By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — SWAMPSCOTT — “I believe; don’t let up!”
That was the message Swampscott High field hockey coach Toby Channen kept shouting to her team yesterday morning — a message that apparently resonated with her players.
Channen’s faith in her team paid off as the Big Blue handed Beverly its first loss, 2-1, in a Northeastern Conference showdown at Phillips Park.
It had been nearly four years to the day — Oct. 14, 2008 — that Beverly had lost a field hockey game to another NEC team. Ironically, it was Swampscott that beat them by the same 2-1 score that day, as well.
“This is the first league loss for us since I’ve been playing,” said Beverly junior captain Nicole Woods, who scored the lone goal for her team. “Swampscott always gives us a tough game.
“Having a loss is brutal, but it’s better happening now than in the tournament like last year (in the North quarterfinals). We can learn from this game.”
Knocking off Beverly was no easy task. In the final seconds of the game, the visitors swarmed the front of the Swampscott net in an attempt to tie the score, but Big Blue goalkeeper Katie Samiljan managed to keep the ball out of her cage as time expired.
Swampscott’s win certainly tightens things up in the NEC title chase. Four-time defending champion Beverly still has the edge with an 11-1 overall record, but the Big Blue — who with a loss yesterday would have seen their own title hopes all but ended — inched closer up the standings at 9-1-1.
“After losing to Beverly the first time, my girls really wanted this one,” Channen said. “The team has a lot of heart, and this was a complete team effort. They deserve this win.”
Beverly (which defeated Swampscott earlier in the season, 3-0) not only lost its first game but also one of its top players in the late stages of the game to an injury. Junior MaryCate Flaherty suffered a head injury and needed an ambulance to take her to the hospital, where X-rays were negative.
“We don’t have the concussion results back yet,” said Panthers head coach Trish Murphy, who accompanied Flaherty to the hospital. “Hopefully, we’ll have her back before long.”
It was the second serious injury in the last week for Beverly, which lost star right wing Kate Silvestri, a junior, to a broken hand against Marblehead.
On a day where both teams had trouble stickhandling in the long, wet grass, Woods had an outstanding contest for Beverly, scoring on a penalty stroke with 11:38 remaining to cut Swampscott’s lead in half. The Panthers — who finished with 19 corners, including 11 in the second half — kept up the offensive pressure the rest of the way, but couldn’t net the equalizer.
“At the end, everyone on the field was taking swings at the ball,” Woods said. “We were so close to having a penalty stroke called, but time ran out.”
Panthers forward Katie Pietrini came close to scoring twice. In the first half, her shot went across the crease with Samiljan out of her net, but she just missed the far corner. Late in the second half, she had a breakaway, but was denied by the Big Blue’s Nora Walker right in front of the net.
“My defense did a great job,” Channen said. “Those last few seconds were crazy; Beverly came so close. Samiljan had a terrific game with 17 saves; that’s the most she has been challenged this year.
The hosts, who had been applying pressure on Beverly keeper Felicity Otterbein early on, got on the scoreboard nine minutes into the game when Christina King was set up by Tori Thistle.
Swampscott then scored what proved to be the game-winner off a corner with just under five minutes played in the second half. Captain Alexa Steriti set up Sammi Sinrich, who scored on a high shot.
Steriti had the difficult task of covering Woods, who somehow always seemed to have the ball on her stick. The Big Blue tried to keep it away from her, but she was all over the field working hard.
“She’s a phenomenal player and is always around the ball,” Steriti, who has verbally committed to play at Union College, said of Woods. “Marking her was a big challenge; it’s hard to do, but I love the challenge.
“This is a very big win for us, a huge accomplishment. It was such an exciting game, especially how it ended.”
After capitalizing on a rare corner opportunity, the Big Blue seldom put any pressure on Beverly, and play was in its end of the field the majority of the time. That’s when the defense took over, time and again breaking up scoring bids by the Panthers.
“I have to give a shoutout to my entire defense,” Channen said. “Tessa Beane and Angela Videtta had the best games of their lives. Lisa Vu has been consistently strong, and Walker was outstanding at stopper. Left wing Annie Kane did a great job bringing the ball down, and right mid Danielle Maybloom had a very strong game.
“Beverly played their hearts out, and we certainly didn’t want to see the game end like that with (Flaherty) hurt. I think she hit her head on my girl’s shoulder.”
Murphy said the Panthers certainly had multiple chances to score, but trouble finishing off ultimately cost them a win.
“This was a loss, but also a learning opportunity ... and not the end of the world,” Murphy said. “We’ll talk about what we can improve on, because we want to still be playing deep into the (upcoming state) tournament.”