Field Hockey Head Coach Jessica Smith said what so many who have followed her team for the Marauders' historic season were thinking.
Having just finished speaking to the girls moments after the final whistle was blown, Smith let the emotions of the day come out, a frustration born of how well her players fought for the game's 60 minutes against one of Massachusetts' best in windy and cold conditions in North Andover Saturday.
In a match that saw the Marauders come back after conceding an early goal and take the play to defending state champions and unbeaten Watertown, Red Raider senior Lauren Giordano scooped in a rebound off Belmont senior Goalkeeper Shannon Reynolds with a minute and 48 second remaining in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for Watertown (20-0-1), after the Marauders held the edge in play for most of the final 30 minutes.
"You will be the best team they meet in this entire tournament," Smith told the team after the game in which the Marauders – which finished with a 16-3-1 record – reached the finals for the first time.
"You should be proud of that."
Belmont, who lost to Watertown, 2-0, earlier in the season, came into the game winning their three playoff games by a combined 10-2 including a outstanding 2-1 performance in the semi-finals against
And they brought that confidence into the game, taking control of the match's first minutes winning two penalty corners and pushing Watertown into mistakes.
"The kids came out and they knew exactly who their opponents were. And they played with so much effort and it showed since we had the better opportunities in the game," said Smith.
But Watertown's senior star forward Erika Kelly took the ball just past the center line – the first time they did so in the game – and outran the Belmont defense down the left side of the pitch before turning and scoring on Watertown's first shot after four minutes in the first half.
"I thought we had more chances in the game but when they get an opportunity they just make it happen," said Smith.
Despite the early score, Belmont – lead by midfield stalwart Becca Moore and junior Catherine Noone – began stepping in front of Watertown's long passes and feeding the Marauders' forwards. Belmont's first true scoring opportunity came in the 13th minute when a shot hit Watertown senior goaltender Kayla Costa's pad.
Yet the pressure paid off in the 21st minute when on the third consecutive penalty corner, Belmont's senior co-captain Caroline McCarthy put in a pass from in front to even the score.
While Watertown used their speed and experience to remained dangerous through the second half, Belmont held their own with backliners senior Jessica Fay and junior Natalie Alpert contained the Red Raider forwards including Kelly who found herself on the turf more than once due to the tight marking.
"I think we dominated the play especially on offense but it was just unlucky we could not get it past their goalkeeper," said Smith. "Their defense was good, they have their sticks down and played us strong. We worked on penalty corners but it didn't happen for us."
With both teams having their fair share of chances and with the growing possibility of overtime, one final push by the Red Raiders resulted in Kelly sending a pass across the mouth of the goal when it hit Reynolds and came out to Giordano who tapped it in with 108 seconds left in the game.
"(Reynolds) came out and did the exact right thing to do. But she threw off the players and they didn't know where the ball was for a second. By the time they found it, they were too discombobulated to do anything with it," said Smith.
And when the final whistle blew, as Watertown players rushed the field, the Marauders filed off the field more exhausted and stunned than defeated. As teammates started towards her, Reynolds walked away, wanting to be alone.
It was just another great Watertown, Belmont game," said Smith. "Sadly, we are yet to come out on top but it will happen one day, that's for sure."
But the defeat and how it occurred cannot diminish the team's season.
"Best year ever. It takes so much to get here, it's so disappointing when the year ends when you work so hard. But we have a lot to be really proud about to look back on and love," she said.
"And we have a trophy for the trophy case," said Smith, in addition to the banner in the High School's Wenner Field House as the first-ever Middlesex League Large School Division champions.
But as the team walked away towards the bus to take them home, they left the second place trophy on the bench.