By Jean DePlacido
---- — BEVERLY – After losing in the first round of the tournament a year ago Beverly was determined not to have it happen again. The NEC champs applied constant pressure on Lowell right from the start in the Division 1 North opening round yesterday afternoon, and came away with a satisfying 5-0 victory.
“Last year was such a disappointment, and after having a great season we wanted to put together a strong game to start the playoffs,” said Panther coach Trish Murphy. “They came in prepared, and I credit our captains for that. All week long they have prepared the girls for this game.
“We know what it felt like last year, and we came out strong right from the start. We were able to maintain that force the entire way.”
Captains Nicole Woods and Felicity Otterbein made sure everybody was ready to go all out, and from the start Beverly dominated play. They kept the pressure on in front of Lowell goalie Makara Ung, who made two big saves on Woods and Grace Otterbein before the Panthers got on the board with 16:28 remaining in the first half on the first of two scores by MaryCate Flaherty, who was assisted by Woods.
The goal came off one of six first half corners by the Panthers after Woods put the initial shot on goal. Ung made the save, but the rebound came out to Flaherty, who put it in the back of the net. Four minutes later Woods scored (Grace Otterbein), and Beverly was off and running.
Lowell had trouble moving the ball over the 50 yard line, and sophomore Alicia Cecchini made it 3-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Flaherty’s second goal came off a corner with three minutes left before intermission put her team firmly in the drivers’ seat.
“We didn’t want this to be a close game where anything can happen,” said Woods, who was unstoppable all over the field. “We all knew what we wanted to do, and we were able to get a big lead early. We tend to be a slow starting team, but once we got the first goal we kept the pressure on.”
Beverly, seeded No. 4 and now with a 16-2-1 mark, advances to host Needham tomorrow in the quarters. They’d like nothing better than to make this win the first of a long playoff run.
“Last year we were one and done; there’s no way we were going to bow out in the first round again,” said Woods, who will attend Louisville on a field hockey scholarship. “We knew what it would take to move on, and we had to keep playing at a high level the whole game.”
Kate Silvestri scored after taking a pass from Cecchini with a minute and a half gone in the second half to put the Panthers up, 5-0. At that point Murphy brought in the subs, and they kept the momentum going. Goalie Felicity Otterbein had to make only two saves, both in the second half to preserve the shutout while Beverly tested Ung with 14 shots on net.
“Beverly didn’t surprise us at all; we knew what we were coming into,” said Lowell coach Lisa Kattar, her 13th seeded Red Raiders ending the season with a 9-6-5 record.
The game could have been even more one-sided except for Ung, who made several big saves, including one on a penalty stroke by Samantha Lingren. Lowell captain Madison Alcorn, who was named co-MVP in the Merrimack Valley Conference, was able to generate some offense for her team, but any time the Red Raiders were able to bring the ball into Beverly territory the defense broke up the threats.
“This was a total team effort,” said Murphy. “Nicole Woods, Kate Silvestri, and MaryCate Flaherty were all very strong. Our entire defensive line did a great job, especially Marissa Laganis (a sophomore). When I brought in a lot of non-starters in the second half they kept the pressure up. It was a very good win for us.”