"Set Fire to the Rain" was blaring over the PA system as one, then two and finally the remaining members of the Belmont's Girls Hockey team with sticks and heavy bags in tow walked up the stairs from the locker room to the lobby of the Gallo Arena in Bourne late Saturday night, March 10.
The sadness of Adele's song was an apt soundtrack to the emotion-laden faces that passed quickly by parents and loved ones, unable or unwilling to hide the raw pain of coming so close only to see their season – and for many seniors their hockey lives – end one game short.
And the games you play, you would always win, always win
But I set fire to the rain
Watched it pour as I touched your face
Let it burn while I cry
"These girls should be proud for their team, for their town because this is the furthest we've gone in a long time," said Belmont Head Coach Mark Haley after Belmont lost to the undefeated and number-one ranked Duxbury High School Dragons, 3-1, in the semi-finals of the Division 2 state championship tournament.
Belmont's free skating style that took the Marauders to 16 victories was stifled by Duxbury's aggressive defense which took away Belmont's superior passing game by being willing and able to play the vast majority of the game along the side boards.
And while Belmont was out shot by a clear two-to-one margin, Haley said that Belmont still had chances that they let slip by.
"We matched their intensity but we didn't get the goal scoring we normally get," said Haley.
"We had some chips we missed and others we missed the shot. We played well. We just didn't score enough," said Haley.
And as with the previous game, a 5-2 drubbing of Norwood six days before, junior goaltender Megan Foley kept Belmont in the game, most notably in the last half of the second period when the Dragon's kept the play in the Belmont end of the rink.
"Megan was outstanding tonight," said Haley. "Two of the goals they got we were on the ice too long. We just could not get a change and that hurt us."
Haley also pointed to assistant captain Shannon Reynolds – one of eight Marauders who played in the North Div. 2 sectional field hockey finals four months ago (Duxbury has ten field hockey players that made the Div. 1 state semifinals) – for keeping Belmont in the game.
"Shannon played some great defense which she always does. We put her out on any line and you know she's gonna come through," he said.
Belmont stayed with Duxbury's strong play in the first half of the first period including effectively killing off the first penalty. But Duxbury's standout freshman Mellissa Fischter fought her way into Foley's crease to score five minutes into the period with assist by fellow freshman Meredith Wright and sophomore defender Caroline Shaunessy.
Belmont's best chance came with one minute remaining when senior Erin O'Donovan and junior Alexandra Cellucci released for a two-on-one and then O'Donovan threw a pass to Cellucci who just missed a diving attempt on Duxbury's goalie Rachel Myette.
Foley kept the deficit at one with her best save of the game, stopping a clean break away less than 30 seconds into the second period. Belmont nearly tied it up but Myette robbed Casey McLaughlin with a glove save after three minutes and then Cellucci just missed with her forehand after beating the defense from passes from O'Donovan and co-captain senior Caroline McCarthy.
But just before the half-way point of the game, Duxbury struck again as senior defender Martha Findley pushed aside two tired Belmont defenders and struck from the slot.
Duxbury committed themselves to stay on the boards in the third which pressured Belmont's defenders including senior Becca Moore, co-captain Britta Marden and sophomore Kendal Brown.
"Caroline played a whale of a game. She and Britta, they were here to play and that's why they were our leaders," said Haley.
But an unassisted goal by Duxbury senior Hannah Murphy with eight minutes remaining put the game out of reach at 3-0.
Yet it was then that Belmont's offense picked up and McCarthy used her skating and stick-handling skills to pass three Duxbury defenders and send a shot that broke by Myette with four minutes to go – the goal was given to O'Donovan with assists to McCarthy and Cellucci – to give Belmont a small victory in a game that didn't go their way.
With final buzzer, Haley went onto the ice and talked to the girls before and after the customary handshake. And then the Belmont Marauders left the ice as a team for one last time.