By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — It was a bad omen for the Peabody High field hockey team when head coach Pam Grant was hit on her foot by a ball before the game even started.
Then, in the first minute of play Jenna Ferullo appeared to give the Tanners a quick lead, but after the referees conferred it was ruled that the ball never went in the net.
Visiting Swampscott went on to score twice in the first half and win the game, 2-1, in a battle of Northeastern Conference rivals.
“My girl thinks it went in the corner,” said Grant said of Ferullo’s early scoring attempt. “One ref said the ball went in, and the other said no. After they talked it over they figured it hit the post instead of going in. That was tough because it was a perfect cross from Joanne Frangias; just a perfect connection. There’s no question that was a momentum changer — and may have taken a little wind out of our sails.”
The Big Blue dominated the rest of the first half and junior Tori Thistle scored twice to give her team a 2-0 edge at intermission. The first goal came at 20:26 after Alexa Steriti passed to Thistle in front of the Tanner net. She put a hard shot into the corner, out of the reach of Peabody goalie Holly Smith.
Thistle’s second goal, the game-winner, came with less than a minute remaining in the half. Danielle Mayblom set up Thistle, who uncorked a long, high shot.
“We scored a couple of good goals,” said Swampscott coach Toby Channen, her team now 6-1 with its lone loss to unbeaten Beverly. “In practice we’ve been working on being a threat within the circle. We call it our ‘frenzy drill’ and it’s been very successful against Salem and now Peabody.”
The veteran Big Blue squad has great chemistry and work together effectively. Sweeper Nora Walker has embraced her role on defense after moving from left midfield and forward midway through last season.
“I love defense because I get great perspective of the game,” said Walker, a junior. “I can see where the ball is going to go and where I need to be. I can see how the game moves. It’s completely different from what I was used to, but I love it.
“Our defensive unit works great together; we have great chemistry.”
Grant said her team played with a lot of heart and never gave up despite falling behind by two by halftime.
“Swampscott has great scorers, and that second one was a very pretty goal,” she said. “I thought my girls played well, especially in the last 10 minutes. They communicated well and the inners supported the backs. There was a lot of heart on the field today, just a great field hockey game.”
Peabody (3-2-3) was down but never out, scoring with 3:13 left in the game when Frangias took a pass from Ferullo and sent the ball into the left corner of the net.
Frangias came very close to tying it up in the final seconds, but Swampscott goalie Katie Samiljan used her quick feet to kick the ball away.
“Katie made a great save at the end,” said Channen. “She was a center forward until the middle of last season when we needed a goalie. I asked her to try on the pads, and she’s been great ever since.
“What sets my team apart is defense. Lisa Vu, Angela Videtta, Tessa Beane, and sweeper Nora Walker all do a great job. Walker has reinvented the sweeper position, and our defense has been strong all year. Samiljan had to make seven saves today; that’s way about our average.