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Breaking the cycle

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Senior Makayla Donovan is one of five members of her class that will aim to power Belmont past the quarterfinal round after losses in three consecutive seasons. File Photo. (click for larger version)
August 25, 2014
BELMONT That quarterfinal round struck again last year.

For the third consecutive season, the Belmont High School girls' soccer team fell just one win shy of a trip to the Division III Final Four in 2013. The Red Raiders, seeded second in the D-III field, saw their season come to an end with a 3-1 loss to Campbell in the quarters, finishing the year with an impressive 14-3-1 overall record.

Now with a dedicated and hungry senior class, the time is now for Belmont to take that next step under fourth-year head coach Amy Dutton.

"I can't say enough about my five seniors. They've been with me since day one," said Dutton, who enters her fourth season with an overall 40-11-3 record at Belmont. "It's going to be fun to see how the season pans out. What's going to matter most is how well we're playing come tournament time. Our goal is to make it to the semis. For all those seniors, we want to get over that quarterfinal hump."

The senior class brings loads of experience and leadership to the lineup, as captains Chayleigh Cadarette (defensive center midfield) and Cassie Contigiani (striker) lead the way. Makayla Donovan will pair with Contigiani up top for an explosive combination, while classmates Zoe Zeller and Kylie O'Connell will anchor a stout defensive unit in the back.

Zeller and O'Connell will be key in breaking in a new goalkeeper, as junior Clorissa Roode and sophomore Mariah Watson will both look to see time between the pipes. Freshman Chloe Sottak will slide right into the defensive starting unit as an outside back, and Dutton is excited about the potential of the rookie.

"I have a lot of confidence in her back there," said Dutton of Sottak. "She'll also take some corner kicks for us which is huge. She's our top newcomer and will step right in."

Juniors Courtney Clairmont and Jennifer Hamilton will also be in the mix defensively, and both can mix in to a variety of spots for the Raiders. Classmate Karlyn Brown is another piece to the defensive puzzle, while fellow junior Megan Prescott will be a threat to contribute on the wing.

The sophomore class will be very important to the success of the Raiders, as a bulk of the players saw key minutes as freshmen last season. Kelsey Scott is a huge piece at center mid, and Dutton will look to her to distribute to the duo of Contigiani and Donovan up top.

Sophomore Jasmine Syed will likely start on defense as well for the Raiders, and her speed and instincts will look to be an asset this fall. Twins Emma and Sarah Chase both return to the squad, with both contributing in the midfield. Hannah Shirley also returns, and Dutton said the versatile sophomore will start at an outside midfield position.

Freshman midfielder Rachael Violette rounds out the roster, joining Sottak as the lone members of their class on the varsity team. Dutton said Violette has a dangerous shot and is someone who will develop nicely throughout the season.

A big blow for the Raiders this fall is the fact that junior Emily Ennis will miss the season after suffering an ACL injury in the offseason. Ennis was a key contributor as a sophomore last year, and her presence in the midfield and up top will be difficult to replace.

"That's a huge, huge loss for us," admitted Dutton. "She's one of our best skilled players and she can really score when we need her to. It's a tough one for us."

Dutton said that mixing her core, year-round soccer players with the rest of her athletic squad will be key in determining the future of the Raiders this fall.

"We're athletic. We also have a very small nucleus of core soccer players," the coach said. "The biggest question is how quickly can we get those athletic kids on the same page with the kids who play year round."

Belmont had an impressive preseason jamboree in Maine last weekend, playing against New Hampshire and Maine schools for the second year in a row. The team went 3-0-1 in pool play before falling in penalty kicks in the semifinals.

The Raiders are set to open their regular season on Friday, with a trip across the water to play on the road at Kingswood (4 p.m.). The home opener is set for Sept. 2 when Stevens comes to Belmont.

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