Belmont High Girls’ Soccer Upsets Masco, 1-0; Heads To Beverly For Quarters Clash

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.”

Sports: Belmont Football Falls Just Short to Masco in Home Finale, 20-17

Photo: Joe Shaughnessy catches an eight-yard pass from Cal Christofori for a touchdown against Masco.

For the third time this season, Belmont High School’s football team came close, really close, to pulling out a fourth quarter comeback in front of the Harris Field home crowd.

But just like games against Woburn and Lexington, the Marauders could not convert late game critical short third and fourth down plays against visiting Masconomet Regional High School and fell, 20-17, to the Chieftans in the final home game of the season on Friday, Nov. 13.

“Tough game because we had a couple of great opportunities late to take the lead,” said Yann Kuman, Belmont’s head coach after the game.

After making a series of stops on defense, including a blocked fourth-down pass by senior Justin Wagner with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter to give Belmont the ball on the Marauders’ 8 yard line, Belmont held the momentum after QB Cal Christofori threw three completions to senior wide receivers Trey Butler (two catches for 11 and 13 yards) and Joe Shaughnessy. An eight-yard run by injured running back Mahki Johnson put the ball on Belmont’s 47 yard line with a little less than two minutes remaining.

But the final drive stalled on Masco’s 48 as a pair of runs and two passes, including an attempt to Butler on fourth and five, could only gain five yards. 

Belmont began the game allowing the Chieftains to march down field uncontested in just under two minutes to take the lead, 6-0, on a 20 yard run by running back Dan Strow, the first of his three TDs. 

“Our biggest thing is coming out the gate with with some urgency and some speed. If we do that this is a very different game. That first drive we decided they were just going to walk down the field and score. There was very little we can do to keep us in ball games when that is our first drive,” said Kuman.

Belmont came back with a steady diet of running plays with Johnson and junior Ben Jones and a 14-yard pass from Christofori to Wagner to put the ball on Masco’s 8 yard line for Christofori hit a diving Shaughnessy at the plyon to give Belmont a 7-6 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter. 

Despite big stops by Butler and Hasset, Belmont could not make a fourth down stop and soon Strow dove in for his and Masco’s second touchdown of the half, and a 12-7 lead as Noonan stopped the Chieftain’s running back on the two-point c0nversion. 

After Christofori was intercepted by Masco on its 10 yard line, Belmont’s defense stepped it up, holding the Chieftains to no yards on three plays before Butler deflected the subsequant punt to give Belmont the ball on the 17. But the Marauder offense stalled which saw kicker Aiden Cadogan make a 30-yard field goal to cut the lead to 12-10 at the half. 

After holding Belmont on its first drive of the second half, Masco took six minutes off the clock as it ran the ball effectivley ending with Strow running in from five yards out with three minutes remaining in the third. The two-point PAT was successful and gave the Chieftains a 20-10 lead. 

Belmont went back to the Johnson/Jones running combination before Christofori scrambled and found Jones in the flats with a swing pass and the junior sprinted 30 yards to the Masco 6. Jones would score at 8:29 remaining to cut the lead to 20-17. 

The Marauders halted Masco at midfield forcing a punt. But a missed handoff and a great defensive play forced Belmont to punt with 3:49 to go. That’s when Belmont D stood tall leading to the final drive. 

Kuman said preparation for the annual Thanksgiving Day game, at Watertown this year, in 13 days, is to play with urgency and pace against the Raiders which lost a sectional final against Stoneham. 

 “That will be a focus for us going into Watertown is coming out of the game fast with commitment,” said Kuman. 

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Sports: Belmont Field Hockey Dominates Masco, Heads to Sectional Semis

Photo: Morgan Chase (6) passes to Bridget Gardiner (center in white) for Belmont’s third goal vs Masco Regional.

Two goals by junior sensation AnnMarie Habelow and a smothering defense was more than enough to send Belmont High School Field Hockey to the Division 1 North Sectional semifinals as the 4th-ranked Marauders dominated 5th-seed Masconomet Regional High School, 3-0, in a quarterfinals matchup at Belmont’s Harris Field, Saturday, Nov. 7.

“Everything happened the best way it possibly could, defensively and on offense. They couldn’t compete with you today,” said Jessica Smith, Belmont’s head coach while congratulating the team.

“I’m psyched. I didn’t know what to expect coming into this game,” said Smith, adding that she wanted the team to win this game because it proves that Belmont “deserves the four seed.” 

“We’re coming from the Middlesex League, maybe the towns aren’t as big but in the past few years, Belmont is really proving itself as a solid field hockey school in the state. Year-after-year we make it a couple of rounds (in the playoffs) and now it’s time to take the additional step and be one of the great ones,” she said.

While the game was supposed to be a wide-open affair between two athletically-inclined teams, Belmont (16-2-0) would command long stretches of the contest while keeping Masco, the Cape Ann League Kinney champions, on their heels especially in the first half when the Middlesex League Liberty titleholders outshot the Lady Chieftains, 14-1, and had seven penalty corners while Masco would go the entire game without a penalty corner. 

And it was the fifth corner when Belmont took the lead when Habelow – who ended the afternoon with nine shots – took the inbounds pass from sophomore forward Bridget Gardiner and rocketed a shot from 15 meters past senior goalie Amanda MacPherson-Peachy with 11 minutes left in the half.

“The big thing about the game before (a 5-3 victory over Central Catholic on Nov. 5) is we didn’t score on any corners, and they are a time you have to capitalize and I took advantage of that today,” said Habelow, whose play especially in the defensive midfield was critical for Belmont’s quick transition to offense. 

Masco were playing a slower more deliberate game, sending all but one player into the defensive zone when Belmont came within the 25-yard area from its goal, then push up players while delaying their restart until they were in position.

“It’s really hard to maneuver inside but sometimes that makes it easier because they will bump into each other so when you beat one person, you’re actually beating two,” said Habelow.

The Chieftains’ tactic worked in the Marauders’ favor as it allowed Belmont to set up its defense, clogging up the passing lane. Led by co-captains midfielder Serena Nally, Lilly Devitt, Sophia Stratford, Meron Power and the two Molly’s, defenders Goldberg and co-captain Thayer, thawed many Masco passes and attempts at dribbling the ball and by the Marauders’ ability to quickly close down on the attackers.

Offensively, senior forwards Kerri Lynch and Kate McCarthy, sophomore Bridget Gardner and freshman Morgan Chase harassed the Masco defenders on their outlet passes while taking ever opportunity to rush the Chieftains’ net.

“What it was is that we were passing to each other and they were hitting the ball and hoping that somebody would pick it up. And we were ready for that, so our kids were moving to the ball just like their players,” said Smith.

Not helping Masco was playing all but two of their previous games on a grass pitch, as opposed to the uniformity of the Harris Field “Turf” pitch.

“You have to be so much faster on ‘Turf’ and I think their style of play was to bring everyone up and back, and you can’t keep that up on an artificial field because the ball is moving so much faster,” said Smith. 

Down a goal after the first half, Masco came out running and passing, keeping the ball in Belmont’s end for the first three minutes.

But a quick turnover at midfield led to Belmont’s first corner of the second half and Belmont second goal as Habelow from a step within the scoring circle slammed the ball from Molly Goldberg by a charging MacPherson-Peachy for a 2-0 lead after five minutes.

Masco now dedicated players to the offense leading to it best scoring chance as senior defender and co-captain Tessa Ives made a stellar solo run to within 10 meters of Belmont’s sophomore goalie Christina McLeod (her 11th shutout this season) but her pass never hit a stick as it went skating by the net.

The final time Masco came close to threatening Belmont’s goal was with 12 minutes remaining when a midfield miscue saw five Lady Chieftains racing towards Belmont’s goal. But Julia Chase stepped in front of the first attacker taking the ball and with it Masco’s momentum.

Belmont sealed the game in the final minute when Morgan Chase squeezed a pass by MacPherson-Peachy’s pads to a wide-open Gardiner on the far post.

Belmont’s semi-final opponent will be known after the match between one seed Acton-Boxborough and 8th-ranked North Andover taking place on Sunday, Nov. 8. If the Marauders meet Acton-Boxborough, ranked 11th nationally by Max Field Hockey, it will be a game of taking advantage of every chance provided.

“When you play a team like Acton-Boxoboroug, you don’t know how many times you’ll have offensive opportunities and working on those. It’s also making the offense understand how important every touch is in the scoring circle which I think we improved a lot this game,” said Smith. 

“Defensively it will be practice on moving our feet and forcing them out wide. And just being confident because you play the game because you don’t know who’ll win,” said Smith.

Habelow noted that Belmont has some experience with highly-touted teams.

“We’ll prepare for them just like we did for Watertown (the fifth-ranked team in the country and undefeated in 160 games). We respect the best teams like it’s an honor to play the nationally best teams because it makes us better and it makes the entire program better,” said Habelow.