PEABODY — Senior defenders Kara Digiacomo and Cayla Bucci are the unsung heroes of the unbeaten Peabody girls soccer team.
In a tense second half yesterday at Donahue Field, the duo combined to hold off Concord-Carlisle and striker Andrea O’Brien, while Peabody got goals from Hayley Dowd and Madison Doherty in a 2-0 win.
The Tanners (12-0), unbeaten in their last 36 games, were ahead 1-0 when Bucci made a text-book slide tackle to get the ball away from the Boston College bound O’Brien. Later, Digiacomo hurried back and took the ball from a running O’Brien to break up another scoring bid.
“We would not be where we are without those fullbacks,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “That line is always on, whether its offense, defense, on ball or off ball — its the best fullback line we’ve ever had.”
Peabody keeper Caitlin Lodi made two excellent saves on O’Brien bids before Doherty headed a Dowd throw-in over the C-C keeper with 14 minutes remaining for the crucial two-goal lead.
Playing without senior Bianca Muscato at stopper due to injury, the Tanners’ backline didn’t buckle under the pressure of playing the Patriots (10-2), who saw their own nine game winning streak snapped.
Freshman Katrina Silva stepped in at stopper and had a very strong game, as did fullback Alex Lomasney.
“I was a little hesitant because of the youth, but we threw Katrina in that stopper role and she was fantastic against one of the top strikers around,” said Desroches. “To keep (O’Brien) off the board, those girls deserve a ton of credit.”
Peabody, ranked No. 1 nationally by the NSCAA, had one of its stronger efforts of the year in the passing game. That was in large part thanks to the play of the always steady Bucci and Digiacomo, who is also Peabody’s free kick specialist and has four goals on the season.
“Kara might be the best player in the league,” said Dowd, herself a two-time Northeastern Conference MVP. “What other defensive player scores and defends the way she does? She’s having a great year.”
Concord-Carlisle carried play for much of the first half yesterday, but Lodi and the defense were there to break up the attacking bids. In the second half, the Tanners pressed forward and took control by winning loose balls in the middle with excellent efforts by Caroline Colbert and Christa Trombley.
“We got away from what makes us great a little bit, but then Caroline and Christa started winning everything in the middle and looking for passes,” said Dowd. “We showed that we can turn on that switch and play with a great team.”
All-EMass striker Victoria Digiacomo went down with an injury in the first half and contributions from a number of players, including Sarah Sousa, Erika Nelson, Sarah Napolitano, Sarah Godschall, and Christine Feudo, helped Peabody retain control.
“This was a team effort without Victoria for two-thirds of the game and without Bianca. The way the kids hung together and put together an incredible second half won the game,” said Desroches. “Concord-Carlisle is one of the best teams in the state and to control the second half the way we did dictated the outcome.”
Dowd broke a scoreless tie with an end-to-end run in the 55th minute of play for an unassisted goal. She also assisted on Doherty’s tally, giving her multiple points in eight straight games.
“Hayley turned it up in the second half,” said Desroches. “She was distributing, making runs ... she’s just do dangerous with that ball.”
Lodi tied her season high with 11 saves, including eight in the second half. Peabody also defended four C-C corner kicks.
“We didn’t keep our shape well in that first half and we fixed that,” said Desroches.
Victoria Digiacomo nearly scored in the first half when she expertly headed a long pass to herself around the keeper, but her shot hit the post. The senior’s injury doesn’t appear to be a long term concern, Desroches said, while Muscato will be evaluated again later this week.