Boys soccer: Belchertown tallies pair of first-half goals, holds off Amherst 2-0 (PHOTOS)

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 09-20-2023 8:38 PM

BELCHERTOWN – Not every game over the course of a high school season can be the prettiest. Sometimes during the grind of a season, when you’re tired and sore, the best thing you can do is just get by. 

That’s what the Belchertown boys soccer team had to do against Amherst on Wednesday afternoon in a tough Smith League matchup. Two quick goals from the Orioles helped them secure a gritty 2-0 win against the ‘Canes, which poured on the pressure throughout the entirety of the second half in an effort to get on the board. 

“I think our two early goals helped us. We just had to hold that throughout the rest of the game and I think we did that, even though we weren't connecting passes that well in the midfield,” Belchertown’s Tanner Lockwood said. “But our defense really showed up today. They held us in the game.” 

The Orioles (2-2-1) struck first in the ninth minute of the contest when Lockwood sent a pass to a flying Ian McDonald, who raced up the right side of the field and sent the ball past Amherst keeper Rabi Mednicoff-Misra. 

The game stayed 1-0 and kept up its frenetic pace, as both teams attempted to secure the next goal. With just over 22 minutes left in the first half, Belchertown appeared to score a goal, but it was waved off because of a handball in the goalie’s box. Instead, the Orioles were awarded a penalty kick, and Trevor Weiss stepped up to take the shot. Weiss aimed left, drilling the ball into the corner past a Mednicoff-Misra to double the home team’s lead. Belchertown goalie Jack Mandeville made three stops to secure the shutout. 

“I thought we started out flat and we put ourselves in a hole, 2-0. That's really hard to come back from and we just need a little bit more intensity from the start, and that starts with our captains,” Amherst head coach Matt Travis said. “I was pleased with how we responded. Again, we just can't put ourselves in a hole. But I told the guys at halftime the second half is all about heart and effort and I thought they left everything on the field.”

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Amherst (1-5) started to find its rhythm toward the end of the first half, and carried that over into the second frame. With less than eight minutes on the clock in the first half, the ‘Canes earned a corner kick that wound up just wide of the net, and they fired another ball over the crossbar, one of four shots total that went high on Amherst. 

The Orioles did the best they could in the second half to hold off the Hurricanes, led by their defensive line and midfielders Esat Cayan and Lockwood. The Orioles were coming off a tough loss to Ludlow on Monday and playing their second of three games this week.

“(Amherst) is battle tested, they run through the Smith the same way that we do and top to bottom, that's gonna be the best week that western Mass has to offer. To come out here, get a two-goal win –  and we've dealt with some injuries… we've been dealing with them for weeks now,” Belchertown head coach Zach Siano said. “We've been very lucky the last few years without having to deal with (injuries) and I feel like we're kind of paying the penance of days gone by here. But our guys are resilient.” 

Despite Amherst’s late push, the team couldn’t find the back of the net. The ‘Canes are particularly young this year – 14 of the varsity players are new to that level, with just seven players returning from last season. They’ve been working through some growing pains as a result of that, but Travis is pleased with his team’s improvements from the beginning of the season to now. 

“The kids are working really hard and as a coach, that's all I can ask for,” Travis said. “Our communication has been a lot better, our leadership has been really good. I think there's still a lot of details we still need to iron out to be able to take that next step, but we're very close and I still believe in this team.”

Amherst will get a bit of a break before its Monday matchup against East Longmeadow, but the Orioles won’t get much of a rest before they suit up again. The Orioles will face East Longmeadow on Friday at 6 p.m., a home game that should draw a big crowd and plenty of alumni because of the Belchertown Fair.  

Siano and his coaching staff stressed to their team the importance of taking care of themselves both physically and mentally during the grueling week. 

“We talk to them all the time about hydrating, taking care of your bodies and taking care of their minds. Our mental and physical fitness are on equal playing fields here,” Siano said. “We like to look at them as these pseudo-adults. But at the end of the day, they're still kids and they're, at times, having the support of a town on their back… they have big expectations on them and our team is expected to win. So when those guys feel like they're coming up short, it can tax them mentally as well. So it's not just the physical aspect.” 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.]]>