By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY — Things were pretty even for the middle portion of yesterday’s Northeastern Conference girls lacrosse matchup between Beverly and Peabody.
The Panthers, however, owned the beginning and end of the contest, resulting in a 16-8 win over the visiting Tanners.
Marita Smallman poured in a team-high five goals and Elizabeth Musumeci added four goals while Alicia Cecchini and Meagan Henrichon added a pair of goals each. The Panthers had offensive contributions from nearly everyone who stepped on the field.
The Panthers (2-1) scored four of the game’s first five goals, then closed the contest on an 8-2 run. The Tanners had cut the Beverly lead to two goals early in the second half, but Beverly responded by scoring the next six markers.
Peabody (1-2) was whistled for its fourth yellow card and had to play the final 15 minutes man down.
“One of our goals was to win the draw and score first, and we’ve been able to do that the last three games,” said Beverly head coach Alyson Healey. “We’ve had problems recognizing when we have control and maintaining that control. Today they understood momentum and weren’t going to let (Peabody) take it from them.
“We have some very talented offensive players, and sometimes it’s easy to sit back and let them take over,” Healey said. “(But yesterday), all of the girls stepped up.”
A big part of the Panthers’ run was draw control. Even when Peabody was able to control possession of the faceoff, Beverly kept forcing turnovers and rarely allowed the Tanners to have comfortable possessions.
“It all took place in the circle. They won too many draws,” said Peabody head coach Dennis Desroches. “Our yellow card trend continued. You play that much man down, and that’s how it’s going to go.”
Courtney Smith picked up two yellow cards in the opening 20 minutes of the game, forcing one of Peabody’s top offensive players to the sideline for the remainder of the afternoon. Aly Bortone (3 goals) and Lauren Wolfe (2 goals) tried to keep the Tanner offense afloat, but against the Beverly zone they were too sloppy trying to force passes into tight spaces.
Once the Tanners put the ball on the turf, Beverly was quick to scoop it up and break into transition.
“We were rushing (on offense). We were not moving the ball the way we should,” noted Desroches. “Beverly runs a zone and when you force it into the zone without good ball movement, you’re going to turn the ball over.”
Outside of a two-minute stretch at the beginning of the second half, the Panthers were sound defensively. Cecchini, Becca Salah, Camden Vitale and Felicity Otterbein were the key cogs in the unit until Otterbein was issued her second yellow card in the second half and had to sit out the remainder of the contest.
Still, the unit held strong in the absence of one of its three senior captains.
“Helping on defense. We’ve worked on it from Day 1,” said Healey. “We have really strong leaders back on defense. When Felicity went out, they showed character and didn’t let that affect them. They rose to the occasion.”
The game wouldn’t have been as close as it was early in the second half if it hadn’t been for the phenomenal work done by Peabody goalie Aly Hennigan, who made 13 saves.
Sarah Napolitano (goal, assist), Sydney Cooke (goal, assist) and Smith (goal) were the other Tanner goal scorers while Beverly saw Vitale (goal, assist), Megan Gavin (goal) and Erica Beaudry (goal) all find the back of the net.
Cat Cross (2 saves) and Kyra Wolonsavich (2 saves) split time in goal for the Panthers.
The Panthers will need to keep moving in the right direction as they prepare for Monday’s road game against Wakefield. “We’re happy where we are, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Healey. “It was a great win and we’ll enjoy it for today ... then get back to work preparing for Wakefield.”