By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY – Throughout the game the defense for both Peabody and Westford Academy limited scoring chances, and the feeling was one goal would decide it.
It was not surprising when Peabody senior Madison Doherty delivered. She raced up the left sideline and uncorked a left footed shot from 35 yards out. The ball tucked into the top right corner of the net just inside the post in the 57th minute of play, giving the Tanners all they would need in a Division 1 North opening round, 1-0 victory as Caitlin Lodi picked up her 11th shutout of the season.
“She’s such a complete player she can score with either foot,” said Tanner coach Dennis Desroches after his 6th seeded team improved to 13-2-4 and will meet unbeaten Masconomet on the road Sunday in the quarterfinal round.
“In my mind Westford (11th seed) plays in the toughest conference (Dual County) with strong teams throughout, and they just beat Lincoln-Sudbury. I’m very glad we had two tough games at the end of the year against Beverly and Methuen to get us ready.”
The first half was even with each team having one good scoring opportunity. The Grey Ghosts top scorer Lauren Steele, who came into the game with 10 goals and 5 assists, hit the right post from 20 yards out in the final two minutes of play. Earlier freshman Chloe Gizzi came close to putting Peabody on the board, but goalie Sam Hyslip made a diving save.
“Westford (9-7-1) is an incredible team, and I thought the first half was very even with each team taking six shots,” said Desroches. “We came out with more energy to start the second half and were able to get in the passing lanes. We were winning 50/50 balls and our defense did a great job.
“Defense got us to the next level, and by defense I mean our goalie, defenders, all the way up to the forwards. The kids worked hard all the way. We’re a young team, but we’ve got great leadership from our seniors. It’s a good core of leaders, and every body is going to benefit from this game because it was a true tournament test.”
The Tanners dominated much of the second half and used their speed to create scoring chances. Erika Nelson and Caroline Colbert came close before Doherty found the mark.
“That goal was a bullet that went into the only place our goalie couldn’t make the save,” said Westford coach Tracy Capone. “It’s a shot that would be difficult to repeat if you tried, but if we had to lose the game I would rather see it on a great shot than on some fluke play. It was a good match up that was back and forth, especially for the first 40 (minutes).”
Doherty hustled all over the field, but only had a couple of scoring threats until her big shot found the mark.
“I really don’t know if I meant it to be a shot or a cross,” said Doherty, who will play at Providence next year. “I usually cross the ball so that’s probably what I was doing. I didn’t think, I just shot and hoped for the best. Our hustle from everybody was incredible.”
Westford didn’t get a shot on net in the second half until 21 minutes had been played. Steele made a strong bid that was just wide of the left corner, and then Lodi came up big on a corner opportunity. Late in the game the Grey Ghosts came close on a free kick, but Lodi tipped the ball away with her hand.
“This year we have a young back line, but it’s easy to coach them,” said Lodi. “Their number 7 (Steele) had great foot skills, and we had to find her when she was on our side of the field. It was important to pick her up. To tell the truth I was getting ready for PK’s until Madison’s goal. That was great, but I had to keep my focus to make sure it held up.”
Lodi praised sophomore stopper Katrina Silva, sweeper Scacchi, and outside backs Alex Lomasney and Macayla Lachance for the way they have come together to strengthen the defense.
“This was a team victory from our bench to the girls on the field,” said Desroches. “There is so much chemistry and togetherness on this team. We know we are going to have to put forth our best performance of the year to beat Masco.”