DANVERS — Two of the best girls soccer teams on the North Shore came to Dr. Deering Stadium undefeated on Thursday night.
Bishop Fenwick keeper Claudia Keith made her 11th save of the game in the 80th minute to make sure they both walked out of the stadium that way, too.
Host Danvers High had a fair number of chances in the second half but couldn’t crack the Fenwick defense as the friendly non-league rivals battled to a 0-0 tie.
Keith, Fenwick’s All-State goalie who hails from Danvers, was one of the big reasons why as she made seven of her 11 stops in the second half. Danvers (3-0-1) had a corner kick with only 26 seconds left and while Ellie Anderson got a shot off on Gabby Chisholm’s serve, Keith made the stop.
“No doubt about it: Claudia stood up and the team defense was absolutely tremendous,” said Fenwick coach Steve Flaherty, his team 1-0-1 and unscored upon so far this season. “That’s a very good team over there. You don’t keep a deep team like that off the board very often.”
Center backs Amy Hatfield, McKenna Gilligan and Katie Dunn, all seniors, played calm and fearless soccer in face of Danvers’ attack. They kept their backs to the goal, played physically when they had to with some timely slide tackles, and took away as much time as space as they could.
“We had a game plan and we had to stick to it,” Flaherty said, “because if we opened up, they could’ve torn us apart.”
Still unbeaten in their last 30 regular season games, Danvers found its midfield combinations after halftime. Freshman Georgia Prouty played with confidence beyond her years, carrying the ball laterally to create chances for senior Arianna Bezanson in the middle. Anderson and Reese Pszenny also switched freely about the midfield and the top of the formation, creating all sorts of problems for the Fenwick D.
“I loved our chances. Once we started using each other in the midfield, everything opened up for us,” Danvers coach Jimmy Hinchion said.
“That was the first time we’ve really impose our style of play for an entire half,” he added. “Fenwick was able to bunker in and they were terrific in the back. That’s got to be one of the best defending teams in the state.”
Bezanson had two free kicks just 23 yards from the goal, one in each half. The first, awarded for a hand ball, hit the crossbar, and the second sailed wide. In the second half, she sent Pszenny in with a no-look pass, but the shot trickled just outside the far post.
Fenwick midfielder Bella DelVecchio also did a great job shadowing Bezanson through the midfield and mostly denying her the first touch. The one time Bezanson had a mini-break away, Keith came out to meet her and corralled the ball after a collision.
Prouty, a freshman, also had several nice shots smothered by Keith; Danvers probably attempted a good two dozen shots in the attacking third, with 11 of those on frame and saved.
“Georgia’s in crucial sports for us, whether it’s center mid or up top. We want the ball on her foot,” Hinchion said. “We were able to move Reese and Ellie around in the second half and try a lot of different looks. They way they combined with Georgie and Ari in the middle, when they get going it’s hard to contain.”
Fenwick’s best offense chances came in the first half. Junior speedster Ally Mitchell switched sidelines a couple of times and broke free for long runs, with Chisholm doing a good job getting back for Danvers. Falcon keeper Emily Goddard made four stops, two in each half.
It was a solid non-league test for two teams with state championship aspirations. Danvers, ranked No. 10 in New England by the United Soccer Coaches Association, certainly tested the Fenwick back line, but to their credit there was no panic and precious few mistakes.
“The stress was for me over on the sidelines,” Flaherty said with a laugh. “The players, they had fun.”