By Matt Williams Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — BEVERLY — Time and space are everything on the soccer field.
Yesterday in a Division 1 North quarterfinal, Beverly’s back line allowed Concord-Carlisle none, and in the first minute of the game the visiting Patriots gave the Panthers just a bit too much.
The fourth-seeded Panthers rode the momentum of an early goal and its best defensive performance of the season to a 2-0 over the Concord-Carlisle on the turf at Beverly High.
Beverly (16-3) advances to the North semifinals against Westford Academy tomorrow at Woburn (5:30 p.m.). A state tournament win over a Dual County League team is immense for the Panthers, who have won two postseason games in the same season for the first time since 1997.
“It’s amazing,” said junior defender Kristen O’Connor, who sacrificed her body to hold powerful C-C striker Andrea O’Brien off the scoreboard. “I honestly kind of can’t believe it.”
Sophomore midfielder Eva Gourdeau found some space in the first minute of play and took full advantage. Her precision pass sprung Caitlin Harty down the left side, and the record-setting junior beat C-C goalkeeper Angela Debruzzi to put the Panthers on top, 1-0.
“We were literally just sitting down on the bench when Caitlin put that one in,” said Beverly coach Kristin Simpson. “Putting that in the back of the net got rid of our early game jitters. We settled down and played great.”
Harty scored both Beverly goals, her 47th and 48th of the season, and extended her single season school points record to 59.
Beverly goalkeeper Casey Cook made eight saves and played a commanding, aggressive style that seemed to catch C-C off guard. She came out of her net to shut down a clean break by dangerous striker Emma Brandhorst, and also came out to deny a 2-on-1 between Brandhorst and the Boston College-bound O’Brien later in the first half.
“Casey only knows one way to play and that’s all the way,” said Simpson. “She puts pressure on those forwards and it’s tough to get it by her.”
Led by O’Connor and captain Diandra Crowley, Beverly’s defense didn’t give O’Brien many open looks at the net. The pair worked as a unit and held their spots off the ball, which allowed fellow defenders Becca Kemmer (another captain) and Nicole Kirsch to do the same.
“It’s communication. That’s huge between me and D and with our outside backs,” said O’Connor. “We made sure we stayed on our feet and contained, and we were aggressive. It’s great knowing we have that security behind us in a keeper like Casey.”
The Patriots (15-4) had some close calls and controlled possession for much of the second half. Beverly took advantage of a free kick with about 10 minutes left, with O’Connor’s well-placed boot deflected by Harty for the crucial 2-0 advantage.
“Caitlin and I have played together for a long time and we play club together, and we connect on those,” said O’Connor, the Panthers’ free kick specialist. “I know she’s fast and she has really good feet so I was looking to get it to her on that one.”
Senior mid Allison Collins also played well for the Panthers, who saw Gourdeau narrowly miss a goal in the middle of the first half and controlled most of the action after extending their lead to two goals. Meggie Manzo and Rachel Kenny also contributed to the possession game.
“This was an intense game that would’ve gone either way. We did a great job communicating and working together as a team,” said Simpson. “These girls work really hard and while we had some struggles at times, today we put everything together.”
Beverly’s 16 wins on the season are the most for the program since that magical 1997 season, coach Dick Maitland’s last. Current coach Simpson was a sophomore that year, when the Panthers went 19-1-2 and fell to Winchester in the North final.