Field hockey: Belchertown puts the pressure on Athol in 5-0 victory

  • Lauren Cooper, of Belchertown, advances the ball against Athol, Wednesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Katherine Wrona, left, of Belchertown, defends Sadey Lehtomaki, right, of Athol, Wednesday at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Abigail Olden, of Belchertown, takes the field to open the first half against Athol, Wednesday, at Belchertown High School. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2019 9:34:50 PM
Modified: 9/18/2019 9:34:40 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Lindsay Wright doesn’t want the ball to get anywhere near her team’s defense during games.

Not because the unit lacks talent, but because keeping pressure on an opponents defense through relentless pursuit on offense is how Belchertown likes to create opportunities.

“The goal is to keep (the ball) in the front end of the field,” Wright said. “I don’t want my defense to even touch the ball. We play in a way that uses the whole field. ... If (our forwards) want the ball, they’re going to have to keep it up there.”

The Belchertown field hockey team defeated Athol, 5-0, on Wednesday to stay undefeated. Kaleigh Cooper had two goals to lead the Orioles.

Athol (1-3, 1-3 Tri-County) was held to two shots on goal while Belchertown (4-0-1, 4-0) produced 18.

The Orioles put pressure on to start the game with deep balls into Athol’s zone and intense pressing, but didn’t find the back of the net in the first 20 minutes of play.

“At first it takes us a while to get into the swing of things, but once we get a goal and some motivation we really work as a team to get goals in there,” Kaleigh Cooper said. “It’s a team effort.”

Belchertown scored four goals in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Kaleigh Cooper scored twice, Ashley Messier and Abigail Olden scored once. Hailey Boutin and Elyssa Wrona each had one assist. Messier had two assists.

The program has outscored opponents 19-1 through five games.

“Once we score it just starts to roll,” Wright said. “I’m not really sure what that is about, I wish it happened sooner in the game, but usually once we get it, it starts going.”

The Orioles attacked on offense in multiple ways. Throughout the game, the forwards and midfielders sent long balls into Athol’s defense in hopes of getting a deflection. Belchertown also got through Athol’s defense with smart passes and speed on counter attacks.

“We had great control today with our sticks and what our decisions were,” Wright said. “It’s something we have been working on.”

This season is Belchertown’s third as a varsity program. After making the playoffs last year and finishing 11-6-2, the team is motivated to perform well on both ends of the field.

“We want that record again,” Kaleigh Cooper said. “We are of the mindset of fighting as hard as we can to keep the ball out of the goal and to not give up.”

Lauren Cooper kept the team’s offense moving early in second half with an unassisted goal.

Wright has been impressed with her team’s overall play this season, but Lauren Cooper has been a welcomed surprise.

The freshman started playing the sport two years ago and has put in a lot of work in the offseason.

“(Lauren) was outstanding today,” Wright said. “She has been playing all year long and it shows.”

The team’s junior class has played well in the first few games of the season. Messier and Olivia Plate have been two standouts from the group.

“They have matured a lot in the last year,” Wright said.

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