Belmont's Allivia Burbank (right) tries to close on a Merrimack Valley attacker during the Red Raiders' 13-12 victory last week. Burbank led the hosts with four goals as they picked up varsity win number one. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
May 05, 2014BELMONT – The first one is always the hardest.
For the Belmont High School girls' lacrosse team, that certainly held true last week. The Red Raiders, playing in their first season as a varsity program after two years at the club level, picked up their first-ever victory on April 29. Belmont won a wild 13-12 shootout over Merrimack Valley in Division III action.
"It's early in the season and we didn't really know what to expect," said junior defensive wing Zoe Zeller. "We played all JV teams last year so to get a win this quick is a great start for us."
Belmont, which lost its first game by just one goal to Pelham before losses to Con-Val and Derryfield, fell behind early in this one. Merrimack Valley led 3-1 in the first half before Emily Ennis stopped the bleeding with a tally to cut the deficit to 3-2.
"We haven't really come out and had fast starts so far," Zeller admitted. "I think that's part of being a first-year team."
The tally seemed to settle the Raiders, and they went on a quick offensive burst to take their first lead of the afternoon. Anna Scott tied the game at 3-3 before Allivia Burbank exploded for three consecutive goals in less than two minutes. All of a sudden, Belmont held a 6-3 lead on its home field.
"We just wanted to go for it," said Ennis, who finished with three goals. "Last game (a 17-2 loss to Derryfield) was a little rough but we were happy to get back out there and put it behind us."
Scott notched her second of the day to extend the lead to 7-5 with 10 minutes left in the opening half, and the teams entered the intermission break all squared at 8-8.
Things went back and forth from there, with Ennis eventually scoring the game-winner in the second half. But Belmont goalkeeper Alexa Robbins was the story of the frame, as she came through with clutch save after clutch save to keep the Raiders ahead. Robbins finished with a whopping 23 saves on the day, and the Raiders held on for a 13-12 win to secure career victory number one.
"It feels great," said Scott of the win. "It'll take us a little time to get used to the speed of the game because it's a lot faster than (last year's JV schedule). But (Robbins) saves us this game. We know we can count on her back there."
The speed of the game does indeed change from the JV to varsity level, and while there will certainly be some tough games ahead, there will also be some games that the Raiders can be competitive in.
"The way teams get up the field – they play with a lot more pace than we're used to," Ennis explained. "We're looking to get our passes up the field quicker and I think today we started to do that better."
"Our passing has definitely gotten better since the beginning of the season," she added. "You can tell with the other teams, who has been playing together for awhile and who hasn't. Hopefully we can just keep getting better."
Burbank's four goals led the offense on the day, while Ennis and Jen Hamilton each finished with hat tricks in the win. Scott (two goals) and Shannon Thayer (goal) rounded out the scorers, while Ennis and Hailey Clough recorded assists.