Belmont Softball Is Back! Marauders Down Wilmington, 3-2, To Up Record To 6-4

Photo: Belmont High School senior pitcher Ellie Espelin in action against Wilmington

During a recent softball game, an opponent asked Josie Kim a question as Belmont’s outstanding junior catcher stood on second base during a Marauders rally.

“When did you guys get so good?” quire the player.

Many people have been asking that same question this season since Belmont has been wandering in the wilderness for the past 15 years, bereft of a winning record and coming off a lonely two-win season last year.

But with the team playing at its brand-new ballpark and with the right mix of veterans and newcomers, this season’s Marauder team is no longer an automatic “W” on other teams’ schedules as it has been in the past decade.

“We have no star players, but we work as a team. We are underrated because we were so bad for such a long time,” said Kim,

On Friday, April 26, all the elements of the new era came together as the Marauders produced a program-defining victory, holding off perennial Middlesex Freedom leaders Wilmington, 3-2, at Clay Pit Pond Park (the “Pond”). The victory over the Wildcats moves the Marauders to 6-4 midway through the season.

The last time Belmont processed a winning record and earned a playoff spot was in 2008 when the 11-9 Marauders was anchored by strikeout artist Kayla Hoyer (’09), who led all eastern Mass pitchers with 232 Ks.

Belmont High’s second base Eva Grant at bat vs Wilmington.

The program’s sudden turn of fortune comes from players who participate in club softball and a group of outstanding athletes with some past experience in the sport. While the Marauders have taken a huge step towards becoming a competitive squad, growing pains remain, especially against the established teams in the Middlesex League. Case in point: a recent three-game stretch, including against Lexington (18-4) and Arlington (10-0), in which Belmont was over and out-matched.

But Friday – played before dozens of parents and fans filling the backstop stands and some created their own bleachers in left field – showed the potential for finishing the season with a record above .500, and an automatic invite to the state tournament is very real. In Friday’s game, as many balls ended up in the Pond as there were total hits; the team won with its brand of timely hitting – 11 hits, including four doubles – and outstanding defense, highlighted by a pair of double plays, each ending with Kim tagging out a Wildcat at the plate.

“It was pretty much just the throw. I just sat there and caught it. And then all I had to do was go backward with the tags,” said Kim.

Kim’s battery mate, senior ace Ellie Espelin, put her stamp on the game against the Wildcats’ first-year pitcher Izzy Maiella. Belmont’s most experienced hurler picked up seven strikeouts (on nine hits and four walks), many of which got her out of jams. On Friday, the heat worked best for Espelin.

Belmont’s battery: Catcher Josie Kim and Pitcher Ellie Espelin

“I was doing fastball [and curve] and then the change-up, but the fastball was the best pitch today,” said Espelin, with Kim nodding in approval. Taking the measure of Wilmington runs in the family, as Espelin is the sister of Belmont High baseball all-star Nate Espelin, who struck out a school record 19 batters in a 1-0 complete-game shutout over the Wildcats in 2018.

“It was a long week, and I was happy that I hit my spots most of the time,” said Espelin.

Belmont got on the scoreboard first after a one-out double by first-year first base Elsie Lakin-Shultz (2 hits), who advanced to third on an Espelin single (who helped her own cause with three hits, including a double) and scored on a fielder’s choice RBI via left fielder Mia Ferrari. Wilmington rallied in the fourth to tie the game on a walk, a single, a sacrifice, and a groundout. But the Wildcat on third was stranded as Espelin struck out the next batter looking.

Belmont would jump back into the lead in the fifth, with centerfielder Amelia Ormond scoring all the way from first on a Tessa Burroso single to center. The shortstop would cross home on the next pitch when Kim (2 hits) drilled a double to the fence in left to increase the lead to 3-1. The Wildcats would push home a run in the sixth on three infield singles.

The Wildcats would not go quietly as Wilmington’s Ali McElligott launched her second triple of the game with two outs. But Espelin would shut the door by getting Eva Boudreau to swing at a 3-0 count and ground weakly for the easy 1 to 3.

While this is Espelin’s final season, Belmont has a young pitcher waiting in the wings in Olivia Ormond, who threw a four-hit shutout in her first varsity start and helped her own cause by slugging an in-the-park home run to lead the Marauders to a 16-0 victory over Cambridge Rindge and Latin on April 23.

Belmont’s Head Coach Joe Tuzzolo said, “I am impressed with the girls today. They battled the entire way. It was a tight game, and we haven’t been in that many tight games. They showed a lot of composure. We jumped to a lead and saw it disappear because Wilmington is a really good team. But our kids made the plays when it counted.”

“Since the middle of March, when we started, the kids have made great strides, and it showed today,” said Tuzzolo, who also appealed to the Belmont community.

“With the warmer weather, we’d love to see even more fans come to see us play.”

In the bleachers

Belmont High Field Hockey Rains Over Wilmington In Opener, 3-2

Photo: Belmont High (from left) Sajni Sheth-Voss. Mia Mueller, goalie Julia Herlihy, Layne Doherty and Willa Samg defending a penalty corner.)

Despite the visit of a steady shower, Belmont High School Field Hockey’s opening night of the 2021 season would not be dampened as the Marauders prevailed over the Wilmington High Wildcats, 3-2, on the first game played on Harris Field this school year, Thursday, Sept. 9.

Molly Dacey scored the game winner midway through the fourth quarter off a penalty corner where senior co-captain Sajni Sheth-Voss passed to Layne Doherty who bounced the ball to Dacey who struck it mid-flight and by the Wildcat goalie.

Belmont’s grades 11s and 12s were playing as if was mid-season, pressuring the Wilmington midfield and defenders with their speed on the ball and combination passing.

“We definitely had possession of the ball more than [Wilmington], our passing looked good because they were really looking for each other,” said long-time head coach Jess Smith.

“They were fast out there,” said Smith. “I’m a big believer in fitness. I don’t sub that often when the team is on their game so I want them to have the energy to go for the entire game.”

Belmont was led by senior co-captain Ellie McLaughlin who, with Sheth-Voss, quarterbacked the team from the midfield while fellow senior Mia Mueller anchored the back line moving back from her usual forward position.

“I told [Mueller] that ‘after being a forward and in midfield, you see the field so well you can control the ball and bring it up to the front’,” said Smith, who compares her play with former Marauder Emma Donahue who is playing for Division 1 Merrimack College.

Mueller opened Belmont’s scoring account less than five minutes into the game with a cracker of a shot on a penalty corner. After seeing the game tied at 1 in the second quarter, Sheth-Voss gave the Marauders its second lead in the contest with what could be a contender for goal of the year as she intercepted a Wildcat clearing pass on the right side, sidestepped a pair of defenders and from along the goal line sprung a quick shot that somehow breached the goalie’s pad and into the net.

Belmont will take on Stoneham away on Monday, Sept. 13.

Belmont Fall Sports Starts With Solid Wins For Volleyball, Boys’ Soccer

Photo: Belmont High School Volleyball’s Mindee Lai attacking the net.

Belmont High athletics started the 2019 Fall Sports season on Thursday, Sept. 5 with a pair of solid home outings.

Volleyball Cage Wildcats In Straight Sets

In its season opening victory over Wilmington High, Belmont High’s Volleyball squad showed that it has just as much or even more talent on the court in 2019 than last year when it made its way to the Division 1 Central/East Sectional finals against eventual state champs Newton North.

Belmont swept the Wildcats 3-0 (25-11, 25-17, 25-10) in the first game in the Wenner Field House that is adjacent to the construction site of the new Middle and High School.

“I’m really happy with the way they played,” said Belmont Head Coach Jennifer Couture, who led her team in the season opener less than two weeks after giving birth to her daughter.

Belmont’s Sam Lim setting for her teammates.

“I think that everybody just went all out and they weren’t afraid of making mistakes. There’s still stuff for us to work on like communication, but I think, overall, the team played really aggressive,” she said.

Where Belmont has gained from last year is the addition of a second setter. Senior setter Mindee Lai now has junior Sam Lim who can take over setting up attacks, allowing her to play outside and use her hitting skills.

“Those two centers gives us a lot of options and lets us do a lot of different things we couldn’t last year,” Couture said.

Marauder Jenna Crowley sets up for a block.

Couture also pointed out senior libero Sophie Estok who came up with 12 digs and sophomore Megan Kornberg who “really stood out in her varsity debut. She played with a lot of confidence. Great passing great hitting.”

Boys’ Soccer Strikes Quick vs Wilmington

The Belmont High Boys’ Soccer got off to a fast start in the new season as they struck early in each half to defeat Wilmington, 2-0, in the season debut.

Senior Jon Brabo opened the scoring campaign with a strike eight minutes into the first half (assist from sophomore Mateo Estrada Donahue) while Will Kilavatitu entered the scoring column with a goal after only two and a half minutes into the second half (fellow junior Ali Noorouzi assisting) to give Belmont all the edge it needed as senior goalie Finbar Rhodes earned the clean sheet with five saves.

“This is a very likable group,” said Head Coach Brian Bisceglia-Kane of his team that saw a good number of senior players graduate in June.

“It’s a youngis squad, but we have a mature group of juniors, which is why I think it works. They really matured a lot from sophomore into junior year,” he said.

It’s one game, but I think they showed what they’ve been working on moving the ball and we had a bunch of scoring chances in the game,” said Bisceglia-Kane.

Girls’ Soccer Trip To Wilmington Less Than Welcoming

A young Belmont High Girls’ Soccer squad surrendered a goal in each half to host Wilmington and were shutout in its season opener, 2-0. The Marauders get back in action on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Harris Field vs. Stoneham.

Belmont Girls Hoops Clamps Down On Wilmington In Opener, 62-35

Photo: Belmont’s sophomore center Emma McDevitt driving to the basket against Wilmington.

Belmont High Girls’ Basketball’s trademark smothering team defense was on display as the Marauders held Wilmington to 11 first half point to win going away, 62-35, in the season opener held at the Wenner Field House on Tuesday, Dec. 11. 

We’re still trying to find the best lineups to do certain things,” said Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart. “But the lineup in the second quarter was very good defensively which was important because our offense is still pretty rough around the edges.”

That lineup had one common denominator, height. With senior captain Jess Giorgio (7 pts while leading the team in rebounds and blocks), seniors Jane Mahon (4 pts), Ella Gagnon and Megan Tan (5 pts) and sophomore Maiya Bergdorf, the Marauders forced Wilmington into a lot of weak outside shots or being swallowed up inside in a forest of arms and bodies that resulted in block shots, steals and defensive rebounds. The end product saw the Wildcats go nearly the entire eight minutes scoreless as the Marauders went on a 14-0 run to end the half up 26-11.

“They were good out there. They are large and they are quick. They’re tough,” said Hart.

Leading the way offensively was Bergdorf who was a threat on the drive and especially from the arc as she hit four 3s to end the game with 20 points, an encouraging sign after ending last season on the bench after an injury sidelined an impressive freshman campaign. 

It was an opening night in which several underclassmen shined including freshman point guard Nina Minicozzi who started the game and hit the season’s first three (ending with 8 points) while leading the offense. Sophomore Emma McDevitt came off the bench to register her first varsity double-digit effort with 10 points playing center and her fellow second-year classmate Kiki Christofori was a lively presence off the bench playing the point.

“We still have a ways to go with the offense being rusty,” said Hart who was able to empty her bench in the opener.

“And frankly, we wouldn’t want to play our best game tonight. So the good news is that we have a lot of room to get better,” she said.

Next game for the Marauders is the early match in the season’s first Friday-night doubleheader with the boy’s team at Lexington on Friday, Dec. 14.


Belmont High Field Hockey Firing On All Cylinders At Wilmington In Season Opener

Photo: Belmont’s Jordan Lettiere scoring the first goal of the season in Belmont’s 8-0 win over Wilmington.

Belmont High Head Coach Jess Smith was nervous before the season-opening game at Wilmington on Saturday, Sept. 7.

“Are we really ready for this game?” worried Smith, remembering Belmont’s close 1-0 home victory against the Wildcats a year earlier. 

While Smith fretted as coaches will, her players spent the final moments during stick inspection discussing … llamas. “They’re sooo cute! But really nasty in person,” commented a player who got to see the South American pack animal up close during a recent school trip to Machu Picchu. 

“Do you believe them?” said Smith of her charges as they headed out onto the pitch. But being anxious is just Smith’s natural state before a match, be it against tough foes like Watertown or a weaker opponent during the season.

A little over an hour later, Smith was able to set her worries aside (at least until the next game) as her Marauders came out and dominated the host Wildcats, 8-0, to open the team’s 2018 account with a victory.

“I’ll take it,” said a pleased Smith, now in her 13th year coaching the team. “The team was an offensive machine today,” she said.

And why wouldn’t Smith be pleased? Her Marauders controlled all aspects of the game. On defense, Belmont shut down the Wildcat attack by clogging the passing lanes and using their collective speed – Smith credits three weeks of running 400-meter laps on the Harris Field track – to limit to just a handful of the times Wilmington crossed the midfield line. Led by juniors Katie Guden at center mid and Emma Donahue, center back, Belmont was able to quickly transition to offense.

“I was impressed how the defense and the midfield worked together to bring the ball into the [striking circle],” said Smith.

Offensively, Belmont used a combination of solid passing and slick, quick solo runs – by speedster Marissa Cecca, Guden and senior forward and co-captain Morgan Chase – to counter Wilmington packing 11 players between the ball and their goal. It took all of four minutes for the team to get on the scoreboard when senior forward and co-captain Jordan Lettiere beat the Wildcat goalie by her left pad to give Belmont the lead they’d keep.

Belmont would score three more in the first and four in the final 30 minutes with Guden bagging the hat trick, with Chase and Donahue putting in a pair, each scored in close and from just inside the striking circle (Chase’s long-distance goal came from a penalty corner passed to her by defender Meaghan Noone which can be seen on the video). Morgan Moroney and Molly Calkins each played a half in net and shared the shutout. 

Next up for Belmont is the home opener at Harris Field against Stoneham on Wednesday at 4 p.m. then the Marauders host Woburn at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14. 

Belmont Girls’ Soccer Leaves It Late In 2-1 Home Opener Win As Frosh Goalie Shines

Photo: Ella Gagnon (21) scoring the equalizer vs. Wilmington.

It wasn’t the way freshman goalie Bridgette Martin wanted to start her first varsity game against Wilmington.

On the first ball that came her way, Martin – who admitted being nervous when the game got underway – hesitated for a second and saw it go behind her and tapped in by Jocelyn Palmer less than 30 seconds into the home opener on Saturday night, Sept. 8.

But that “oops” moment didn’t get the 9th grader down, just mad. 

“I got pretty angry after the goal and that anger fueled my adrenaline. It kicked in and it got me going to the ball hard,” she said. 

While her mistake put Belmont (2-0-0) behind the Wildcats (0-2-0) for nearly 70 minutes, Martin was superb the remaining 79 minutes, stopping three breakaway and a looping shot heading goalward to keep the match within one. That allowed the usual goal happy Marauder offense (it won its opener 11-0 over Burlington) to find a way by a disciplined Wilmington defense to score twice in the final 12 minutes to eek out a 2-1 victory at Harris Field.

“I really have to say Martin showed a heck of a lot of class,” said longtime Marauder Head Coach Paul Graham. And that effort was crucial, said Graham, “because despite dominating the game especially in the first half, we couldn’t find any way to score.” 

Not that the Marauders didn’t come close, including hitting the crossbar and seeing two through balls miss everyone in the six-yard box. At the other end of the pitch, Martin heroics was highlighted in the 23rd minute when she made a reflex save off freshman Alyssa Granara from 10 meters out then hurried back to the goal line to snag the rebound that was floating just under the crossbar.

The second 40 minutes saw Wilmington play a much tighter game and began controlling the ball with better success. One area that Belmont continues to take advantage was its physical play, continuing to knock Wildcats off the ball or winning possession with their speed. Senior center forward Ella Gagnon was a constant threat but Wilmington’s goalie Alyssa Morrison, in only her second varsity start, made her share of reaction stops. 

Just eight minutes into the second half saw Martin make the game-changing save as Wilmington’s Annie Wingate received a perfect pass to face the Belmont goalie alone eight meters from a wide-open goal. Closing the distance, Martin left arm got just enough of Wingate’s rocket shot to see it dribble pass the right post. 

“We practice these shots in practice a lot. Normally I close the girl down and see what I can do,” said Martin.

With the margin still at one, Belmont finally broke through with less than 12 minutes to go when senior left wing Morgan Krauss stayed wide and squared a perfect centering pass that Gagnon tapped in from five meters out. And just after the nine-minute to go mark, sophomore Jenna Thomas looped a shot that beat Morrison who was well off her line. Gagnon had a hand in preserving the win. With seconds remaining in the match, she jumped as part of the defensive wall and deflected a shot by senior Thea Alberti that was heading into the upper right corner of the goal. 

“Wilmington is a team that is always good and these are the teams that you have to beat if you want to go deep in the playoffs,” said Graham. “This win puts us on the map,” he said. 


Sports: Down Early, Girls’ Soccer Stun Wilmington as Allard’s Hat Trick Secures

Photo: It’s all tied up!

After conceding three goals in the first 15 minutes of its game against the three-time Middlesex League champions Wilmington High School, it felt like that it would be an early night for the Belmont High Girls’ Soccer.

“I told them to keep their heads up and just play their game,” said Belmont’s long-time head coach Paul Graham, Tuesday night, Sept. 13, against a team had had not lost a league match since 2013.

But even Graham was unprepared for what happened in the next 65 minutes.

Relying on one of the hottest players in the state and taking the game to the Wildcats, a relatively young Belmont squad erased the three-goal deficit to stun Wilmington, 3-3, in a tie hardly anyone saw coming.

“Stealing a point was huge and to do it coming back against that club, a ranked team when we were down three to nothing. This was a total team ‘win,'” said Graham, whose team lost to Wilmington, 5-1, last year.

The catalyst for Belmont was junior all-star Carey Allard who bagged the hat-trick to bring the Marauders (2-0-1) back from what appeared to be a certain home defeat.

“As soon as it happened, we all got a little down. But after halftime, we got our heads back in it and fought until we tied it,” said Allard who scored her first late in the first period with a running volley from a pass by junior midfielder Emma Sass and the second at the penalty spot.

The final goal, with just under 10 minutes remaining was, simply put, a mistake. Coming down the right side, Allard cut along the touch line and sent the ball over the Wildcat’s goalkeeper and into the far corner at the acutest of angles. 

“That was supposed to be a cross, but I hit it all wrong. I guess I got lucky,” said Allard who has tallied eight goals in three games.

For Graham, the tie was, in a sense, a team victory as players outhustled the competition from winning 50/50 balls to muscling Wilmington away from making a dangerous move towards the Marauders’ goal.

Placing juniors Emma Sass, Eliza Filler and sophomore Olivia Cella in the midfield in the later part of first and in the second halves proved problematic for the Wildcat playmakers “because while they’re not the biggest girls, they are fast and nipped at [Wilmington’s] heels if they are beaten.”

Graham said the game will be a bookmark for future games against the steel of the Middlesex League in coming days.

“We had them on their back heel by the end of the game,”said Graham, praising sophomore forward Ella Gagnon for attacking Wilmington’s defense which gave Allard the little bit of space she needed to work her magic. 


Sports: Bartels Wins Battle of Aces as Belmont Takes Classic Over Wilmington

Photo: Cole Bartels before Wednesday game. 

The spectators came early to find good seats on a brisk sunny Wednesday morning game at Belmont’s Branden Grant Field, as nearly a dozen major league scouts turned up with radar guns and reporters for the daily newspapers were out in force.

The game was a rare meeting around these parts of a pair of top-ranked pitching prospects; Wilmington’s hard-throwing Jackson Gillis and Belmont’s talented Cole Bartels battling it out on the diamond.

And the two – each signed last season with Division 1 schools: Gillis to Vanderbilt and Penn State for Bartels – did not disappoint as they each threw a gem of a game in this classic pitcher’s duel, combining for a total of more than two dozen strikeouts while giving up a single hit each over five innings.

While the pro scouts had come out to see the 6’3″, 225 pound Gillis who is expected to be an early-round selection in the major league draft, the spring recess matinee was Bartels’ day in the spotlight as the senior dominated the Wildcats from start to finish as the Middlesex League all-star registering a 15 strikeout, 107 pitch masterpiece in the Marauders’ 2-0 victory. 

“All my pitches were working today,” said Bartels, who is coming off a 13 strikeout performance in the season’s opener against Concord-Carlisle.

While starting off most batters with fast balls, Bartels was getting them out with his breaking ball.

“My ‘out’ pitch was my slider,” said Bartels of the pitch that tails and drops away from right hand batters. 

A deeper look at the stats shows just how dominate Bartels was Wednesday: only seven times did Wilmington players hit the ball where a field player was called to make a play while three times – in the second, fourth and sixth innings – Bartels struck out the side. Of the 15 strikeouts, five times the batter took the pitch looking and only twice did he throw a strikeout on a full-count as his control and location was outstanding all game long.

While he was anticipating his third matchup with Gillis – he beat the Wildcat’s leading pitcher twice last season – “but it was no different than any other game for me,” said Bartels said. “I got a lot more confident as the game went on, I felt I got stronger,” Bartels said while praising his battery partner, catcher Cal Christofori, for being a rock behind the plate.

While Bartels will be remembered as having the top pitching day, Gillis was no slouch Wednesday. In his first pitch sequence against Trevor Kelly, Belmont’s leadoff hitter, Gillis threw three fastballs that hit 91 mph on the radar (the third pitch was fouled off) before throwing a curve ball recorded in the mid-80s for the strikeout.

Gillis struck out eight of the first nine outs in the game. But one of his victims, DH Ryan Noone, reached first on a third-strike passed ball in the second inning. Noone took second on a wild pitch and scored on second base Noah Riley’s shot up the middle to give Belmont an early 1-0 lead.

With a run in his pocket, Bartels nearly gave it back in the top of the fourth when second base Brian Cavanaugh hit an opposite-field double down the line. But Cavanaugh was stranded on second as Bartels struck out the side. 

Belmont put up some insurance on the board by scrapping together a run playing small ball against Gillis’ replacement, Chris Grecco, in the sixth. Bartels started the inning with a single and his batterymate Cal Christofori reached on an error.

After a Dennis Crowley sacrifice put the pair in scoring position, Noone attempted the squeeze with Bartel but the pitcher was caught at the plate. But in an attempt to gun down Noone at second, Christofori never stopped running and beat the return throw. 

Belmont now stands at 4-0 and is atop the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division.

“It’s our best start of a season for a while,” said Belmont’s long-time manager, Joe Brown. 

Sports: Boys’ Lacrosse Rely on Big Time Goalie, Attack Play to Win Home Opener

Photo: Belmont senior attack Trey Butler (in white) scored six times, including here surrounded by three defenders and connecting from a severe angle.

Goalie Peter Stoesser’s big stick and the offensive creativity of attackman Trey Butler propelled Belmont High School’s Boys’ Lacrosse team over a quick and chippy Wilmington High squad as the Marauders coming away with an 8-6 victory at the team’s home opener Friday afternoon, April 15 at Harris Field.

The win was the team’s second consecutive victory and lifts the Marauders to 2-3 after starting the season on the road for four straight games.

Part of Belmont’s one-two punch Friday came from senior Stoesser, who shut down the Wildcats from 10 yards and beyond. The call of “All day” was heard on the Marauder sideline as Stoesser pocketed each shot attempted from a distance.

On the other end of the pitch, senior captain Trey Butler proved to be the man of the match on the offensive side. One of the best lacrosse players in program history, Butler scored six times – including surrounded by three defenders and connecting from a severe angle – on ten shots while providing an assist on Tyler Reynolds’ goal. The only tally Butler was not involved in was Aleck Morin’s beautiful score (and final goal of the game) that bounced high off the turf into the net.

Next up for the squad is a home match with Dracut on Saturday, April 23.

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Sports: Belmont Girls’ Basketball Goes 3 for 3 with 54-42 Win over Wilmington

Photo: Senior Samari Winklaar at the free-throw line vs. Wilmington.

Belmont High Girls Basketball senior forward Samari Winklaar is not just a double threat; a defensive stalwart and one of the toughest forwards on the court. She is a triple talent: this young lady can sing!

Those in the stands during the opening announcements heard Winklaar give a soulful, emotional rendition of the National Anthem that would have knocked your socks off if you weren’t wearing shoes.

Winklaar then joined her fellow starters onto the court and played a big role in Belmont’s victory at its home opener, defeating Wilmington High School Wildcats, 54-42, on Monday, Dec. 21 at the “Wenner.”

Winklaar’s 13 points including a pair of baskets in the third quarter allowed the Marauders keep a double-digit lead through the second half for its first game in which Belmont did not see an offensive dip that occurred in the first two games. Its point production – 13, 15, 14 and 12 in each subsequent quarter – allowed Belmont Head Coach Melissa Hart to include many players from her large bench which reach 17. 

The Wilmington game also was the return of last season’s suffocating full-court defense that Belmont used to great effect in 2015’s playoff run. The result of the night’s pressure was that Wilmington did not have a player in double figures in points.

For the third consecutive game, sophomore point guard Carly Christofori quarterbacked the offense with her passing and her signature slashing move towards the basket resulting in 16 points. Her final six points – all in the final eight minutes – came from the free throw line, reminiscent of Christofori’s performance in last year’s sectional quarterfinals against Bedford. 

Overall, Belmont went 19 for 23 from the charity stripe, an atypical result from a team that has at times struggled from the line. 

Working hard at both ends of the court included senior co-captain forward/center Sarah Stewart with 9 points (7 in the first half) while matched up with Wilmington’s taller centers and freshman Megan Tan who took on the quickest Wildcat guards while contributing four points.

Due to fouls on the starters, Hart gave Belmont fans a glimpse of the future as she sent out Marauders tallest players, junior Margaux d’Arbeloff (6′) and freshman Jess Giorgio (6’1″).

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