LYNN — It was the type of tournament run that high school teams dream about.
The Beverly High girls soccer team never expected a postseason quite like the one it experienced this fall, but relished in the underdog role that carried it all the way to Division 1 state semifinals.
Though it wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for, the Panthers certainly had nothing to hang their heads about after a 2-0 loss to Franklin last night at Manning Field.
“We had an amazing season,” said Beverly junior sweeper Kristen O’Connor. “No one expected us to go this far. No one on our team even expected it; we just thought about winning a few playoff games.
“I have no complaints — everybody worked so hard to get to this point.”
South champion Franklin (also nicknamed the Panthers) remain undefeated at 21-0-1 and punched their ticket to the Division 1 state final against Nashoba tomorrow night in Worcester.
Franklin took an early 1-0 lead after Beverly was called for a foul and senior captain Kristi Kirshe was awarded a free kick from 28 yards out. Kirshe’s shot ricocheted off the left post and past goalkeeper Casey Cook.
“It was a nice shot. You have to expect that from an All-American, that she’s going to put a shot like that away,” Beverly head coach Kristin Simpson said of Kirshe. “You can’t have any fouls on top of the box like that in the semifinals. It was a couple of the pregame jitters that we carried with us through the first half.”
Beverly (18-4) had back-to-back corners later in the first, but couldn’t capitalize on those chances. The Panthers generated more offensive chances in the first half, though the score favored Franklin.
Sophomore Eva Gourdeau produced most of the scoring opportunities for Beverly and was one of the better players on the field for her team during the first half.
“After we scored the first goal, I think they kind of took control of the game,” said Franklin head coach Tom Geysen.
With a 1-0 deficit to start the second half, Simpson decided to move O’Connor up to the midfield. O’Connor has been the anchor in back all season long, but her offensive presence gave Beverly more chances up top.
“I thought our defense was handling Franklin’s forwards pretty well,” Simpson said. “I didn’t think they got too many quality opportunities, so I figured I’d push Kristen up to midfield. She’s actually really good at generating the attack and I thought we needed that, because we weren’t finding Caitlin (Harty) at all. I was trying to do anything I could to get the ball up top more.”
O’Connor made herself known in the midfield and helped develop a handful of runs for Harty, which yielded in some of Beverly’s best scoring chances of the game.
Simpson called timeout with 20:36 to play and made the decision to move Cook to the midfield and Rachel Kenney into goal. Kenney played between the pipes throughout the regular season, but it was Cook who had held it down during the Panthers’ playoff run.
“We were down by one with 20 minutes left ... there’s nothing you can do but go for it,” O’Connor said. “You lose 1-0 or 5-0; a loss is a loss.”
Cook did spark the offense, but a turnover in Beverly’s defensive end led to another Franklin goal. Sophomore Taylor Cogliano made a move around a Panther defender for a wide open shot. Kenney came out to cut down the angle, but Cogliano got the shot off before Kenney could make the save.
“We knew they had made the change, and it was all the more reason to pressure the new keeper,” Geysen said. “She’s not warmed up yet, and maybe we could sneak one by her. We tried to put as much pressure on her as we could.
“There was no relief after we scored the second goal though. We had a 3-0 lead over Oliver Ames (during the South sectional), and they scored two goals in less than a minute and a half. When the whistle blows, that’s the relief. I told the kids that you have to fight for all 80 minutes.”