Belchertown boys reign supreme in Division 3 again

Laste modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
WESTFIELD — The Belchertown boys soccer team quickly established itself as the superior team in Saturday afternoon’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game.

The Orioles just needed a goal to make their third straight sectional title official.

For good measure, they potted a pair in a 2-0 win over Mount Greylock at Westfield State University.

“We put on so much pressure that we felt it was only a matter of time before we scored,” senior Alex DeSantis said. “The first five minutes of the game were a little slow, but after that we really picked things up. ... Three years in a row. There’s no other way I wanted to go out my senior year.”

Juniors Nick Drost and Oliver Hopkins each scored for Belchertown. Both tallies were set up by senior midfielder Cam Messier.

“This never, ever gets old,” Orioles coach Tony Almeida said. “This is a continuation of the last few years, and these guys are great to coach. The program keeps rolling, and hopefully we can pull a couple more wins. These guys deserve it. The enjoyment for me is watching them celebrating.”

Belchertown (19-2-0) will take on central Mass. champion Nipmuc (11-7-4) in the state Division 3 semifinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Nashoba Regional. The Orioles fell a game short of the state final the past two seasons — both losses to Groton-Dunstable.

Saturday marked the fifth consecutive season the Orioles defeated the Mounties in the postseason.

“I was sitting at the school (early Saturday) wondering if this could be the year (Greylock) breaks through against us,” Almeida said. “Thankfully the odds didn’t turn in their favor.”

With 7 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first half, Drost handled Messier’s pass from the right wing to the middle. He settled the ball and ripped the shot past keeper Cam Filson.

“I saw the open space, Cam gave me a perfect ball and I finished,” Drost said. “It wasn’t any magnificent play, but I knew we needed the goal so I shot as hard as I could. We tried to play some through balls early, and luckily we got that look over the top.”

Hopkins’ insurance tally came with roughly 25 minutes to play. Messier dribbled along the right goal line and fired a shot that escaped Filson’s grasp and hit the post. Hopkins alertly pounced on the rebound to make it 2-0.

Keeper Lewis Berger spent a vast majority of the contest watching the action at the other end of the field. But he stopped the only shot he faced on a direct kick with about 13 minutes to play.

“At the beginning of the game there’s always a worry the other team scores first and then you have to play catchup,” Almeida said. “But once we got the first one, we really dominated and played comfortably.”

A desperate Greylock squad showed some signs of life in the second half. The Mounties took one corner kick, which Hopkins knocked down and cleared, as well as a pair of free kicks.

The score could have been more one-sided had another Orioles goal not been disallowed on an offside call. Two other shots were swatted away by Filson (five saves).

“Coming into the game, we told each other not to let up at any point,” DeSantis said. “In the Hampshire (semifinal) game, we didn’t play well in the second half and kind of let them back into it. So we learned our lesson.”

Belchertown, which started eight seniors, hardly allowed Greylock to cross midfield in the first half. Backs James Izatt, Marc Chmura, Jack Stinson and Zach Kuhn anchored the defensive effort whenever the Mounties touched the ball.

The Orioles have been right at home playing on the turf at Westfield State, where it won the last three Novembers.

“The turf gives us an advantage because it fits into our scheme,” Almeida said. “We like the quick passing game, which we showed (Saturday). On a field like this the ball moves quicker and it’s easier to handle.”

Drost and Almeida asserted that the Orioles’ job isn’t done.

“We want to keep moving on now and hopefully get all the way to states,” Drost said. “We want a state championship and this was a huge step toward that.”

Almeida said, “We don’t know our next opponent, so we’re going to out there and try to play even better than we did (Saturday). If we do that, we’ll see what happens. Two years ago, we were dominated, but last year I thought we dominated and still lost. Hopefully it’s in the cards for us this time.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.