LYNN— The message Peabody boys soccer coach Stan McKeen delivered to his Tanners prior to Wednesday night’s game against Classical was simple.
“The season, for us, had to start tonight,” McKeen said. “We can create a three-game winning streak to go in the state tournament and that would be great.”
Needing three points to cement a bid in the state tournament, the Tanners earned two of them with a 3-1 win over the Rams at Manning Field. Now Peabody needs one point to seal its berth with two regular season games remaining.
“We needed three points and now we need one,” McKeen said. “We have two games left. We have Billerica on Saturday and Gloucester on Monday. This was a big win. We got down 1-0 and we didn’t play that well in the first half but I think we picked ourselves up in the second half.”
Despite the rain, both teams were able to move the ball down the field with relative ease. Both goalies, Daniel Cortes of Classical and Troy Cappos of Peabody, were busy and tested in the first half. Cortes made four saves in the opening period while Cappos made five.
“We played against a tough goalie but we had a few opportunities that we should’ve scored on,” Classical coach Dominick Steadman said. “That’s kind of been the story of our season. We had a few opportunities to score that could’ve changed our season. We tied a couple games where we had good opportunities but we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Kevin Molina-Orelana broke the scoreless tie in the 24th minute, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead. Jonathan Alves, who often plays hero for the Tanners, knotted it up in the 33rd minute and the teams went into a 1-1 tie at halftime.
“At halftime I gave them a hard time because we weren’t playing that well,” McKeen said. “We weren’t using both sides of the field, we were trying to chip balls long that were going out of bounds. We had to put the ball on the ground, and we did. I thought we played much better soccer in the second half.”
In the the 52nd minute, Giovani Lumaj, also one of Peabody’s top scorers, converted on a corner kick to give the Tanners their first lead of the game at 2-1.
Peabody’s set pieces, McKeen said, have emerged as a strength for the Tanners.
“We’ve scored about seven goals off corner kicks this season,” McKeen said. “We have the size up front which works off the corners. We don’t do a great job with balls coming out of the air, but that corner kick was big.”
Alves boosted the Tanners’ lead to 3-1 with a breakaway goal in the 62nd minute. That was all the scoring the Tanners needed as Peabody’s defense held Classical’s offense off the board in the second half for the 3-1 victory.
“The second goal was another miscommunication issue for us,” Steadman said. “It seems like we had too much of that this season. Dan took accountability for that as our goalie. Miscommunication led to a goal and that put us down. From there, there was nothing we could do attacking-wise.”
Up next for the Tanners (8-7-1) is a road game on Saturday at Billerica.
The Rams end the regular season at 4-8-4.
“It’s disappointing to finish four points out of states,” Steadman said. “Last year we were five points out so it got a little better. It’s a good group of kids. We’re only losing two seniors so there’s no excuse to not make it next year. It was a great group of kids and they made it fun coaching them.”