Quarters doom Raiders again

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Belmont junior Cassie Contigiani keeps Campbell's Kylee Julia away from the ball during the Red Raiders' 3-1 loss in the Division III quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 04, 2013
BELMONT The first Saturday in November has not been kind to the Belmont High School girls' soccer team the last three years.

For the third consecutive season, the Red Raiders saw their season come to a difficult end in the Division III quarterfinal round, as the second-seeded squad fell to seventh-seeded Campbell High School, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon.

"It stings right now but we have to focus on the positive," said Belmont coach Amy Dutton afterwards. "We lost nine seniors from last year and to do virtually what we did last year (reaching the quarterfinals) was very commendable. Unfortunately, (Campbell was) the better team today. That's tough to say, tough to swallow, but that's the way it was. They definitely aren't a number seven seed."

While the Raiders (14-3-1) have no seniors on their roster, the visiting Cougars were chalk-full of them eight to be exact.

"We knew (Belmont) had a solid defense and they look to catch people sleeping offensively," said Campbell coach Robert Gannon. "We just tried not to play kick and run and build up our attack piece by piece."

While Campbell (13-4-1) got off to a fast start offensively, Belmont junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Berry was up to the task. Berry made two big saves in the first half, one coming at point-blank range to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard.

But while the Raiders looked like they would be able to get into halftime with the game still scoreless, Campbell buried a shot with just 48 seconds left before intermission. Angela Valenti notched the goal from about 25 yards out, as she took her time and snuck one past a diving Berry for a 1-0 advantage.

"That's so deflating," admitted Dutton of the goal. "When you give a quality team like that time and space, they're going to make you pay for it."

Campbell carried the momentum from that late goal into the beginning of the second half, as a cross from Nicole Golden hit a Belmont player and deflected into the net for an own goal that put the Cougars up 2-0 just 3:48 into the half.

"At the half we just talked about keeping the pressure up," said Gannon. "We knew (Belmont) would make a run so we wanted to get another goal and allow us to play our game."

While things weren't looking good with a 2-0 hole, the Raiders cut that deficit in half in the 55th minute. Junior forward Cassie Contigiani played a long ball up to freshman Kelsey Scott, and she beat her defender to get into the penalty area. Scott cut the ball back to her right foot, and roofed a shot over Campbell goalkeeper Heather Baron to make it a 2-1 contest.

But just seven minutes later, Campbell regained the two-goal cushion, with Holly Lesperance volleying home a cross from Sydney Crema for a 3-1 lead that put things out of reach for the Raiders.

"It hasn't been that way all season for us," admitted Gannon of his team's ability to respond after giving up a goal. "We've had a couple goals that we've given up that have put us down for good. Luckily that wasn't the case today."

That third goal changed the complexion of the final 18 minutes, as Belmont changed its formation to try and jumpstart a stagnant offense. The Raiders didn't get much pressure on Baron however.

"Even when we were down 2-0 I felt confident," said Dutton. "For me, the most deflating goal was that third one. Really, the key to the game was the middle third of the field. They dominated us there."

While the loss in the quarterfinals was the third in a row (Prospect Mountain in 2011, Hopkinton in 2012), Dutton remains encouraged by what her young squad did throughout the season.

"The girls had a fantastic season," she said. "We had a lot of kids that don't know what it's like to play in a game like this out there today. We're inexperienced in these bigger moments but that's only going to get better the more chances they have to play."

Campbell advanced to play defending state champion Hopkinton in the Final Four. Bow and Raymond met in the other semifinal.

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