READING — A corner was awarded with about three minutes to play in overtime, and the ensuing free hit found the stick of Beverly’s most explosive player, Nicole Woods.
A Division 1 college player headed to Louisville on scholarship, Woods cranked a low, hard shot along the turf surface towards the Acton-Boxboro goal. Seemingly labeled for the bottom left corner of the cage, Colonials’ goalkeeper Kathryn Salemme somehow sprawled to her right, reached out with her right arm and managed to stop the Panther captain’s blast with her stick.
And then, in a flash, it was all over for the Panthers.
The top-ranked and unbeaten Colonials transitioned the ball upfield quickly as Leah Cardarelli got by the Beverly defense. She was taken down just in front of goalkeeper Felicity Otterbein, resulting in a penalty stroke with 2:43 to play. That’s where her older sister, senior Eleana Cardarelli, buried it for the game’s only goal, giving A-B a 1-0 victory in the Division 1 North semifinals.
“We absolutely brought everything we had to this game,” said Beverly head coach Trish Murphy of her six-time defending Northeastern Conference champions. “To come in as the lower seed and go scoreless through regulation and almost all of that 15-minute overtime with the No. 1 team in the state ... I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”
Beverly finished its season at 17-3-1, with two of those losses coming to the defending state champions from Acton-Boxboro.
“We’re honored just to be playing them,” veteran A-B coach Mae Shoemaker said of Beverly. “One break was all that separated us.”
With four Division 1 college players on their roster — Eleana Cardarelli will be at Providence next fall while her sister, along with fellow junior Maggie Bettez (an Under-17 National Team player) are both already ticketed to the University of Michigan while senior Cara Conery is bound for Sacred Heart — the Colonials (now 20-0-1) were as good as advertised. They controlled the flow of the contest for long stretches, held a decisive 18-6 advantage on corners and played with the poise of a team that has played in, and won, big games beforehand.