By Gianna Addario
PEABODY — Perhaps the Peabody boys soccer team wasn’t satisfied with last year’s season-ending loss to Acton-Boxboro in the Division 1 North playoffs and that’s why head coach Stan McKeen opened the season with a non-league contest against the Colonials.
Whatever the case may be, Peabody has come into the year on a mission. After tying A-B in a scoreless stalemate, the Tanners have gone on to win four consecutive Northeastern Conference games, including last night’s 2-0 shutout victory over visiting Salem.
“The confidence started right away after that Acton-Boxboro game,” explained McKeen, whose team moves to 4-0-1 on the season. “The chemistry on this team is excellent and the guys get along real well. We’re a confident group.”
Through the first three weeks of the season, the undefeated Tanners have earned three shutouts and on top of the NEC Large standings with eight points overall.
Peabody, which played its first of three games this week, wasted little time getting the scoring going as senior captain C.J. Alimonti took a shot along the right-hand side of the Salem (0-3-1) goal, which Ben Manoogian drove home.
Just six minutes later, Alimonti made a beautiful drop pass in the box to Jake Silva, which he drilled past Witches goalkeeper Christian Van De Stadt to go up 2-0.
“C.J. is always finding someone out there,” McKeen noted. “He’s lighting, he has energy that continues on and on.
“We moved the ball well, but we certainly had some other opportunities to put the ball in the net. I thought we controlled play pretty well. We had a lot of chances, but we just couldn’t finish.”
The Tanners put 10 shots on goal in the first half, but Van De Stadt did his best to hold them to only a pair of scores. Salem head coach Mike Collins called a timeout after the second Peabody goal and his team didn’t give up another for the rest of the game.
“We’re building off of every game,” said Collins. “This game was an enormous step in the right direction for us. We’re starting to get together here and finding some chemistry. They’re not hanging their heads as much as they were before and we’re going to build off of that.
“It would be one thing if our guys came up through the ranks and played as freshmen and sophomores, but they’re a completely new group of players. After this game it’s a tremendous improvement from game one.”
Van De Stadt made 10 saves in the loss, but his team looked more calm and composed in front of him after the break. Salem outshot Peabody 3-2 in the final stanza and controlled play in the midfield. Connor Duncan had a handful of solid runs for the Witches, but keeper Robert Smith (five saves) earned his third shutout.
“Robert makes great decisions with the ball,” said McKeen. “He sees the field from back there and he’s a great talker for us.”
Both teams are right back it with more league games tomorrow. Salem hosts Lynn Classical, while Peabody travels to Beverly.