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Special season for Belchertown boys soccer team

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

    COURTESY CHRIS DWYER
    The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.
  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.
  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton girls varsity 8 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.
  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.
  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.
  • COURTESY CHRIS DWYER<br/>The Northampton boys varsity 4 rows during the 48th Head of the Charlesin Boston Sunday.

Tony Almeida has had a number of special teams in his 17 years coaching Belchertown boys soccer, but none have been quite like the 2012 edition.

The Orioles are undefeated and have spent the season scoring goals at an incredible pace.

“A lot of it is focus. A lot of it is staying on top of things. We never let down,” senior midfielder Nate Fournier said. “We know when we get to tougher games, we are going to need to keep pushing to score more goals and never get lazy. We have a lot of good movement and we have a lot of guys who have good control of the ball and who are good passers. It works out great for us.”

The defending western Massachusetts champions, who are usually known for their outstanding defense, have outscored their opponents 84-5 this season and are 15-0 this season, 9-0 in the Holley Division.

“They are very good at moving the ball, so it is hard to get in front of the shots,” Hampshire Regional goalkeeper Ben Preston said after the teams’ Oct. 18 game in Westhampton. Preston was outstanding in that game to keep it to a 2-0 defeat.

The offense comes from everywhere and the pressure never stops.

Midfielders Alex DeSantis (13 goals, 11 assists), Chris Riel (14, seven), and Fournier (14, six) all started on last year’s Division 2 sectional title team and have taken their combined games to another level this season.

“Our four midfielders all have tremendous skills and they really open up the game for us,” Almeida said. “We’ve been trying to play with more speed and it’s been working out well.”

But while the offense has been astounding, it still comes down to the defense. And even the team’s ability to push up front is anchored by Almeida’s confidence in his four guys in the back — James Izaat, Mark Chmura, Jack Stinson and Zachary Kuhn — and goalie Zachary Parsons.

“The guys in the back were all new to varsity last year and so we played a lot more defensively to give those guys an opportunity to learn,” Almeida said. “This year, I have a lot more confidence in them, so we opened up the game a little more.”

That meant instead of two more defensive-minded midfielders the team used last year to help the defense, one was moved up to help on the attack.

“We pushed up a man so that way we could attack more,” Fournier said. “We were more confident in our defense because they were all coming back and we have so much confidence in them.”

The team, which returned seven starters from last year’s title squad, has bigger goals this season.

“When we won (WMass last year), we knew that we didn’t win anything,” Riel said. “This year, we knew we had to take it a step higher if we were going to win states, and that’s our ultimate goal at this point.”

STATE GOLF — Fresh off winning his second straight WMass Division 3 Tournament individual title, Holyoke Catholic senior Matt Iczkowski leads the Granby golf team back to the state championship Monday.

The Rams will play at Gannon Municipal Golf Course in Lynn with a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start.

Granby, which was second in the WMass team competition, was 13th at the state tourney last year. Iczkowski was fifth in last year’s state championship.

Frontier’s Jacob Conroy shot an 86 at WMass to qualify as an individual.

Meanwhile, South Hadley’s Brian Bak is headed to the D-1 tournament at Norton Country Club, which begins at 10 a.m.

Bak placed sixth at the WMass championship, where he shot a 79.

BUBBLE WATCH — The Granby boys soccer team can clinch a berth in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament with a win or tie against Mahar (1-12-1, 0-5-1 McGrath North) today at home. The Rams (6-6-5, 4-2-1 McGrath North) can also clinch second place and an automatic berth with a Greenfield (4-7-3, 3-2-2) loss or tie at Turners Falls (8-3, 6-0) tonight.

Meanwhile, Northampton (6-7-4, 3-3-3 Churchill-Moriarty) must win its final game against Longmeadow (2-8-5, 0-3-4) Monday to qualify for the WMass Division 1 tourney.

In girls soccer, Holyoke Catholic needs one of a possible four points to clinch its first Division 3 berth since 2004. The Gaels (7-6-2, 1-4-3 Pioneer) are at Gateway Regional (8-4-1, 5-3) Friday night and at Ware (2-9-2, 0-5-2) on Saturday night.

Hampshire Regional needs at least a win and a tie in its final two contests to make the Division 2 field. The Raiders (6-7-3, 2-4 Central) have gone 6-3-2 to overcome an 0-4-1 start and give themselves an opportunity. They host Southwick (7-3-6, 4-2 Central) today and close out the regular season at Holyoke (4-10-1, 1-4-1 Central) Monday.

Amherst Regional is still alive for its first postseason appearance since 2003, but the Division 1 Hurricanes (4-7-4, 1-5-1 Kurty-Fielding) must beat three league foes they’ve already lost to this season. The first of those must-wins is today at unbeaten Belchertown (14-0-2, 8-0). They are at Westfield (6-5-3, 3-3-1) on Sunday before hosting Agawam (3-8-3, 1-4-1) Tuesday.

In field hockey, South Hadley (6-8-3, 4-3-1 Central) must defeat West Springfield (2-10-2, 0-6-1) Friday at home and get help in order to finish second in the league.

SEEDING MEETINGS — The field hockey, soccer and volleyball tournament seeding meetings will take place next week.

Field hockey is set for Monday at Northampton High School at 9 a.m. Soccer will take place Wednesday at Granby at 1 p.m. Volleyball is set for Nov. 1 at Turners Falls at 11 a.m.

GAME OF THE WEEK — Longmeadow at Frontier Regional, girls volleyball, Monday, 6 p.m.

The Red Hawks celebrate senior night for a stellar class, highlighted by Gatorade state player of the year Cassidy Stankowski, and then the two-time state Division 3 champions take on defending WMass D-2 champs in a final tuneup before the postseason.

HAMP CREW AT CHARLES — The Northampton Youth and Community Rowing girls varsity 8 placed 57th out of 85 boats in 20 minutes, 23.679 seconds Sunday at the 48th Head of the Charles in Boston.

Members of the boat were Katie Sperry (coxswain), Monika Sharma (stroke), Emma Collins (seat 7), Katherine Jenkins-Sullivan (6), Rebecca Mitrani Marmor (5), Madeline Lenz (4), Margaux Paine (3), Sarah Spound (2) and Charlotte Price (bow).

The boys varsity 4 placed 67th out of 85 boats in 19:07.981.

Members of the team include Matthew Steinberg (coxswain), Jonathan Simonds (stroke), Scott Dwyer (3), James Doele (2) and Alexander Smith-Bove (bow).

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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