PEABODY — An opening-day win for any high school team is always a good thing. But in the case of the Peabody girls lacrosse team, it might also have been a huge sigh of relief.
Saturday morning on brisk and windy day, the Tanners took the first step in what they hope be another successful season, defeating Merrimack Valley Conference powerhouse Haverhill 12-10 at Coley Lee Field.
“I told the team it was a monster win, a huge win for us,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “Putting Haverhill on first we were a little nervous. The were returning their entire roster, and as we know, the MVC is a very good league.
“We wanted to play them for a reason, to test our girls early and it was a battle back and forth,” he said.
On paper, the game projected to be a David/Goliath match. The Hillies came into the game stacked with experience, while the Tanners were starting from scratch, having graduated 12 seniors, including four starters.
The good news for Peabody was the lone senior on the squad, captain Sarah Buckley, and sophomore Colleen Crotty were a 2-player wrecking crew, combining for 10 of the Tanners’ 12 goals. Toss in a 4-point effort from sophomore Olivia Kiricoples (2 goals, 2 assists) and a strong effort from junior captain Alex Houlden (assist) and it was the ticket the Tanners needed to come out on top.
“Last year, Sarah just exploded in the tournament for us,” said Desroches. “She has great stick movement on the ball going to goal, has great ground ball control and plays great defense. She is a complete player. As our only senior we are going to be leaning on her experience and leadership.
“She and Olivia were just awesome today,” Desroches said. “With such an inexperienced team, we needed someone to take control out there.
“Crotty last year played a supplemental role to Chloe Gizzi but now as a sophomore, she had the opportunity to do that, and you saw that’s exactly what she did today.”
The game did not start well for the Tanners, as the Hillies took charge right of the gate and jumped out to a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the first half. After that, however, it was all Peabody. The Tanners exploded for six goals in a little more than seven minutes to take a 7-3 lead with 8:19 to play in the first half.
Buckley got the party started with her second score of the day. At the 15:23 mark. Two minutes later, sophomore Olivia Kiricoples ripped a shot past Hillies’ goaltender Hannah Goodwin to tie the game at 3-3.
The Tanners kept up the attack with two goals in under a minute to take the lead for good, the first by Crotty and the second on a Buckley free position shot. Crotty added another on score on a free shot at the 9:59 mark, then Kiricoples closed out the 6-0 run with her third goal of the day that made it 7-3 with 8:19 to go.
Haverhill’s Meredith Budds (3 goals) stopped the bleeding at the 5:15 mark when she slipped a free position shot past freshman goalie Olivia Lavalle (10 saves), who making her first varsity start.
“Olivia made couple of really good saves in both halves,” said Desroches. “They had at least four, maybe five goals on free position shots, so you can’t hold those against her. She was a sitting duck on those free shots as it’s almost impossible to save those.”
Haverhill showed some life in the last three minutes, scoring twice around a Buckley free position shot, to go into halftime trailing by 3, 8-5.
The Hillies closed to 9-6 with two goals sandwiched around a Buckley strike in the first four minutes of the second half, but that was as close as they would come. Peabody put the game out of reach with the prettiest goal of the day with 13:03 to go when Kiricoples fed Crotty, in full stride, just in front of the net to make it 11-7.
“It was a great first game for us it had everything you could want, you know, turnovers, which we are learning from that , good offense, bad offense, good defense, bad defense, there is a lot to take out of this game,” said Desroches. “We were pretty productive on offense and defensively we had some pretty good stands but we have to be more disciplined on defense minimize the fouls and lessen the mistakes.”