By Matt Williams
---- — BEVERLY — The Beverly girls soccer team has a dangerous triangle at the top of their formation, and to be honest, it’s easier to solve the Pythagorean theorem than it is to find a way to slow them down.
Caitlin Harty, Casey Cook and Eva Gourdeau are all so strong on the ball that they beg for extra attention for defenders. As soon as those defenders over-commit to one of them, the others are there to make them pay the price.
Visiting Woburn tried marking Gourdeau on the turf at Beverly High yesterday, and Harty and Cook connected for three goals in a 4-1 Panther victory in the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
Beverly (16-2-3) is through to the North semis for the second straight year, facing Concord-Carlisle Saturday morning at Manning Field in a rematch of last year’s D1 North quarter won by the Panthers (both teams moved to D2 this year in the MIAA realignment).
“They’re dangerous up top. To have Gourdeau coming from behind, you have to respect her and cheat towards her, and she’s such a distributor of the ball that you can’t,” said Woburn coach Mike Higgins.
“If you make one mistake in the final third, boom, it’s in the back of the net. They’re dynamic as heck up top.”
Tenth-seeded Woburn (11-6-3) hung with Beverly for the first 20 minutes, playing physical defense and taking away space. As the officials clamped down on rough defending, the Panthers started to possess the ball on their feet and it paid off.
Harty opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after the Panthers won a loose ball when Woburn couldn’t clear a saved corner. Three minutes after that, Rose Terner finished a skillful pass from Harty that sailed clear across the field to make it 2-0.
“I was very proud of how we played in the first half,” said Beverly coach Kristin Simpson. “The middle of the field was really cluttered and once we started to spread out and break them down, we got our opportunities. I was really proud of how we worked the ball through.”
In the 34th minute, Cook did some dribbling to carry herself into the box. She found Harty in front of the net and the Holy Cross-bound senior finished to give the Panthers a commanding 3-0 edge.
“Our clears went to them and next thing you know it’s 3-0,” said Higgins. “We had about 12 minutes of hiccup and it was a mighty big hiccup because they punished us.”
Harty scored her 48th of the season in the opening two minutes of the second half when Gourdeau sprung her for a long run up the right side. At 4-0, Beverly was well on its way to making back-to-back semi trips for the first time since 1996-97.
“Caitlin’s speed sets her apart, but technically she’s so good with her feet, too,” said Simpson, who was thrilled to see the variety of styles of goals her team created.
“To have Caitlin, Casey and Eva in that triangle, it’s so many weapons and they’re hard to mark because they’re all so smart. I love having Rose on the wing because she can attack and she also does a great job of getting back.”
Beverly played a bit tentative in the second half, especially after Sarah Visnick was injured. Woburn junior Kaycie Burke scored in the 70th minute to make it 4-1, but Beverly’s mids (the stout Maddie Curran, Caitlyn Munzing and Meghan Berking) didn’t give the Tanners enough possession to create the chances they needed to get back in the game.
“We kind of stopped playing. I know there was a little bit of time management there, but I would’ve liked to see us create more opportunities,” said Simpson.
Keeper Kyra Wolonsavich made five saves and Beverly outshot Woburn 14-6 with a 4-0 advantage in corners. Senior Kristen O’Connor nearly scored on two free kicks, one of which went off the bar, and defenders Diandra Crowley and Kadrianna Letts were in position the few times they were challenged.
Cook nearly scored twice, only to be denied by the Woburn goalie.
“Woburn was physical and that was good for us. In the tournament, that’s what you’re going to see,” Simpson said.