By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — Anthony Nardella has an in-depth scouting report of the Beverly boys lacrosse team considering he was an assistant coach for the Panthers before taking the head coaching job with Salem this spring.
Even with all that knowledge, Nardella was powerless on the sideline yesterday as he watched the Panthers’ midfielders dominate in transition as Beverly scored five unanswered goals to start the game.
The Panthers were in control from the outset of a 13-4 decision over the Witches.
“Beverly has some great athletes in the midfield. They can all run,” said Nardella, whose team dropped to 11-6. “It’s tough to emulate in practice. Six-on-six I thought we held our own but they got a lot of their goals in unsettled situations off of our mistakes. They are a good team and they make you pay anytime you turn the ball over.”
Dom Abate (two goals) and Brendan Flaherty (one goal, three assists) pushed the tempo off of faceoffs and virtually anytime the Witches turned the ball over. Beverly scored five of its first seven goals in transition and held a 9-1 advantage at the half.
“We’ve been playing really well in transition when we can catch, throw and move the ball,” said Beverly (14-3) head coach John Pynchon. “The more we move the ball the better we play.”
It’s a testament that Matt Page can speak to. Page was the recipient of that ball movement on a number of occasions yesterday and showed his elite finishing ability with a few quick-stick goals around the crease area for a game-high four goals.
Ryan Shipp (one assist) and Nick Albano (three assists) also contributed hat tricks for the Panthers.
“Matt Page had a great day finishing around the crease,” said Pynchon. “If we catch, throw and shoot that way we do well.”
The offense took advantage of its opportunities while the Beverly defense severely limited any chances the Witches had in front of keeper Kevin Lally, who made six first half saves before giving way to Ryan Hagerty. Ty Marks held the always dangerous Chad Coehlo in check while Andrew Irving, Mike Dooling and the Beverly midfielders were aggressive, but disciplined as a unit.
“We’ve been playing great team defense the last few games. We’ve been (giving up) under five goals since the Westford game,” noted Pynchon. “The whole defense really played well and they’ve really worked on it. It’s hard to run by us 1-on-1 and when we’re sliding it forces teams to move the ball.”
The unsung hero of the game and for much of the season was Conor Leahy, who is one of the Panthers top all-around players.
“He’s a guy who’s never going to show on the score sheet,” Pynchon said of Leahy. “But he does everything for us.”
There weren’t many highlights for Salem, which scored three of its four goals with the Beverly starters on the bench. Craig Denehy had a pair of markers with Coehlo and Mitchell Osgood contributing a goal each for the Witches.
The only area Salem didn’t get dominated in was on faceoffs thanks to a gritty performance from Matt Willson, who was visibly fighting through an injury just to take draws for Salem.