By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — Whenever the Beverly and Danvers High field hockey teams meet, it’s usually a close, hard-fought contest.
This was not one of those times.
Unbeaten Beverly scored five times in the first half en route to a decisive 6-0 victory. In doing so, the Panthers posted their sixth shutout of the season and seventh straight win.
Junior co-captain Nicole Woods, who was all over the field making great passes, put her team on the board off a corner less than four minutes into the game after taking a pass from Kate Silvestri.
“Woods did a good job starting us off, and Silvestri had a strong game on the right side,” said Beverly head coach Tricia Murphy, whose team is the four-time defending Northeastern Conference champions. The only goal they’ve allowed all season came in a 2-1 victory over Peabody.
“We only lost one person on offense from last season, so we expected that to be our strong point. Our defense is all new, but they’ve been able to manage the ball well and stop it before it gets to our goalie.”
Junior goalie Felicity Otterbein wasn’t very busy in the Panther net yesterday, but came up big when she had to. Murphy also singled out Camden Vitale and Amanda Marshall for their outstanding defensive play.
Beverly quickly built up the lead when forward Katie Pietrini scored the next two goals to make it 3-0. She carried the ball down the left wing on both occasions and got off great shots. Her first goal was set up by co-captain Natalie Shea; the second came in a scramble in front of Danvers goalie Gabi Torchia (with Livvy Konaxis assisting).
“This team is awesome,” said Woods, who scored her fourth goal of the year. “We know we have a huge target on our backs as NEC champs, but we just have to do what we need to in order to keep it going. We don’t care how the goals come as long as we can score, and it doesn’t matter who gets them.
“Danvers is always a big rival for us. They’ve got a lot of natural athletes, a lot of talent. Their girls have stick skills and are very fast.”
Molly Pitman added a pair of goals before halftime, both set up by Katie Wheatley, after she was able to get behind Falcon defenders to go in alone on Torchia.
“We know what Beverly likes to do; they hit the ball up and pass it across. It’s bang-bang-bang, and you have to be able to run up the field,” said Danvers (2-3-2) coach Barbara Damon. “Too many times, we let somebody get in behind (our defense), and then there was nobody on the post.
“We knew we would have to be ready for that long, hard pass. Gabi did a nice job hanging in there, but she didn’t get a lot of help.”
The final Beverly goal came early in the second half by senior Phoebe Blau, with Mary Cate Flaherty picking up the assist.
The Panthers also have great team speed and are tough to stop because they move the ball so effectively to set up scoring chances.
“We do a lot of conditioning,” Murphy said. “With all the stop-and-go in this game, it’s so important to be in shape. I think all that work helps our quickness.
“We always look for Danvers to give us good competition. I anticipated a back-and-forth game. That didn’t happen today because we got off to such a fast start, but I am happy with the outcome.”
The Falcons, who had fine games from Sara Potter and Rachel Trocchi, did a much better job in the second half and made a couple of strong bids, but Otterbein had plenty of support to preserve the shutout.