WENHAM – For most teams, the game plan is the same when the powerful Danvers girls soccer team comes to town.
With the explosiveness the NEC Small champion Falcons bring to the field each game, opponents tend to pack it in defensively in hopes of keeping Danvers off the scoreboard and possibly stealing a goal in transition.
Gloucester tried something different when the two teams met at Gordon College yesterday, opting to keep two strikers up top in an attempt to generate some offense of its own.
Ultimately, though, it didn’t pan out. After a scoreless first half where the teams traded chances, the Falcons exploded for five second-half goals to improve to 13-2-2 on the season with a 5-0 victory.
“Most teams (play defensively) against Danvers, and it’s probably the smart thing to do,” Gloucester coach Alex White said. “We don’t. I think they have a good offensive unit, and I respect their offensive ability, but I always want to beat them. I don’t want to tie them; I don’t go out there looking for a 0-0 tie. I want to beat them, and one year we want to get a win and I thought we could do it today.”
For a time, it seemed that White’s strategy to beat the Falcons at their own game might pan off. With Danvers coming out of the gates relatively flat, the Fishermen backline was able to keep the Falcons to the outside and force a series of harmless outside shots.
So while Danvers ultimately piled up a 16-4 shot advantage in the first half, it was far from a dominant performance.
And with Gloucester’s two golden opportunities in the first half -- a Kali Cook shot that clanged off the crossbar and a breakaway shot from Bianca Giacalone skillfully turned away by Danvers goalkeeper Leah Ciampa -- the Fishermen could have easily gained a first half advantage.
“I thought we came out pretty slow,” Danvers coach Jim Hinchion said. “We’re banged up, everybody’s banged up at this time of the year, and I think we just came out with a little bit of a lack of intensity today and you can’t. Gloucester’s playing awesome, and the first half was really tight.”
“We tried to get some offense going and in the first half it was fine,” White added. “I thought we had more chances. They took a lot of outside shots and I thougth we were combining and getting good opportunities and I thought we could keep that up in the second half.”
They couldn’t. Six minutes into the second half, a miscommunication on the Gloucester backline left Danvers’ Chrissy Geikas all alone with an empty net, and once she buried it, the rout was on.
Danvers striker Shannon Pohle broke through shortly after Geikas started the scoring to put the Falcons up 2-0. Then Pohle put them up three. Then four.
And all the while, Pohle’s sister, Renee, paced a backline that stifled several second half opportunities from the likes of Giacalone and Cook to effectively deflate the Fishermen.
“Second half, I think we turned it on,” Hinchion said. “We settled in, but we never felt comfortable because we know what those Gloucester strikers can do.”
Once Pohle’s completed her hat trick, both White and Hinchion emptied their benches, giving their starters much-needed rest as each team’s regular season winds down and allowing Meghan McCarriston to notch her first-career varsity goal to round out the game’s scoring late in the second half.
With the win, Danvers further cemented itself as one of the highest seeds in the Division 2 North tournament.
And while the loss may hurt Gloucester’s tournament seeding, the Fishermen (7-6-3) had already punched their ticket to the tournament with Monday’s draw with Marblehead.
Considering the Fishermen’s 0-4-2 start to the season – which included a 5-1 loss to Danvers – the fact that they’re merely fighting for seeding rather than fighting for their lives is nothing short of remarkable.
“I was happy with the first half effort,” White said.
“I thought we didn’t bring much to the second half at all, and that was frustrating because I think we could have played better. They came out ready to play in the second half and we didn’t, so that’s what happens.”