SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 24, 2012

Just for Kicks: Top notch defense sends Falcons flying DIALED UP DEFENSE

By Gianna Addario
The Salem News

---- — DANVERS — There are certain aspects of a soccer team that aren’t always noticeable. But without them, a team couldn’t function properly.

More often than not, defense is overshadowed by fast-paced midfielders and high-flying offenses. But without a defensive scheme in place, winning would nearly be impossible.

No team understands that more than the Danvers High girls team. With eight shutout performances, the Falcons (12-2-2) have given up just 11 goals through 6 games this season.

The Northeastern Conference Small champs earned their 23rd consecutive playoff berth, believed to be the longest streak of any area school in any sport.

Any coach will tell you it’s a simple balance between both sides of the field: trong defense translates into offense and vise versa.

”We only have six defenders on the team, so each one of them plays an intricate role,” said head coach Jimmy Hinchion. “We’ve come on with the game plan since Day 1 of our first game that we’re going to defend as 11. Out first line of defense is our forwards, and the team has really bought into that.”

Tactically, the scheme has worked for Danvers. Since Hinchion took over the program in 1999, the girls have developed a style that has brought them tremendous success and a handful of conference championships

Led by senior captains Jackie Morse and Renee Pohle, the Falcons typically run a flat back four defense. The defense however, is anything but flat and hardly ever stays in a straight line across the back.

“We play smart,” added Hinchion. “We’re not out there to mark or watch a certain player; we’re here to defend as a team, They know there has to be someone on the opponent pursuing the ball, and most of the time there’s another defender supporting the player in case the first defender gets beat.”

Though there are just a half dozen defenders on the team, all of the players have the defensive mindset needed to win games, said Hinchion. The ball is very rarely in the Falcons’ end for long because the offense does a stellar job of possessing the ball up top.

“We’ve got a really strong defense, it’s definitely our strength,” said Hinchion. “A good defense can turn into offense, and we love to send girls like Jackie and Emily (Loehner) up on the flanks to join the attack. At the same time when they need to lock down defensively, they do it well.

“We sometimes make mistakes and give up goals, but for the most part we’ve executed well.”

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Longtime Masconomet girls coach Paula Yanakakis knows the importance of having a quality defense and what it means to have a healthy core of backs on the field.

The Chieftains, which missed out on the Cape Ann League title this year, have been without two of their starting defenders — Sarah Katz and Alexa Ina -- for the past two weeks. Masco goes with a diamond-style defense and without Katz and Ina on the outside, teams have been scoring on them more than usual.

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The Beverly boys team has compiled an overall record of 9-4-3 with just two games remaining. The Panthers have already qualified for the postseason, but a win today against Revere will give them a double-digit win total — something it hasn’t been able to do since the 2005 season (11-3-5), its last winning season.

Beverly reached the Division 1 North final in 2002 and made six straight postseason appearances between 2001-06, only to be shut out of the tournament the last five seasons.

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The Masconomet boys will play their makeup game against North Reading next Monday at home. The game, originally scheduled for this past Saturday, was postponed due to weather.

”I’m not quite sure why it got postponed, I don’t make those calls,” said head coach Dave Mitchell. “We had a really great day at practice the day before and were ready to play.”

The Chieftains are currently undefeated at 13-0-2, having had scorless ties with North Reading and Pentucket. Masco has chance to win the Cape Ann League Large outright with one more win. Now with three games left on its schedule, another CAL crown is looking like a strong possibility.

“I’m proud of what we’re doing. There’s a lot of unselfish play,” said Mitchell. “We have 6-7 guys who are consistently scoring, and it’s tough for teams to mark on man. I really like our style right now.”

Since tying the Sachems in the first game of the season, Masco has outscored its opponents 49-4 along with 10 shutouts.

“I think it comes down to jelling as a team,” Mitchell said of the scoring burst. “We went a long time from double sessions in the summer to kicking our season off September 13. We need to get into game mode and now we have a nice routine and rhythm at practice as well.”

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A big congratulations goes out to Peabody’s Hayley Dowd and Beverly’s Caitlin Harty.

Dowd surpassed the 200th point mark in last night’s 4-0 win over Lynn Classical. Her career numbers are 145 goals, 56 assists and 201 points.

Harty, a junior striker, notched her 100th career point against Salem last Thursday. With three additional goals in the game, Harty broke the Beverly High girls soccer record in career points (104) and extended the single season goal mark to 37, both of which were previously held by head coach Kristin Simpson.

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Just For Kicks, a column on North Shore high school soccer, appears every Wednesday in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Gianna Addario at 978-338-2615, GAddario@salemnews.com and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.

Standings Div. 1 (Boys) CAL PTS OVERALL PTS Masconomet* 13-0-2 26 13-0-2 28 Pentucket* 10-2-2 22 11-2-2 24 Newburyport* 8-4-2 18 9-4-2 20 Ham-Wenham 5-6-3 13 5-6-3 13 North Reading 4-5-4 12 5-5-4 14 Triton 0-12-2 2 1-12-3 5 Div. 2 (Boys) CAL PTS OVERALL PTS Rockport* 9-4-1 19 11-4-1 23 Lynnfield* 8-6-0 16 8-6-2 18 Georgetown 5-5-4 14 6-5-4 16 Ipswich 5-6-4 14 5-6-4 14 Manch-Essex 5-7-3 13 6-7-3 15 Amesbury 0-13-1 1 0-15-1 1 Div. 1 (Girls) CAL PTS OVERALL PTS Newburyport* 11-1-2 24 12-1-2 26 Ham-Wenham* 12-1-2 26 12-1-2 26 Masconomet* 10-3-1 21 10-4-2 22 North Reading 3-7-3 9 3-7-4 10 Pentucket 2-9-3 7 2-10-3 7 Triton 1-11-2 4 3-12-2 8 Div. 2 (Girls) CAL PTS OVERALL PTS Amesbury* 12-0-2 26 13-0-2 28 Georgetown 7-5-2 16 7-6-3 17 Ipswich* 5-4-6 16 6-4-7 19 Lynnfield 5-6-3 13 5-7-4 14 Rockport 3-10-1 7 5-10-1 11 Manch-Essex 1-13-1 3 2-14-1 5 Large (Boys) NEC PTS OVERALL PTS Salem* 10-2-2 22 11-3-2 24 Peabody* 9-2-3 21 9-3-5 23 Lynn Class.* 9-3-2 20 9-3-4 22 Beverly* 7-4-3 17 9-4-3 21 Lynn Eng. 5-6-3 13 5-7-4 14 Revere 5-9-0 10 5-10-1 11 Small (Boys) NEC PTS OVERALL PTS Danvers* 12-1-1 25 12-2-1 25 Saugus 6-8-0 12 7-8-1 15 Marblehead 4-6-3 11 4-7-3 11 Gloucester 5-7-1 11 6-7-2 14 Swampscott 1-11-2 4 1-12-3 5 Winthrop 0-14-0 0 0-15-0 0 Large (Girls) NEC PTS OVERALL PTS Peabody* 14-0-0 28 15-1-0 30 Beverly* 12-2-0 24 13-2-0 26 Salem 4-9-1 9 4-9-2 10 Revere 3-10-1 7 5-10-1 11 Lynn Class. 2-9-2 6 3-10-2 8 Lynn English 0-13-1 1 0-16-1 1 Small (Girls) NEC PTS OVERALL PTS Danvers* 12-1-1 25 12-2-2 26 Marblehead* 7-4-3 17 8-4-3 19 Gloucester* 7-5-2 16 7-5-3 17 Swampscott 7-5-2 16 7-5-3 17 Saugus 5-7-2 12 7-7-2 16 Winthrop 2-10-1 5 3-10-1 7 *Qualified for Tournament; BOLD won division.