot.

In the third set, Danvers came out “with nothing to lose and they started playing more aggressively,” said Couture.

“We were a little slow to their play, and they didn’t let up through the fourth set,” said the head coach.

Tied at 11 in the third, Danvers’ forwards collected a number of kills while net violations vexed Belmont. And despite Das’ four service aces to open the fourth set, 5-0, the Marauders soon found themselves tied at 12 before Danvers went on a 13-4 run to win the set.

“You could tell on our faces that we lost a lot of energy, so we were playing down to their team’s level that we have struggled with before,” said Alexander.

“They got into our heads and caused a bit of confusion, and we started to doubt ourselves especially with the net mistakes,” said Couture.

Between the penultimate and final sets, Couture told the team to relax and play that same game as they opened the contest.

“During timeouts we were saying that we had to play at our speed and push ourselves,” said Alexander.

Down 5-6, Das won a point off a block, Sandvos dipped a ball between Danvers’ front and back line and Messer had a critical block winner to give the Marauders an 8-6 lead as the teams changed ends of the court.

Now it was Danvers’ turn to tighten up, committing service and shooting error that allowed Belmont to race ahead to a 12-9 advantage. Senior libero and co-captain Sam Nelson made one of her numerous dig saves resulting in a Danvers hitting error. Belmont finished the game and, by the skin of their teeth, is playing today.

Sports: Playoff Schedule with Boys’ Soccer Monday; Volleyball, Girls’ Soccer Tuesday

Teams and individuals from Belmont High School will be competing in the next few weeks in post season and the playoffs.

• Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer gets their postseason underway with a home Div. 2 North sectional playoff game against North Andover High on Monday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Harris Field. The fifth-seeded Marauders (13-3-2) takes a stingy defense, led by senior goalkeeper Peter Berens, having given up just 10 goals in 18 games vs the 12-seed Scarlet Knights (11-7-0) from the Merrimack Valley Conference Large Division.

• Coming off a nail-biting win over a young Dracut High team Friday night, seventh-seed Belmont Volleyball (16-5) travels next door to take on the second-seed Arlington Catholic High (18-3) in the quarterfinals of the Div. 2 North sectionals on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. The Cougars are ranked 17th in the Boston Globe top 20.

• There is a score to be settled as Belmont Girls’ Soccer travels to Wilmington High for a Middlesex League clash in the first round of the Div. 2 North sectionals on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. This will be a chance for Belmont (8-5-5) to revenge a highly-controversial game played last month when, with the game 1-0 in Belmont’s advantage late in the match, a seemingly obvious offsides against Wilmington was not called leading to a goal that allowed Wilmington to stay undefeated in the regular season. There will be little motivation needed by long time Head Coach Paul Graham – who is looking for win 299 – who said after the game the girls “would love to have another go” at the Wildcats.

• With the first win in the books, Belmont High School Football will play their final three games at Harris Field, beginning this Friday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. against Salem High of Massachusetts.

• After winning the Middlesex League meet, Belmont Girls’ Swimming prepares for the North Sectionals and then a return to the Div. 2 championships where they will be one of the favorites. And Leah Brams will carry the colors at the EMass Sectional meet on Saturday, Nov. 8 in Wrentham and the All-State meet on Saturday, Nov. 15 in famous Franklin Park in Boston.

Sports: Volleyball Begins Playoffs at Home on Halloween Night

The Belmont High School Volleyball team hopes they’ll be the ones receiving treats rather than being tricked as the Marauders being the MIAA Div. 2 North sectional playoffs on Halloween night hosting Danvers High School at Wenner Field House.

The 15-5 Marauders are seeded 7th as they take on the 10th seed Falcons at 6 p.m., Oct. 31.

Coincidentally, the Belmont High Field Hockey team, ranked 10th, will visit Danvers, seeded 7th, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 30.

Danvers, 12-6, is the talk of the North Shore as the varsity program started last season. During its first season, the Falcons did not win any of their 18 games in 2013. This season, under Head Coach George LeVasseu, Danvers has joined another second year program, Marblehead, on the top of the Northeastern Conference South League. 

Sports: Volleyball Spiked by Minutemen in Four Sets

Despite losing for the second time this season to a strong Lexington High School team, Belmont High Volleyball Senior Becki Sandvos came off the Wenner Field House court with a smile on her face.

“It’s definitely tough but it’s really fun to play against these good teams,” Sandvos said after Belmont suffered it’s fifth loss of the season on Friday afternoon, Oct. 24, falling to the Minutemen 3-1 (15-25, 25-14, 10-25, 19-25) to see their record sit at 14-5 going into the last game of the season against Winchester on Monday, Oct. 27.

“A lot of [today’s match] was a mental game. We know we can play better than that,” Sandvos said. But Belmont has the same issue so many teams have while playing the Minutemen and that is junior Nikita Selivan, a 6 foot, 160 pound who is one of the best middle-hitters in the region.

With a powerful shot and an approach jump of more than 9 feet, it’s small wonder that Division 1 college programs are already knocking on her door. In the game with Belmont, Lexington would routinely pass up easier set ups at the net and direct its attention to Selivan who would beat the majority of blocks set up by Belmont’s front line. She would also block a number of shots from Belmont players.  

In the second set, Belmont took control. Trailing 7-8, Belmont rode Sandvos’ serving and junior Kabita Das and senior Rosy Fitzgerald’s excellent play at the net to a 8-0 run to lead 15-8, an advantage Lexington could not break.

“We had a lot of confidence in the second set. Everything we did was working,” said Sandvos, who played one of her best games of the year especially setting up offensive strikes.

Early in the third set with the score 3-7, the Lexington head coach vigorously disputed a call and yelled at a supposed fan touting him (which turned out to be Belmont AD Jim Davis simply viewing the action). That stoppage seemed to both rattle the Marauders and take it out of its rhythm. Lexington build the lead to 16-9 as the Minutemen continually going to Selivan on the left side of the court.

With the score knotted at nine in the fourth set, Belmont committed several errors on its service, preventing any semblance of a rally to occur. The Minutemen pushed the lead up to four, 14-18, which the Marauders cut to 17-19. But that’s as close as Belmont would get.

Despite the loss, Belmont will likely have a home playoff game in the Div. 2 North sectionals that begins this week.

“We’re gonna come back and practice and work hard and be ready for for the states,” Sandvos said.

Sports: Belmont Volleyball Has Minutemen in Its Sight for Friday

The Belmont High School Volleyball team is seemingly on cruise control heading into the Div. 2 North sectional tournament with a school record 14 win season (14-4), playing some of its best games in the past few weeks with the squad currently on an 8-1 streak.

But the girls’ have circled Friday, Oct. 24 on their team’s calendar.

“Lexington, home, 4 p.m.”

“This is The game before the playoffs,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture after her squad defeated visiting Winchester High in straight sets; 25-16, 25-9, 25-7, on Seniors Night, Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Wenner Field House.

Led by junior outside hitter Kabita Das, senior middle forward Rosy Fitzgerald and senior libero Sam Nelson, Belmont had its way with the Sachems, running off points multiple times with set spikes, block winners and strong serving. 

So it’s on to Lexington this Friday, one of only three teams to best Belmont this season – powerhouse Melrose and Bedford twice are the others. The Marauders lost in four sets at Lexington on Sept. 30 with Belmont always close to winning but could never complete the comebacks.

A win at Wenner would result in Belmont and Lexington being co-league champions and the Marauders securing a good seed in the sectionals, possibly as high as sixth.

“It’s a big game,” Couture said.

But she said the team will first have to play the game before start thinking of their position in the playoffs.

“We have to prepare to dig a lot harder hits than today because [the Minutemen] are the hardest hitting team we are going to see before the tournament,” said Couture.

“If we dig better than last time, we have become much better with our placement shots and we could give them a lot more competition this time around,” she said.