Change is hard, but if you listen Sheryl Raven you know it can do you good too.
This old anthem has not been lost on the Peabody High women’s football team, which underwent big changes last summer. Barely six weeks into their new regime, the Tanners are seeing how good change can be and playing at a level few on the North Shore saw coming.
Now unbeaten in his last five games, Peabody (4-2-3) thrives under new head coach Andrew Douglass. He took over after Denis desroches was named the school’s athletic director with a few big shots to spare: Desroches won 197 games, nine league titles and a state championship in his 14 seasons.
At the start of the year, it looked like the Tanners could be a team in transition. They failed to score in the season opener and then allowed five goals in a tough home loss to Danvers. Fast forward three weeks and it’s the transition that makes Peabody a formidable team, as in the way they pass the ball from level to level while attacking opponents.
“We have definitely become a passing team,” said senior. Emily mcdonough, the team’s top scorer. “The team chemistry is so there and I think it helps us to be there for each other on these downhills. “
Douglass, a tactically strong young coach who played at Danvers High and coached Salem to two state tournaments, emphasized forward thrust, somewhat directional football and off-ball movement. With each game, the team’s confidence in this approach seems to increase; they saw results with a resounding five-goal win over rival Beverly and a total turnaround in a 2-2 draw with Danvers last Saturday.
“It’s a little different style from what we had,” said the senior goalkeeper Emma Bloom, Team captain. “We go through the middle and make a lot of concessions. It’s new, but it works.
Possession also relies on good defense, and the Tanners have no shortage of it. Bloom, a three-sports captain who will play softball at Assumption College, has been a rock in net with five shutouts in the first eight games. Captains Sam simmons and Maddy Scacchi were great in the back with the young people of yesteryear Logan lomasney and Ally Bettencourt.
“We changed our form defensively a bit and did a great job closing the gap and mitigating threats,” said Douglass. “We’re trying to keep the attackers in one place long enough to have an extra support player there… and whether something is released backwards Emma is going to have it in her hands is huge.”
Branae Craveiro was a revelation for the Tanners in midfield, doing an admirable job of both retreating in defense and pushing forward in attack. Environment Taylor bettencourt has also been excellent, and don’t think a slightly different style took away the ability to win balls in the air and hit on set pieces that were Peabody’s hallmarks for the past 14 seasons. and more.
Young attacking midfielder Connie Patturelli is excellent in turns and restarts as well as on the race. Ditto for the captain Mckayla fisher, the team’s top scorer in 2020 and the leader in assists so far this fall.
“We have a really good mix of experienced seniors and new players in different roles,” McDonough said. “We are all working together as a team and at the moment it feels really good. “
Elders Lauren Leggett, Ava D’Ambrosio, Abby Leonard and Meghan billingsley have also played a significant role in Peabody’s success. It takes strong leadership to overcome getting just one win in the first five games; the Tanners left that start in a hurry with a combination of hard work in the practice and belief in their new boss.
“We’re starting to be a family, as cliché as it sounds,” said Douglass. “They gain confidence and trust in each other – it can go a long way.”
For a program that has made the state tournament every year since 1992, hitting the .500 mark and being back in the Division 1 realm is a minimum goal. Peabody has played six of his last seven games against tournament contenders like Central Catholic, Beverly, Marblehead and Swampscott, so they will certainly be put to the test when the time comes.
If they continue to grow at the rate they have shown over the past six weeks and show the resilience they did in the weekend’s 2-2 draw with Danvers, they could go a long way.
“If we can compete with Danvers,” said Douglass, “we can compete with anyone.”
The first Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association power rankings are out; you can see them by clicking on the ranking box at the top of the MIAA.net homepage. Noting that the weekend’s results have yet to come in, it looks like the new formula likes the Cape Ann League.
Hamilton-Wenham is ranked first in Division 5, which is probably where the Generals belong. Senior midfielder Jane maguire has caught fire for HW lately, and the squad has no shortage of dangerous players with Claire Nistil, Annie Moynihan and Ella Schenker all do damage.
Defenders Libby collins, Jackie Chapdelaine, Nora gamber, Christa coffey and Maddie Wood helped HW (7-1) snag three straight shutouts in their five-game winning streak.
Ipswich was ranked 18th despite just two wins, another sign that CAL’s relative strength means a lot in this MIAA playoff formula.
It’s hard to say how the Northeastern Conference is assessed: Masconomet feels a bit low in Division 2 in 21st place as the Chieftains are 7-2 with their non-league games against the still robust Conference of Merrimack Valley. Danvers (7-0-2) entered a number 5 in Division 2.
The plan at the moment is for the MIAA to update the leaderboards once a week until the tournament begins. The top 32 teams will compete in the statewide tournament, unless more than 32 have a winning record; in this case, there will be preliminary round matches to reduce the field to 32.
Bishop Fenwick’s historic victory over Bishop Feehan last Friday deserves to be reviewed. The Shamrocks were ranked No.4 domestically by the United Soccer Coaches Association when the Crusaders came home with a 1-0 victory thanks to Ally Mitchell goal and another shutout by the goalkeeper Claudia keith.
Amy hatfield, Mckenna gilligan, Sam sharp, Mckenna leamen, Ella Morgan, Keira Morgan and Bella del vecchio were among the many stars of the undefeated Crusaders (4-0-4), who have conceded just one goal in 640 minutes so far.
The last home team to defeat a nationally ranked opponent? Two come to mind: Beverly beat a previously undefeated, nationally ranked Central Catholic team in the Division 1 North final on penalties in 2013 thanks to Caitlin Harty 50th goal of the year which tied the score in regulation time.
In 2010, Danvers defeated a Peabody team that was nationally ranked No.12 in a 2-1 thriller at Dr. Deering Stadium.
Are there other imitations classified nationally among the faithful of the North Shore that we have forgotten? Let us know on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.
Big game ahead this Thursday on the grass at Boxford, when Danvers travels for his rematch with Masconomet. The Falcons have beaten the Chieftains in the last three straight meetings. Kick-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Do the Falcons make a point of training on grass to prepare for Masco’s surface?
“We mix and match practices anyway,” veteran coach Jimmy hinchion noted. “There are so many teams (Danvers High) that use the turf that we couldn’t be there every day. It’s good to mix up practice on either surface, no matter when games may be going on.
Great look for Beverly grad Jordan butters, who was named Northeast 10’s women’s football player of the week after scoring three goals for southern New Hampshire. She got both results, including a decisive penalty, in a 2-1 win over Pace and also scored in an overtime win over Stonehill.
A 100+ point goalscorer for the Panthers, Butters has a career record five goals this year for the Penmen and is second in the NE-10 for goals.
Set Pieces, a North Shore women’s soccer column, appears in The Salem News during the fall season. Contact Matt Williams at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.