By Gianna Addario
---- — DANVERS — Ranked as one of the top girls soccer programs in the state, Beverly has developed a giant target on its back. With all of the hype that surrounds the Panthers this fall, they’re ready and fighting to live up to it all.
Beverly’s success has come full circle in the past year. Just 10 months removed from winning their first ever Division 1 North title the Panthers are trying to prove to themselves and to their opponents that last year was no fluke.
Last night host Danvers learned first hand how serious Beverly is. After jumping out to an early lead, the Panthers went on to win 5-2 in a meeting of two of the Northeastern Conference’s top clubs at Dr. Deering Stadium.
“This year we’re a new team and we have a lot to prove,” said Beverly head coach Kristin Simpson, her team 2-0. “We want to prove to everyone that we deserve to be here. We’ve been focusing on this year’s group and this year’s team. There’s still a lot to work on, but we have such a great core coming back, luckily we’ve played well early on.”
At the core of that group is the dynamic duo of strikers senior Caitlin Harty and junior Eva Gourdeau. The star forwards netted all five goals for the Panthers, including Gourdeau’s hat trick. Both girls have already recorded four goals in just two games, with plenty of assists to go with them. Harty broke the team’s scoring record last year and led the state in goals (50).
”We’ve played together for a while a now,” Harty said of her and Gourdeau’s on-field relationship. “We look for each other up top and just try to make the best passes possible.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead with Harty’s pair of scores and took their two-goal advantage into the break. Shannon Pohle brought Danvers to within one to start the second half, but Gourdeau quickly responded.
In fact, Gourdeau scored two goals in a matter of two minutes to extend Beverly’s lead to 4-1 as Danvers hardly had any time after halving their deficit.
”It’s amazing to watch,” Simpson said of her scoring combination. “They just no each other runs so well, it’s beautiful to watch them play. Between Cailtin’s speed and Eva’s skill, they’re so dangerous up top.”
After Gourdeau netted her final goal, Pohle scored again for Danvers. Despite playing from behind for the majority of the game, the Falcons didn’t give up and did not divert from playing their style of soccer.
”I expected a little bit more in game one,” Danvers head coach Jimmy Hinchion said of his team, now 0-1. “I liked that we never game up. That’s been our thing through the scrimmages as well. We’re not going to stop until the final whistle blows.”
Junior defender Becca Horn and freshman Nicole White played excellent for Danvers, as Hinchion was exceptionally pleased with their efforts in the loss.
Beverly goalkeeper Kyra Wolonsavich, a Bishop Fenwick transfer, had eight saves. Last year the Panthers had a handful of different keepers, including midfielder Casey Cook (one assist), but Wolonsavich provides that extra stability that was needed.
”Kyra plays off the line really well and is just great to have back there,” noted Simpson. “We have a keeper this year, so we can put Casey in the field.”
The Panthers open their league play against Lynn Classical on Thursday, while Danvers has another tough battle against a strong Andover team tomorrow night. Last night’s game was technically a non-league game for the NEC rivals.