WORCESTER, Mass. -- After losing in the sectional quarterfinals in 2010 the Peabody Tanners used that loss as motivation for the 2011 season, which they finished as division one state champions.
“We had that early exit last year,” said Tanners head coach Dennis Desroches. “I know that was a driving force for us coming into this year.”
Peabody (22-0-2) was a 1-0 victor over the East Longmeadow Spartans (18-3-1), thanks to Katie Brunelle’s first half strike. But the Tanners had plenty of chances to put the game away in the first half.
Peabody striker Haley Dowd forced a save from East Longmeadow’s goal keeper Anne Stack just over two minutes into the match, from a free kick on the edge of the box.
In the fourth minute, Dowd sent her strike partner Victoria DiGiacomo clean through on goal with a perfectly-weighted through ball. Stack read the play well, and came sprinting off her line to make a tackle, not a save, at the top of her box and stop the danger.
With just 13 minutes to go in the first half, Dowd made a sensational run, going thirty yards past the Spartans defense only to be denied by Stack again.
It was starting to look like in wasn’t going to be the Tanners night.
“East Longmeadow is an excellent defensive team, so when have all those opportunities you have to take advantage of those,” Deroches said of his team’s first half frustration.
But Peabody finally got its deserved breakthrough in the 37th minute, from Brunelle.
Stack hurried a clearance off of the East Longmeadow goal line after a wayward back pass almost snuck through for an own goal. But her clearance only went as far as Brunelle, who took full advantage of the opportunity and scored the game's only goal just before the half.
“With a team like ours, who scores a lot of goals, we always have a lot of opportunities,” Brunelle said of Peabody’s first-half scoring chances. “I knew eventually someone was going to score, I didn’t know it was going to be me, but as long as we score that’s all that matters.”
The Tanners' defense and midfield limited East Longmeadow’s scoring chances in the second half, and held on for the 1-0 victory.
“Fortunately for us, that one goal held up,” Desroches said of Brunelle's strike. “Hats off to East Longmeadow, they really played us to the final whistle.”