Peabody rides defense to title
WORCESTER - The Peabody girls’ soccer team has built a reputation for having one of the state’s best offenses, but it was its defense that came up big when it mattered the most yesterday, as the Tanners claimed the Division 1 state title with a 1-0 win over East Longmeadow at Worcester State’s Coughlin Field.
“I think our defense is very underrated, maybe because we have Victoria Digiacomo and Hayley Dowd up front doing a lot of damage,’’ said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “But our defense is probably one of the best in the state.’’
Katie Brunelle’s goal with 3:26 remaining in the first half was the difference, as the Tanners’ back line of Taylor Provost, Bianca Muscato, Cayla Bucci, and Kara Digiacomo made the goal stand up.
The first half was a series of close calls for the Tanners (21-0-2), who dominated the Western Massachusetts champs in time of possession.
Dowd, who led Eastern Massachusetts in scoring this season with 44 points, used her speed to create several quality scoring chances early on. In the 23d minute she drew a foul just outside the box. On the ensuing free kick Dowd just missed finding Madison Doherty, who had sneaked to the back side of the box all alone.
“East Longmeadow is an excellent defensive team. So when you have those kind of opportunities you have to take advantage and put some away,’’ said Desroches, who acknowledged that the missed opportunities had his forwards frustrated.
With 3:26 remaining in the first half the Tanners found the back of the net. Spartans keeper Anne Stack slipped on a pass back to her and had to rush to get back and clear the ball.
Stack’s hurried clear found its way to Brunelle, and the senior midfielder ripped a shot from the edge of the box that found the top right corner of the net.
“Katie is the spark plug of our team,’’ said Desroches. “She does all the little things that make us successful. For her to score that in her senior year in her final game is a dream come true.’’
In the end, the Tanners’ defense picked up their frustrated teammates on the offensive end and one goal was all they needed.
“I think this win brings a lot of respect to Peabody,’’ said Brunelle. “Everyone always says that Peabody’s a one-and-done finesse team. I’m so proud of this team, we worked so hard and showed that we have some power and we belong.’’