PEABODY — If Saturday’s play day at North Andover High School is any indication of what’s to come, the Peabody girls lacrosse team may primed for a breakout season.
“We really overloaded the preseason with scrimmages against some of the strongest teams around,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “At North Andover alone, we played Bedford, Hamilton-Wenham, Central Catholic, Marblehead, and a very tough Chelmsford team that won the Division 1 tournament, and also Reading, which was the finalist. This day is all about the girls seeing top caliber teams so to finish with a 4-2 win over Reading was a great way to end the day. The big thing is when you are playing these powerhouse teams you have to try not to get on ourselves.”
Last year, the Tanners faced a steep learning curve with more than half the team comprised of inexperienced underclassmen. Nonetheless, the Tanners posted a winning record of 14-5 and qualified for the Division 1 North tournament for the fourth straight season. The No. 11 Tanners didn’t last long, however, as they were eliminated by a powerhouse, No. 6 seeded Reading team, 15-8, which went on to lose in the championship final to Chelmsford.
The Tanners have the luxury of having three senior captains in Catherine Manning, Alex Houlden and Alyssa Saraceni who also served as captains as juniors.
“I’m fortunate to have three strong captains,” said Desroches. “Catherine does everything a caption should. An excellent leader on the field and in the classroom, she plays three different sports with totally different skill sets and excel. “Im very fortunate to coach her in two sports. She makes my job easier.
“Alex has a contagious attitude, is team oriented and brings players together,” Desroches said. “She’s not focused on individual accolades but is more interested in the success of the team.
“Alyssa is all-out hustle,” Desroches added. “She has a motor and never stops moving and her hard work at practice is reflected in games. She could be five passes away, yet is still moving to put herself in a position to help the team. She is totally selfless.”
Manning and Houlden will anchor the back line alongside sophomore Jordyn Collins and sophomore Haile Baker. Defensive midfielder Saraceni and sophomore center midfielder Amber Kiricoples (the Tanners’ draw specialist) will also be counted on for major contributions in the backfield and in the transition game.
“Amber was awesome today,” said Desroches. “When she didn’t win a draw, she was winning directions and putting the ball where we want it. Our problem was we just didn’t go and get those balls. As a result, we had to go 100 yards when we attacked, while our opponents had to go only 30.
“And Haile Baker had a great game in transition today, so she looked very good.”
Sophomore Hailee Lomasney and junior Olivia Kiricoples win man the midfield, while junior Colleen Crotty and junior Maddy Lomasney will lead the attack unit.
Sophomore Olivia LaValle returns for a second season as the Tanners’ starting goalkeeper with sophomore Katie Rice also competing for minutes.
Two newcomers also made the team and look to be key contributors.
“We have one freshman, Makayla Fisher, and a sophomore transfer student, Sophie Izz, who have looked good and should compete for starting roles in a couple of positions,” said Desroches. “We have maybe one or two openings in the starting lineup, so that bodes very well for us.”
Desroches said a big plus this year has been being able to start the preseason outside.
“This is the first time in a decade that we started the first day outside,” said Desroches. “It was cold, but the girls want to be outside.”
Desroches said he expects Marblehead and Beverly will be the teams to beat in the conference, but he won’t look past Danvers and Swampscott.
“Our league is very tough so you can’t take any team for granted,” Desroches said. “I mean, look at what Swampscott did last year, so they will be tough, and Danvers is our rival so we always expect them to give us a good, tough game.
“Our non-league schedule has teams from the Merrimack Valley, Middlesex League and Catholic Conference because we want to play the toughest teams we can to be ready for the tournament.”
The Tanners open the season with a Northeastern Conference clash against Gloucester at home Wednesday, April 3 (4 p.m.).
As is Desroches’ custom, the Tanners schedule features a challenging assortment of non-conference games, a slate that includes Arlington (April 8), Dracut (April 13), Wakefield (April 25) and cross-city rival Bishop Fenwick (May 15) in the annual Danish Cup game (at Fenwick).
Peabody is scheduled to close out the regular season at Middlesex League rival Melrose on Monday, May 27 (10 a.m.).