Sky high

Raiders loaded, aim for deep postseason run

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Belmont senior midfielder Doug Price will help lead a deep and loaded squad this fall, as the Raiders have deep postseason aspirations after falling in last year's D-III quarterfinal round. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 22, 2016
BELMONT The offseason came much too soon for the Belmont High School boys' soccer team last year. With the NHIAA Division III bracket opening up thanks to a bevy of upsets, the Red Raiders looked destined to make a run with a deep and talented roster. But facing a Campbell team it had already defeated during the regular season, Belmont was unable to get its offense going in the quarterfinals. The visiting Cougars ended the Raiders season prematurely, sending Belmont packing with a 1-0 loss.

The defeat ended a magical 15-3 overall season for the fourth-seeded Raiders, which had as much of a stake to the D-III throne as anyone with the way they played during the regular season.

"Our goal at the onset of the year was, 'Let's get to the semis then it's anybody's game," said Belmont head coach Mike Foley following the quarterfinal loss a year ago. "We worked hard all year but came up a bit short. I feel bad for the seniors. This was only the second game all year where we didn't score a goal."

While the loss thwarted the Raiders in their quest for a state championship, the good news for Belmont is that this year's team is once again locked and loaded, and a deep run is well within the realm of possibility.

Belmont's senior class has excelled on the varsity stage for years, and if all the pieces fall into place, the Raiders will certainly have a chance to return to the program's first Final Four since 2012.

"With the return of a veteran team our expectations are very high," offered Foley. "Our season ended too soon last year and this group wants to make it further in the tournament. We are going to rely on our ability to move the ball quickly and continue to improve on our defense which only surrendered 12 goals last year."

Who's in: It's very much a veteran team, though sophomores Colby Brown (F), Griffin Embree (M/F) and Derek Stevens (D) will aid the roster this fall as newcomers.

Who's out: There's plenty of returning talent for the Raiders, though the squad did take some key losses to graduation.

Forward TJ Hennessey was the team's leading scorer up top, and the hulking forward was a matchup nightmare with his combination of size and speed. For his efforts, Hennessey was tabbed as a First Team All-State selection, and one of a handful of players in the running for the D-III Player of the Year. He's continuing his playing career internationally this year, competing with the GPS International Academy in London, England.

While Hennessey's loss is a big blow to the Belmont offense, the defense also took a big hit in the graduation of All-State Honorable Mention selection Kyle Gelinas. The heady Gelinas was one of the most consistent players for the Raiders over the past two seasons, and he helped run the show right in the middle of the back line.

Colby Leroux was a contributor at the outside midfield positions for the Raiders last year before graduating, while rising sophomore Caleb Duggan saw time as a freshman last year but transferred to New Hampton School.

Who to watch: Where to begin?

The Raiders are absolutely loaded with returning talent, and the deep and sizable senior class has impacted the program for several years now.

Senior goalkeeper Jonny Leclair is the backbone between the pipes, and he's been the team's starter in that spot since his freshman season. Having that kind of continuity is certainly not a bad thing, and he's developed into an outstanding goalkeeper who was tabbed All-State Honorable Mention last year.

Fellow seniors Corey Derosier and Doug Price also return, and both found their way onto the All-State list a year ago as juniors. With the pair holding things down in the midfield, Belmont dominated teams in the middle third of the field, leading to a constant barrage of transition goals.

Seniors Tyler Fleming and Chris Marden also return after starting last year, while classmates Logan Wilder and Ryan Gelinas are back as top forward options. Seniors Eli Allman (M), Cole Contigiani (F), Hunter Kenney (D/F), Nick Mackes (M), and Max Schott (M) all return as well.

Junior River Mathieu will serve as a tri-captain along with Price and Derosier, and he'll set the pace defensively with Kyle Gelinas having graduated.

The sophomore trio of Caleb Burke, Zach Ennis and Nolan Gagnon all saw varsity time last year as freshmen.

Prediction: With Leclair in goal and the tandem of Derosier and Price leading the way in the field, expectations are indeed high for the Raiders this fall. Replacing Hennessey's offensive production will be on the 'To Do' list, as will stabilizing the defense with Kyle Gelinas graduating. But with all the pieces returning as well as some up and coming talent filling in the gaps, a run to the Final Four and a challenge for a D-III title is certainly within reason for Belmont this season.

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