After defeating league rival Arlington High School, 3-0, in the first round of the Div. II North playoffs, Sunday, Nov. 4, the Belmont Girls' Soccer team are heading to the New Hampshire border to take on top-ranked Amesbury in a late 7 p.m. start tonight, Nov. 6.
Belmont is coming off an impressive shutout of the Spy Ponders which had beaten and tied the Marauders this season.
On Sunday, Belmont "played a complete game," according to long-time Head Coach Paul Graham.
"I could go and name each girl and those who came in (as substitutes), they were that good," said Graham.
Graham did point to the play of Julia Russo who he played in the midfield rather than her favorite striker position.
"She kept saying, 'Put me up front' and I told her she was needed to control the middle which she did. I think placing her there surprised Arlington and we took advantage of that switch," said Graham.
Sophia Eisenbach-Smith two goals – the first on a breakaway after 15 minutes in the first half with the assist to Charlotte Alexander and the second with three minutes remaining – sandwiched Alexandra Cellucci's header into an open net from a Russo corner six minutes into the second was more than enough support for goalkeeper Maria Alice Manetas who earned the playoff shut out.
Manetas benefited from a strong defensive line headed by Olivia Lyons, Celliucci and youngster Lucia Guzikowski that kept most shots outside the 18 meter box. Manetas was tested three times, but made strong saves including a diving smother of the ball early in the first half.
Belmont heads to the most northern community in the Bay State as many people are looking ahead of the quarterfinals to a semi-finals.
Already, local media in the Merrimack Valley are anticipating a match of neighboring towns Amesbury – which did not make the playoffs last year and has been in the post season twice in 14 years – and its star, Megan Cullen, and perannual champions Newburyport, dismissing Belmont's record that includes taking three points from a top-five Winchester team.
But Graham said that Belmont is always a "tough match" in the playoffs for any opponent.
"I feel confident that we are playing our best now," said Graham.
The bus leaves Belmont at 4 p.m.