By Ryan Kilian
BELMONT – Belmont Hill and Roxbury Latin locked horns on Wednesday in an early-season match-up of two of the best team defenses in the lSL. The frigid temperature and wintry mix set a perfect stage for what turned out to be a great defensive battle.
Host Belmont Hill would lead from start to finish as they defeated the Red Foxes (2-1) by a score of 6-3.
For us it starts with the fact that we have four seniors back there on defense,” Belmont Hill coach Tim Sullivan said after the game. “Alex Santangelo, Mack Rushand Matt Harrity, along with our two goalies in CJ Layton and Reed Junkin have played around forty lacrosse games together the past four years. As a coach, when you have a veteran group back there like that, you feel a little more comfortable.”
Belmont Hill’s (3-0) starting close defense of Santangelo, Rush and Harrity did a nice job of containing the dangerous Roxbury Latin attack unit of Sean Lowrie, Tommy von den Benken, and Martin Buckley. Buckley would score the lone goal for the unit in the second half, with Belmont Hill keying in on shutting down the explosive and talented Lowrie.
“Lowrie is an unbelievable player,” Sullivan said of the Duke University bound attackman. “It feels like he has been in the league a long time. He is a terrific competitor who has scored a number of game-winning goals in his career. We were fortunate enough to play strong team defense against him today. You do not stop a player like him, you just hope to hold him in check a little and today we were fortunate enough to do so.”
Belmont Hill has their own offensive star in midfielder and Princeton commit Charlie Durbin. Durbin, who seems to get better each time we see him play, is ready to shoulder the offensive load for the Hillies this season. The senior notched three assists and did a nice job controlling the pace and possessions for the victors.
In addition to Buckley’s goal Roxbury Latin received tallies from midfielders Parker Kent and Zander Keough. Long poles Will Weitzel and Andrew Song also stood tall for Roxbury Latin on the afternoon, as the two athletic and exceptionally quick defenders did a nice job in all phases of the game.
Both goalies also stepped up when their teams needed them most. Layton made 12 saves for Belmont Hill, highlighted by a string of big third quarter stops. Eighth grader Deven Varney also played very well in net on Wednesday for Roxbury Latin. The Cohasset native was particularly strong in the clearing game for the Red Foxes.
It is never easy to follow a star in the cage, as Varney has the unenviable task of stepping in for former RL and current Harvard goalie Robert Shaw, who had an amazing 2014 season in the cage for RL. Varney looks up for the challenge and the future certainly looks bright for the talented youngster.
YOUTH ATTACK MOVEMENT
How do you replace a starting attack unit that helped lead you to a 2013 league title, second place finish in 2014, and accounted for much of your offensive success the three past seasons? The simple answer is that you do not. Belmont Hill graduated arguably the top attack unit in New England last season as Danny Seibel (Villanova), Joe Delaney (Colgate) and Kyle Parsons (Boston University, via Bucknell) all left lasting legacies on the Belmont Hill program.
“We are playing about six different guys at attack right now,” Sullivan said. “We are trying to fill the big shoes of three Division one players and we have six very capable and very hard-working young players.”
Wednesday was certainly a strong showing for the young and inexperienced group, as sophomore Christian O’Neill led the unit with a hat trick, while freshman Brian Antonelli and senior Tommy Wynn both added a goal to lead the offense. Midfielder Matt O’Neal also scored a goal for Belmont Hill, on a nice dodge from the top of the cage.
One thing is for certain; both Belmont Hill and Roxbury Latin should be competing for the top spot in the ISL all season long. Both teams possess the necessary ingredients for success in the ISL, as they feature great coaching, staunch team defense and offensive star power, along with a mix of youthful exuberance.
When pressed for additional individual standouts Sullivan was quick to point out his team-centered approach.
“For us this year, we are just 22 young men going to work every day,” Sullivan stressed.
Both teams enter the meat of their early season schedules this week, as the road in the ISL never gets easier.
Roxbury Latin will take on St. Paul’s and Nobles in the upcoming week. Belmont Hill will also battle St. Paul’s, but will first take on ISL power Governor’s Academy on Saturday. Faceoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Belmont Hill.