DANVERS — The Beverly High girls lacrosse team needed its offense to come alive early in the first half after falling behind by a handful of goals on the road against undefeated Danvers.
In crunch time, though, Panthers head coach Alyson Healey looked to her defense — and the unit stood strong to give Beverly the 9-8 win.
"Beverly came to play," Danvers head coach Julie Bevad said afterward. "They wanted it more and we just weren't moving enough on attack and working together."
When Camden Vitale scored her fifth goal of the game to put the Panthers ahead by a single marker, Beverly withstood the Falcons time and time again, keeping Danvers off the scoreboard for the final 17 minutes of the second half.
Danvers opened the game on a 5-1 run, but after Beverly got comfortable in its Zone defense and, with some splendid second half goalkeeping from Hind Algarahi, the Panthers (now 3-1) pulled together and allowed just three goals the rest of the way.
"I think (the girls) played together as a team and didn't get overwhelmed with all of the (Danvers) cutters," explained Healey. "It was just seeing the ball, seeing the open girls and sliding it to them. That's what it's all about; just working together as a team."
Danvers (2-1) scored first when Rachel Trocchi converted after a Panther infraction. Vitale responded with a marker for the visitors, but the Falcons continued to find the seams in the defense with Trocchi scoring again along with Katie McKenna, Sara Perry and Katherine Leonard.
However, Beverly's first half dominance in faceoffs (8-4) allowed the Panthers to score and retain possession throughout the rest of the first half, which closed with Healey's girls ahead 6-5. Vitale finished with four tallies in the first half with Nicole Woods and Katherine Kreamer also finding the back of the net.
"(Winning the faceoffs) was just sticking with the plan and going hard to the ball," said Healey. "We emphasized that a lot during time outs and halftime."
The Falcons found their rhythm on the draw in the second half and markers from Trocchi, Leonard and Katie Szela had Danvers back on top, 8-6, with over 15 minutes left to play. But Vitale and Hayley Lewis kept the pressure on the Falcon defense and a second half hat trick from Lewis proved to be enough offense to get Beverly the win.
As crucial as both Lewis and Vitale were for the Beverly offense, each girl made a
standout play defensively in the final 10 minutes to keep Danvers from evening things up. Lewis scooped up a ground ball to thwart the Falcon attack with under three minutes to play; then, in the final 90 seconds, Vitale intercepted a dangerous McKenna pass on the break and cleared the ball.
"(Vitale and Lewis) have been huge leaders this year; it's really important to have those girls out there," said Healey. "They're very vocal and never quit, so I expected them to come up with some big plays."
Katie Pietrini forced turnover after turnover throughout the game while providing Beverly with a go-to-option on the clear. Outside of the final two minutes when things were a bit helter-skelter, the Beverly clear was just a little more reliable than Danvers' ability to transition smoothly from defense to offense.
Danvers goalkeeper Marina Belakenis stood on her head (especially in the early going) and finished with 13 saves. "Marina played unbelievable," noted Bevad. "She kept us in the game from the first minute on."