A scrappy volleyball crew of Belmont Marauders gave perennial playoff participant Stoneham High School the scare of the young season as Belmont took the Spartans to a fifth set only to loss by the thinnest margin, 15-13, in the final set.
"They usually don't play that well late in the sets. This was a great game for this team," said Belmont's Head Coach Jen Couture, who has seen interest and participation in the sport explode as she has full teams for varsity, JV and freshmen.
And that enthusiasm is translating onto the court where Belmont came into their match Monday, Sept. 10, against last year's Division 2 North semi-finalist Stoneham off a 3-0 win over Watertown last Friday.
What the team may lack in offensive punch they make up with defensive grit. Led by Elsie Tutunjian in the middle with Jessie Lu and Aleks Gosz upfront, the Marauders were able to put up an effective wall in front of Stoneham's most effective hitters.
From the back, Annie Hang – who is Belmont's hardest server – and Faye Reagan made a number of great saving digs to continue rallies.
After dropping the first set, 16-25, Belmont jumped ahead 3-0 early in the second set and then went ahead 20-17 with Lu stuffing Stoneham's Sam Trant. Belmont tied up the game and kept the pressure up in the third set going ahead 9-4 on Gosz's dump shot.
The Spartans – which beat Belmont in three easy sets last year in Stoneham – came back to even the score at 13. The remainder of the set was close with neither team with a lead by more than two points. A Tutunjian stuff at the net saw Belmont win the third, 26-24.
Stoneham showed their experience by running away with the fourth set, 8-25, to set up a deciding fifth set. A Tutunjian block, several Stoneham errors and a Hang hit that stayed resulted in Belmont going ahead 9-6.
But the Spartans won several long rallies and some untimely serving mistakes saw Belmont facing three match points at 11-14. While the team came close winning two consecutive points, a miss hit saw the Marauders fall in the end.