Belmont High Field Hockey 4th Qtr Tally Downs SpyPonders, 1-0, In First-Round Playoff Victory

Photo: Belmont High players celebrates Lola Rocci’s (No. 4) game winner as the Marauders defeated Arlington, 1-0, in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 state field hockey championship.

Belmont High junior forward Lola Rocci slotted a pass from senior co-capt. Devin Kelleher for the games only goal 17 seconds into the fourth quarter to give the 13th-ranked Marauders a hard-earned 1-0 shutout victory over 20th-ranked Arlington High at Harris Field on Friday, Nov. 4 in the MIAA Division 1 state championships.

“That was a whole team win,” Belmont Head Coach Jess Smith told the team after the well deserved first-round victory over the co-ed SpyPonders. “It wasn’t our best play but you put all the effort out there.”

Belmont (11-4-3) will travel more than 50 miles past Worcester to Wachusett Regional High to battle the 4th-ranked Mountaineers (15-3-2) at 6 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Wachusett defeated Durfee High, 3-0, on Friday in its first round match.

Lola Rocci (left) reacts to her winning goal against Arlington

Having met league opponent Arlington twice in the season – a 4-1 home win and a 3-3 draw away – there was no expectation that familiarity would breed contempt by the Marauders as the SpyPonders came into the playoffs on a high, recording a 4-1-2 record in its final seven games including a defeat of top-ten Reading and ties against playoff bound Winchester. Much of Arlington’s improvement came as the result from the inclusion of two young men, seniors Austin Cronin and Sean McCadffrey, whose speed and strength allowed the SpyPonders to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball, including freeing up impressive sophomore forward/midfield Libby Corsetti to play a major role on defense while driving forward on offense.

Arlington started the game on the front foot, pressing Belmont in the first half as the Marauders relied on its defenders – junior Alex Townsend, senior co-capt. Willa Sama and senior Alina Maier – and junior goalie Julia Herlihy to hold the fort as the Marauders got off on its now typical slow start.

“We have to start off with our best and not go better, better, better than best,” said Smith.

Belmont’s Alex Townsend prepares to strike the ball after stoning Arlington’s Austin Cronin (30) in the final minutes of Belmont’s 1-0 playoff win.

With the SpyPonders exploiting the left side of the field, Belmont midfielders junior Tess Desantis (on the critical right side), senior co-capt. Layne Doherty and freshman MacKenzie Clarke fell back to assist the defenders who kept the ball off of Arlington’s sticks. Twice in the first half Herlihy stoned Arlington forwards at her doorstep, once clearing the ball from the goal line. Only in the final minutes of the second quarter did Belmont have a pair of strong attempts at Arlington’s goal.

If Belmont starts a match with the “lack of urgency” expected from a tournament team, according to Smith, the second half of matches has been Belmont’s time to take charge. The Marauders began winning the 50/50 balls and turned up its offense that was equally impressive down the wings and through the middle.

With the game in the balance, Belmont grabbed the lead at the start of the fourth. Receiving a pass from junior Carly Gaziano, Kelleher raced 35 meters up the heart of the SpyPonders midfield before pushing the ball to the on-rushing Rocci who buried the ball just inside the left post.

For the remaining 14 minutes, Belmont continued to press its advantage while limiting Arlington’s possessions with its collective defense. Its stalwart performance was highlighted by a critical sequence in the final minutes when Arlington’s Cronin broke through a gap in the Marauder midfield with only Townsend between him and a clear breakaway. But Cronin’s attempt to play a long ball and sprint to the goal was thawed as Townsend – a starter on the 2021 state rugby championship team – stood her ground cleanly stopping the ball as Cronin stumbled by.

The final minutes saw the Marauders capitalize on its doggedness to keep the ‘Ponders’ at bay. The team rushed Herlihy at the final horn as Belmont celebrated its first playoff victory since 2018.

Belmont Boys’ Rugby Takes State Title Over Arch-Rival BC High, 20-7; Fourth Title In Program History

Photo: The Belmont High School Boys’ Rugby squad celebrate its 2022 MIAA Division 1 State Championship with the tournament trophy.

Boston College High School rugby squad is known as the Eagles, but at MIAA Division 1 state title match, it was the Belmont High ruggers who flew to victory.

In a match where Belmont’s embrace of an all-encompassing kicking game proved decisive against the traditional muscle and brawn style employed by BC High, the Marauders dominated the Eagles, 20-7, on Saturday, June 17, capturing its second MIAA Division 1 state championship and the fourth title in the program’s 15-year history before a boisterous near capacity crowd at Curry College in Milton.

“We had a saying all year: ‘Don’t go through the wall, go over it.’” said senior fly-half and co-captain Erik Rosenmeier who scored twice from penalty kicks and on a pair of conversions resulting in half of Belmont’s points. “And that’s what we did today. Our kicking was amazing.”

Belmont’s kicking strategy which has become an important part of the program’s overall tactics mimics a trend in the professional game where world-class teams and national squads punt to challenge opponents, all a defense to reset and to “flip the field” with deep strikes placing the competitor on the back foot.

While kicking was an effective weapon against BC and St. John’s Prep in the semi-finals, Greg Bruce, Belmont’s head coach since he brought rugby to the school in 2007, pointed to the hard work the Marauders have placed in defense and tackling during the season.

For the past two weeks we coaches built our defensive structure and put it into practice in training,” said Bruce. “The forwards played great, the backs, the defense. It was a team performance to be honest.”

“BC is an amazing team but they rely on their athleticism more than they rely on their skill. They really just want to get the ball and run it hard up the gut and hope we can’t tackle them. And, you know, that’s what we did, stop them,” said Rosenmeier.

Belmont came out of the gate fast and used their inside running to great effect to set up Loose Head Prop Asa Rosenmeier – Erik’s younger brother – to barrel into try from six meters out just four minutes in the match to give Belmont the early 7-0 lead. But 10 minutes later, a series of quick hitting runs by BC allowed senior Jack McNicholl to slalom 30 meters to tie the game at 7-7.

Belmont spent the first half placing the Eagles under pressure with sustained tackling against the BC frontline and a number of clearing punts that kept putting the Eagles behind the midfield line. On the offensive side, the Marauders’ were able to string together drives that got them within kicking range when penalties were called against BC. Bruce didn’t hesitate to put the ball on Rosenmeier’s toe as the senior scored twice at the 23 minute and 32 minute marks as the lead climb to 13-7.

The ability to keep momentum on its side turned out to be critical in Belmont’s final score, a gutsy drive after time expired in the half in which the Marauders’ protected each ruck and finally opened a small gap in the BC line allowing Lock Viktor Insanic to run straight into try to give Belmont a two score lead, 20-7.

The final 35 minutes was a near masterclass by the Belmont XV in denying BC the momentum or big plays needed to get back into the match. When the Eagles threatened 10 minutes into the half, Belmont backs came up with a great stand inside its 22 meter preventing runners from turning the corner, stalling BC’s drive eventually resulting in a Rosenmeier kick that was “knocked on” by an Eagles back giving possession to the Marauders in the BC half.

While BC kept to its strategy of quick, hard hits into the body of Belmont’s line, the tactics proved exhausting to the Eagles which was only compounded by a series of deep kicks that allowed Belmont to reset its defense and force BC to travel ever further to attempt to cut the margin of Belmont’s lead.

“The second half was a little boring; a lot of whistles, we got a yellow card and then it got really, really choppy after that. But they did what mattered most when it mattered most and that’s why we’re here,” said Bruce.

In its final venture close to the try line, Marauders’ Number Eight Max Cornelius made a critical steal ending all of BC’s hopes. Soon after the starters started coming out and the reserves got a chance to be on the pitch for the final whistle.

The 2022 crown joins Belmont’s MIAA Div. 1 state championship won in 2019 and MYRO titles in Division 1 in 2013 and Division 2 in 2011.

“Coming into the season, there’s this kind of pressure. I really wanted to win a state championship to finish my high school career,” said Rosenmeier. “When we lost our very first game to Milton [17-12 on April 8],it was kind of like a wake up call for us that we needed to get our act together. And we just worked our [posterior] off for the rest of the season and now we’re here with this,” said Rosenmeier hold the state trophy.

“Amazing!” he said as the celebration continued on the pitch.

Belmont High Hockey Throws Off Natick, 3-0, In First Round of Div. 1 State Playoffs

Photo: Belmont High senior Matt Rowen scores the game’s first goal off a Tim Cushing rebound as Belmont defeated Natick, 3-0, in the first round of the MIAA Div. 1 state hockey championship Friday, March 4

The 800 fans who stuffed themselves into the ancient forum known as “The Skip” Friday night, March 4, had the opportunity to witness the quintessential “Belmont” game played by the High School Boys Ice Hockey during the successful 2021-22 season.

In its 3-0 home shutout over Natick High in the first round of 32 in the MIAA Division 1 state tournament, the Marauders demonstrated the three elements that produced a 17-1-3 record: solid goaltending from senior Ryan Griffin, a defensive scheme based on frustrating and tiring opponents with an attack that can strike anywhere inside the blue line.

A physical game, for sure.

“We’ve established this year an identity and that we’re a defensive team that strikes when the opportunity presents itself and that we did tonight,” said first-year head coach Tim Foley.

Belmont set the tone of the game scoring within the first two minutes of the puck being dropped when four Red Hawk skaters playing a high line defense lost senior forward Matty Rowen who drifted behind them and lifted an in-close rebound by Natick senior goalie Tim Cushing with 13:03 on clock.

“It’s always important in the playoffs to strike first, you don’t want to be playing from behind and trying to catch up to the team,” said Foley. “You’ve got to get out in front, you got to make that push early on.”

For the remainder of the first, Belmont’s defense – which has surrendered a mere 24 goals in 22 games – took the play from the Red Hawks by thawing its attempts to establish any cohesive tactics by forcing Natick to fight for the puck along the boards while blocking the rare centering passes.

Belmont High’s Joe Gaziano (left) covers Natick’s top goal scorer freshman Sam Hubbard as Belmont’s Ryan Griffin guards the net during a second period Natick power play. Host Belmont defeated Natick, 3-0, in the first round of the MIAA Div. 1 playoffs.

While Friday demonstrated Belmont’s three tier team approach to victory, sophomore forward Matt Pomer was a presence on all corners of the rink. On several occasions in the second and third period he was a handful for Red Hawk defenders around the net, nearly scoring on a solo rush from behind the net. On the first penalty kill, he out-muscled Natick’s leading scorer Matt Haskell and striped the puck early in the second period.

“Mattie is a very good player who is very steady and plays hard,” said Foley of his second line forward. “We knew that Natick was going to come with a physical plan and that’s Mattie Pomer’s game. He loves the physical part of the game, taking pucks away from people, hitting players with his shoulders down. He was in his office today.”

Belmont was at its strongest midway through the second as they squeezed the Red Hawks into their zone which produced Belmont second tally. With junior Shay Donahue screening Cushing, Fici deftly slotted the puck from his favorite left side circle into the back of the net to double Belmont’s advantage with 3:15 remaining. The goal was Fici’s 35th of the extended season.

“I told the team they have to get the pucks in deep, get pressure on the other team and that will get pucks to the net and hopefully in the net,” said Foley.

The Red Hawks entered the final 15 minutes on the front foot to get back into the match but Griffin held the fort as the Marauders’ defensive stalwarts – first pair of juniors Joe Gaziano and Peter Grace along with fellow junior Theo Martin, sophomores Adrien Gurung and Ryan Holloran, junior Henry Melanson and senior John Whouley – shut the door on any comeback.

A late interference call against the Marauders allowed Natick to pull Cushing with two-and-a- half minutes remaining, but the resulting two man advantaged could only produced a pair of long-range shots against Griffin. Down a man, Belmont sealed the victory when Grace picked up a loose puck and “waltzed” to the blue line to fill the empty net before falling on his back while attempting a rare goal celebration.

Belmont (18-1-3) will host 10th-ranked Marshfield High (which took down Lincoln/Sudbury Regional, 2-0, on a pair of goals in the final four minutes. Time and date to come.

“I know [Marshfield] … and they play hard, they play physical and they’re going to be tough to play against. But we have to rely on our attributes and our abilities and we’ll execute our game plan and hopefully, have another win,” said Foley.

Friday Night Is Alright! Belmont High Boys’ Hockey vs Natick In Div 1 First Round At 7 PM

Photo: Belmont High junior Cam Fici being a nuisance against Catholic Memorial

After winning the Middlesex League Liberty title and recording a one-loss season, the 7th-ranked Belmont High School Boys’ Ice Hockey now heads into the post-season hosting 26-seed Natick High School in the opening round of 32 of the MIAA Division 1 tourney at ‘The Skip’ on Friday, March 4. The puck will be dropped at 7 p.m.

Tickets will be on sale at the door. Adult tickets are $10, student and senior tickets, $5. Come early, stay late.

(Lead by solid goaltending from senior Ryan Griffin and with one of the top defensive pairing in the state of juniors Peter Grace and Joe Gaziano, Belmont has held opponents to an eastern Massachusetts low 24 goals in 21 games. The defensive scheme established by first-year head coach Tim Foley is in large part the reason the team secured a 17-1-3 record playing in a league in which each team secured a placement in the playoffs.

Belmont’s offense is led by its first line of senior Marty Rowen and juniors Shay Donahue and scoring phenom Cam Fici who finished the season averaging more than a goal-and-a-half per game (34-10-44).

It’s no surprise the Boston Globe labeled the Marauders the “sleeper” of the tournament.

Natick from the Bay State Carey League comes in with a 10-9-3 record. They are led by a pair of forwards – freshman Sam Hubbard with 11 goals and senior Matt Haskell (7-18-25) – while the goaltending is shared by senior Timmy Cushing and freshman Jason Danahy who have a GAA of 1.80.

Don’t let the Redhawks’ near .500 record fool anyone; they tied (1-1) and lost by a single goal (3-2) against league rival Wellesley which beat Belmont for the Marauders’ only loss. Against other common opponents, both teams beat Franklin (2-0 by Natick, 4-0 by Belmont) while Natick lost to Catholic Memorial 4-0 and Belmont beat up on CM, 4-1.