It was an up and down week for Belmont High School Field Hockey Head Coach Jessica Smith's team.
It began Saturday, Sept. 15 with her young team hosting Andover which won the Division I state championship two years running.
"I would rather play tough teams like Andover than schedule a weak team that we know we can beat," said Smith.
And Smith gave her team a strong challenge as Andover's collective skill and preparation found the Golden Warriors with a well-deserved 2-0 lead at the end of the first half.
Yet the Mauraders upped their offensive pressure and were rewarded by playing Andover even in the second half, scoring once from Catherine Noone and the team was robbed of a second with a second left in the game by a superb diving save from the Andover goalie.
"I'll take 3 to 1, nearly 3 to 2 against this team," said Smith, whose team will meet the currently undefeated Warriors again in the final regular season game at Andover on Oct. 26.
Last year Arlington shocked an undefeated, untied Belmont team, 1-0, scoring on their only shot of the game. This year, visiting Belmont wasn't in any mood to see the Spy Ponders sneak one by them. With a strong defense and scores by a pair of unlikely sources, the Marauders downed Arlington 3-0 on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Susan Noone and Haley Fay scored their first career varsity goals – Fay on her birthday – to go along with Caroline Casey's tally.
While there was a chill in the air Thursday night, as the team played under the lights for the first time this year, it appeared that the team was in the deep freeze at the start of their game with Winchester.
The visiting Sachems' came out of the blocks with a determined blitzing offense plan that proved lethal against the Maruaders as Winchester – which returned 10 varsity players from last year's league co-champions with Belmont – scored on their first two shots (in close from Emily Savage and Chloe Georgaklis' goal from a penalty corner) in the first five minutes of the game.
"I had this feeling that we were not in game," said Maddie Devine, co-captain and senior center defender a day later.
"We started so slow and that was the game."
Smith said her team was surprised by the speed of the ball both offensively and on the defensive side.
"We are just not use to how fast the game is on the Turf surface," she said, noting that the team requires more practice time on Harris Field.
After going down two, Belmont slowly regained their footing and began to take over the play, despite Winchester placing an extra player into the midfield to clog the center of the field.
"I'm really impressed with Michelle Hayner on the right wing and after I placed her in the left midfield. She was so aggressive," said Smith.
But just as the Marauders were pressing the Sachems defense, a clearing pass caught Belmont's flatfooted as Winchester's Zibby Williams was sent of a 50 yard breakaway before slotting the ball by Belmont's Jocelyn Rogers with six minutes remaining in the first half.
Belmont cut the lead two minutes later with Casey taking a centering pass and slipping the ball by Sachems' goalie Catherine Pitt, giving the Marauders hope going into halftime.
"Boy, (Casey) is a fighter. She wants to win every time and she makes a huge difference for us attacking," said Smith.
But Belmont couldn't generate a sustained threat in the second half with Winchester committing players to the midfield. The visitor's victory was sealed when Savage stole the ball at the top of the attacking circle and scored.
Casey finished the scoring in a midst of a scrum in front of the Winchester net with a first-class shot that sent the ball into the top of net.
"You have to score with every opportunity you have. It's that simple and we just didn't do that," said Smith.
And it doesn't get any easier for the Marauders as they face Reading and Woburn this coming week.