By JEN GENTILE
MELROSE—It was a perfect Friday night for the Melrose Red Raider soccer team, who picked up a 3-1 win over Belmont under the lights of the West Knoll field in Melrose and improved their record to 2-1 this early fall season.
Having begun their season against a historically tough large division of the Middlesex league and pulling away with two key wins, Melrose is in great shape as they begin Freedom League play this week. But if past seasons are any indication, this side of the Middlesex League could hold some of the better competition, as Melrose will battle with standouts Watertown and Stoneham this week.
The Red Raiders were simply masterful against the Marauders, playing complete soccer and scoring in the first half with a goal from freshman standout Amir Lahkiky who was assisted by junior Joey Beshel. Melrose took a 1-0 lead going into the half before senior captain Parker Thorton made it 2-0 in the second half on an assist by Damian Markovic. And as a finale, junior Joey Beshel scored on an assist by sophomore Liam Gavin to give Melrose all the offense they needed in the 3-1 win.
According to coach Dean Serino, it was a total team win and part of a great start for Melrose. “Belmont is a team that we play close with or battle in a draw,” he says. “We almost always play on the road with them, so it was nice to host them here. I thought we played very well, moved the ball well. We just came to play. Who doesn’t love to play under the lights on Friday night?”
He credited the team’s defense. “Belmont had a couple tough players, but I thought Matt Whelan, Max Farmelant and Niall Gavin were excellent on the outside.”
Also playing strong was Liam O’Hara, who was a machine in midfield play. He took total command against Belmont. “Liam’s the engine that makes us function. What he does allows Joey and Parker and the rest to score. He played outstanding,” says the coach. “I thought our backs were fantastic. Niall [Gavin], Matt [Whelan], Sam O’Donnell. They play together so well and their talents are growing.”
To date, Melrose has scored five goals behind the work or Amir Lahkiky (2) and Parker Thorton (2) and Joey Beshel.
This week, they will play Stoneham on Wednesday (post deadline), a team who recently beating Lexington, but lost to Belmont, so anything can happen when the two teams meet up. Last fall, Melrose and Stoneham played to 0-0 shutouts so this season they’re prepared to see who will blink first. “As you can see, the league is unpredictable. We’re looking at each opponent with new eyes,” says Serino.
Tonight, Melrose hosts league rival Watertown under the lights of the Knoll at 5:45 p.m. It should prove to be a marquee match up. Both have had shares of Freedom League titles over the last 5 years. The desire to win is deep.
“We’re certainly glad to enter league play not down 3-0,” says Serino. “But, we don’t focus too much on the league right now or projecting about games down the road. We try to focus on ourselves and keep it one game at a time. We’re young and our bench is getting deeper. We’re not phased and are growing up every game.”