WOBURN — Beverly junior forward Caitlin Harty missed a chance to give her Panthers a lead just five minutes into last night’s Division 1 North semi-final against Westford Academy, booting an open look into the goalkeeper’s chest.
She wasn’t going to miss twice.
Harty’s strike in the 25th minute, which included some nifty footwork around Grey Ghost keeper Samantha Hyslip and a creative assist from teammate Eva Gourdeau, stood up as the Panthers beat Westford 1-0 at Woburn’s Connolly Memorial Stadium.
Beverly (17-3) advances to the North final for the first time since 1997, and will play Central Catholic at Manning Field tomorrow (2:30 p.m.).
“Coming into the tournament, we were thinking about winning one round. Now, we’re thinking we have a chance — we can do this,” said Harty, who extended her single season school records to 49 goals and 60 points.
The fourth seeded Panthers saw their defense, led by captains Diandra Crowley and Becca Kemmer, backs Kristen O’Connor and Nicole Kirsch and keeper Casey Cook, blanked two straight Dual County League teams and hasn’t allowed a goal in 165 postseason minutes.
“This is phenomenal, we’re excited and pumped to make it this far,” said Cook, who made seven of her 11 saves in the first half. “I’m so proud of the team. We really settled it down, sometimes early on we panicked a little because we were excited.”
Cook’s best save came 10 minutes after Harty’s goal, as the junior came off her line to stop Westford’s Caitlyn Paitsos. O’Connor also booted away a solid Ghost chance as Westford applied its best pressure late in the opening half. The Panthers held the lead, however, and settled down in the second half.
“It’s a long season and while we’ve made some mistakes, we sorted through them,” Beverly coach Kristin Simpson said of the improved play of her defense. “They’re showing composure, staying patient instead of diving after the ball. They’re working together and not individually. It’s all communication and composure.”