By Dan Harrison
---- — PEABODY — Peabody girls lacrosse coach Dennis Desroches knew that if his girls could take control of the faceoffs against Salem yesterday, the Tanners could distance themselves from the Witches.
Alexa Gilbert won six of the first eight draws for Salem but Nicole Napolitano was able to grab five of the last six draws in the first half, allowing Peabody to retain possession again and again.
Peabody would score the final six goals of the first half in a 17-5 win over the Witches that pushed the Tanners record to 11-3 overall and 7-2 in the Northeastern Conference.
The Witches, meanwhile, dropped to 10-6 overall.
“To Salem’s credit, I think they won the first seven draws and they were able to take an early (1-0) lead,” said Desroches. “We had to call a timeout to adjust in the (faceoff) circle. Overall Salem had draw control but we did have a stretch there that gave us a nice cushion. “
Napolitano provided Peabody with a measure of consistency in the faceoff game but it was her work running the Tanners’ offense that really stood out. Napolitano knew when to pass (three assists) and when to take it to the net herself. She also showed her shooting ability, scoring three of her four goals on set shots after the Witches were called for infractions.
Napolitano wasn’t the only cog in the offensive machine yesterday. Aly Bertone (four goals, one assist), Courtney Smith (two goals), Bianca Muscato (goal, assist), Nicole Pavano (three goals) and Adrianna Raneri all had multi-point efforts.
“We had great balance. I think we had 27 points today (on 17 goals). It’s a credit to Nicole but it’s also a credit to all the other girls who showed they can move the ball,” noted Desroches. “You can’t just have one attacker; you need multiple attackers and I think we had that today.”
The Witches had some strong saves early by keeper Danielle Pynn but the visitors struggled in transition and didn’t have much offensive possession in the first half. The Tanners did a good job of getting into passing lanes and having active sticks to bat down the Witches’ transition passes.
Christa Trombley, who also helped on the faceoffs by bursting in for ground balls, took advantage of a few telegraphed passes by Salem and helped the Tanners keep the ball in the Witches end.
Peabody, meanwhile, transitioned smoothly all game. Starting goalie Cheyenne Jackson was accurate passing up to the midfield as the Tanners moved the ball up field quickly by opting to pass. Back-up keeper Joanna Ambeliotis also showed good clearing ability when she played in the second half.
“Our goalies did a good job of looking up field,” explained Desroches. “We stress that the ball moves much quicker through the air. Team ball movement is critical.”
Victoria Digiacomo, Mikayla York and Brianna Clarke had a goal each for Peabody.
Salem got one goal each from Courtney Maurice, Emily Coello, Gilbert, Marissa Romeo and Lydia Grasberger. Gilbert in particular was ferocious on ground balls throughout the game.
Witches coach Jess Trioli declined to comment after the match however she did stress how well her girls have played this season. Salem has clinched at least a share of the NEC South in what’s been a historic season for the Witches, who can claim the title outright by defeating or tying Gloucester on Wednesday.