PEABODY — It was, without question, one of the biggest tests of the season.
And in truth, it was one that the top-ranked Peabody High girls soccer team needed.
The Tanners held on for a 3-1 win over Danvers at Donahue Field yesterday afternoon, snapping the Falcons’ 10-game unbeaten streak while extending their own to 34 games dating back to last season.
Perhaps more importantly, Peabody (10-0) showed itself that it can still take a punch. Goals by Hayley Dowd and Kara Digiacomo had the hosts ahead 2-0 in the first half, but Danvers (8-2-2) dominated the ball for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Falcon captain Meghan Kenny’s goal in the 50th minute of play, slicing the deficit to 2-1, had the Tanners’ defense on its heels for perhaps the first time all year.
Still trailing by a goal, the Falcons continued to press. Kylie Plaza was awarded a free kick in the 60th minute that hit the hand of a Peabody defender, giving her another shot.
Peabody keeper Caitlin Lodi appeared to make an excellent save, punching the ball away near the top crossbar. But the official ruled that Lodi did not touch the ball, with Danvers head coach Jimmy Hinchion begging for the corner kick his team would’ve been awarded by rule if she had.
The hosts took that moment to buckle down and controlled possession for the last 20 minutes on their way to their fourth win over Danvers in the last five meetings.
“I thought it would fire our team up — and it fired both teams up,” said Hinchion, who received a yellow card while pleading his case. “The thing with Peabody is if you give them time to regroup, it can backfire because they’re so solid all over the field.”
Plaza took another free kick that nearly tied the score with eight minutes left, but Lodi got a hand on it and Peabody captain Cayla Bucci headed the ball out of the box.
Dowd then got control in the middle of the field while Victoria Digiacomo made a run at the net. Dowd threaded a picture-perfect pass to her four-year running mate and Digiacomo calmly placed it in the net to ensure the Tanners would win.
“The patience to hold that ball and let Victoria make her run was awesome,” said Peabody head coach Dennis Desroches. “The patience for both them on that play was great. I’m their coach, but I still feel like they’re the best duo in the state.”
Peabody, ranked No. 1 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, had outscored its opponents 46-2 coming into the game and had played several games with zero or no shots on goal by their opponents.
Danvers challenged them in the middle, put eight shots on net and forced Peabody’s backline to adjust and improve. Senior Bianca Muscato saved a goal when she cleared away a corner in the first half, freshman Katrina Silva got stronger as the game wore on and Lodi made a season-high seven saves.
“These are two of the strongest programs on the North Shore and we knew Danvers was extremely strong,” said Desroches, whose team is entering a crucial part of its schedule, facing Swampscott today followed by Concord-Carlisle on Sunday and Acton-Boxboro on Oct. 20.
“This is an extremely important stretch for us, and today was out first real test outside of Beverly,” said Desroches. “This is huge for us.”
Danvers keeper Leah Ciampa made six saves and captain Renee Pohle had a excellent game on defense, including breaking up a Victoria Digiacomo pass ticketed for Dowd that almost surely would’ve been a goal in the first half.
The Falcons attacked Peabody in the middle of the field and created chances for a stretch of the game. But as time wore on, Peabody mids Caroline Colbert and Christa Trombley adjusted, and the play shifted back into Danvers’ end.
“Danvers controlled the middle in the first half,” said Desroches. “Even though we were up 2-0, we felt like they were winning they loose balls.”
Jackie Morse, Erin Loehner and Courtney Arnoldy were also strong for Danvers. Stephanie Kowalski earned an assist on Kenny’s goal, which saw the senior redirect Kowalski’s shot into the corner of the cage.
“We’re disappointed, but at the same time we feel good,” said Hinchion. “We didn’t have a great passing game, but we did some nice things and forced their keeper to make some nice saves. We feel like this one slipped away a little.”
Peabody scored on a pair of long range shots in the first half. First, Dowd fired one in from 30 yards out and seemed to pick up speed as it rocketed towards the net. It was the 13th goal of the season for Dowd, who with a goal an an assist has multiple points in her last six games.
“That was a fantastic goal,” said Hinchion. “We didn’t put pressure on (Dowd) and even from that far out she took the shot. It was a great goal.”
Minutes later, Kara Digiacomo took an arching free kick from 40 yards away that bent downward into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“Danvers’ intensity brought out our intensity,” said Desroches. “This is a great rivalry game and it was a huge battle, like it is every year.”