By Gianna Addario
---- — BEVERLY — The Beverly High girls soccer team couldn’t have ended its regular season on any better note.
Not only did the Panthers earn a share of the Northeastern Conference Large title for the first time since head coach Kristin Simpson’s senior season (1999), but their 3-2 triumph over visiting Peabody was also the first time in program history that they had ever defeated their Tanner City rivals in regular season action.
“It just feels amazing,” said Simpson. “These girls have worked so hard, and to go through a little slump in the middle of the season like we did and still come out win (a share) of the conference — it just shows the character of this team.”
It was Peabody’s (12-2-3) first loss in the NEC in 46 games. The Tanners had gone 42-0-3 prior to yesterday, dating back to October of 2010.
While Beverly honored its six seniors prior to the contest, the team’s eading goal scorer, Caitlin Harty, put one past Peabody keeper Caitlin Lodi just 44 seconds into the contest. The Panthers hadn’t scored on Peabody in two years up until Harty’s marker.
“It was definetely a milestone for us,” said Harty, one of four captains for the Panthers (14-3-2). “It’s our last game of the season so to peak at this point, it’s probably one of the best things that we could’ve done.”
Simpson did some rearranging of her forward line and put Casey Cook on attack while dropping junior Eva Gourdeau back to midfield. The new formation has worked ideally over the past few games and paid off again when Gourdeau picked off a Peabody pass and found the back of the net. The goal was Gourdeau’s 100th point of her career (49 goals, 51 assists).
Trailing 2-0, the Tanners got one back off Madison Doherty’s corner kick, which Sarah Godschall got a foot on to knock it in. Minutes later, Cook put Beverly up by two again on a sliding goal, which proved to the be the game-winner.
Beverly’s three goals were the most Peabody had given up in a single game this season.
“We knew that this game was going to be the turning for us,” explained Cook. “I think it was all the energy we had coming in. It was Senior Night; we were all just pumped to get this win over Peabody.”
Peabody excelled in the second half as Sarah Napolitano scored off an Erika Nelson pass just minutes into the final stanza. The Tanners also outshot Beverly over the final 40 minutes, but Beverly goalkeeper Kyra Wolonsavich came up with some timely saves.
“We had so many opportunities on net and it’s been trouble for us all season long just trying to find the back of the net,” noted Peabody head coach Dennis Desroches. “The pressure that we put on Beverly and the way we came back like that, I couldn’t have been more proud of our girls.
“If you told me back in August with this new roster that we’d be in first place (in the NEC) at the end of the year, I’d probably question it. I’m not disappointed about this loss at all. We were right there the entire way.”
Peabody, which won a share of the title in their victory over Salem earlier this week, has won or shared the league crown every year they entered the conference in 2007.