Class B boys soccer: Belchertown captures 3rd straight Western Mass. championship

  • The top-seeded Belchertown boys soccer team won their third consecutive sectional title after blanking No. 2 Hampshire Regional, 1-0, in the title game of the Western Mass. Class B boys soccer tournament Sunday at Berte Field in Springfield.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/JENN GOUVIN

  • Belchertown players (left to right) Zachary Fraleigh, Hunter LePage and Shay O’Neill celebrate with the trophy after beating Hampshire Regional, 1-0, to capture the Western Mass. Class B boys soccer title Sunday at Berte Field in Sprinfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/KELLY ZAWISTOWSKI

  • Hampshire Regional’s Michael Thibault, left, tries to avoid the tackle of Belchertown’s Jack Holt during the top-seeded Orioles’ 1-0 victory in the Western Mass. Class B boys soccer final Sunday at Berte Field in Sprinfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/KELLY ZAWISTOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/31/2021 7:13:09 PM

SPRINGFIELD – Every season Belchertown’s Class of 2022 has been able to compete for a Western Massachusetts boys soccer championship, the Orioles have delivered the trophy.

They helped reclaim the Division 3 title as freshmen in an overtime thriller against Frontier in 2018 then repeated as the sophomore core of an eventual state champion in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all fall tournaments last season, denying them an opportunity as juniors.

The top-seeded Orioles ensured they kept the streak alive Sunday, defeating No. 2 Hampshire Regional 1-0 for the Western Mass. Class B title at Berte Field.

“It’s something great to accomplish in your high school career,” Belchertown senior Hunter LePage said. “To do it with my friends and this team is something special. You can’t take it for granted.”

After trailing in both their previous sectional playoff games, the Orioles emphasized a strong start against Hampshire, which entered the game undefeated and had allowed just two goals all season.

“We wanted to really get them out of their comfort zone. I don’t believe they played down at all this year,” Belchertown coach Zach Siano said. “We wanted to try to change the way they play, change their formation and get them a little shook. We thought we could do that if we jumped on them early.”

Belchertown (14-1-5) only needed 15 minutes. The Orioles earned a corner that dropped in the penalty box. It caused a scrum of bodies out front of the goal, and an Oriole fired a shot that bounced off Hampshire keeper Elan Kuntz. In the melee, the Raiders tried to clear the ball, but it bounced back off one of them and into the net for the game’s only goal.

“None of us touched it. The ball went in the net and we all went crazy,” Belchertown senior Joey Bianco said. “That’s all that matters. Whatever it takes.”

Not for a lack of trying. The Orioles utilized several free kick opportunities to put the ball in dangerous situations. Five minutes into the second half, Belchertown’s Jack Holt fired a near-perfect shot that Kuntz batted away. Bianco charged through and put his shin to the rebound but knocked it over the bar.

Halfway through the second half, Shay O’Neil fired a low shot underneath Hampshire’s wall that bounced to Holt, but he sent the attempt wide.

“I’d say encouraging. Every time we had a shot and a chance it kept pushing us and pushing us to keep firing the ball on net,” LePage said.

Hampshire didn’t fold after conceding early. The Raiders maintained their pressure and physicality to earn several good looks at shots, but they were unable to capitalize.

“There weren’t many scoring chances for either team,” Hampshire coach Dan Moynahan said. “I love the way we started the second half. We created three or four decent chances. Belchertown took away our time and space very quickly. We had to play at a different pace, and we didn’t have as much time on the ball as we normally do.”

Belchertown keeper Jacob Chaisson kept out four shots to earn the clean sheet. It was Belchertown’s 11th shutout of the season and the first time the Raiders were held without a goal.

“(Defenders) Hunter (LePage) and Grayson (Marques) certainly locked them down. They're smart, they're savvy. They understood at the end of the game what to do and what not to do,” Siano said.

The Orioles knew just what to do with the championship plaque once they received it. After hoisting it high, Belchertown ran over to its alumni and supporters to chants of ‘ole.’ In a quieter moment after, each player takes a bite of the trophy to leave an imprint of his teeth. It’s a tradition dating back at least a decade for Belchertown, which has won six titles since 2011 (and nine overall).

The Class of 2022 owns three of those championships and one of the program’s two state crowns.

“All the seniors, all we know is winning,” Bianco said. “We’re just focused on the state championship now. That’s all that matters.”

The Orioles were No. 1 in the most recent MIAA Division 3 state rankings, which would allow them to host every game until the semifinals. 

The state tournament provides a silver lining for the Raiders. Sunday’s final was considered an exemption game by the MIAA and won’t count toward the state ranking for either team. That means Hampshire has a great shot to retain its top ranking in Division 4 as it chases a state championship now with the benefit of experience after playing in a final already.

“It does kind of leave a better feeling in your stomach knowing you have one more try,” Moynahan said.

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