Danvers Falcons Girls Soccer '07

Mon, Nov 12, 2007 12:30 PM @ Neutral Location
Team 1st 2nd Final
Playoff Game
Danvers 0 1 1
Wakefield 0 0 0
Danvers 1,  Wakefield 0 » Jim Vaiknoras, Staff PhotographerMore photos

Sullivan, King lift Falcons to North title

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Tuesday, November, 13 By Matt Jenkins
Staff writer

The black tights Ashley Sullivan and Casey King wear under their soccer shorts do more than just keep their legs warm during chilly November games.

It's not that the Danvers girls soccer duo is trying to hide anything, but the pants do camouflage the bulky knee brace each wears.

As if their on-field performance weren't enough to eliminate any signs of weakness.

Sullivan scored the game-winning goal in the 74th minute and King dominated the defensive end of the field as Danvers captured its first Division 2 North championship since 2003 with a 1-0 victory over Wakefield at Leary Field.

The 19-3 Falcons move on to play Division 2 South champion Oliver Ames tomorrow night (7 p.m.) for the Eastern Mass. title in Quincy. The winner advances to Saturday's Division 2 state championship game.

Sullivan, who missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has been gaining momentum with each game played this season. The speedy forward has been that much more dynamic in the postseason, striking for goals in each of the Falcons' four tournament contests.

"She keeps getting stronger and stronger, and she keeps getting faster and faster. She's a go-to player," Danvers coach Jimmy Hinchion said.

"You can put Ashley in the tightest game and she seems to shine every time. She's able to carry the team | not that we needed to be carried on anybody's back | but she just sets the tone. The girls follow her lead. She's a special player."

Sullivan is Danvers' leading scorer and has five goals in four playoff games.

"I thought junior year was going to be my year to shine | then I tore my ACL," Sullivan said. "This year I came in and have been scoring, being my old self again."

Sullivan is special on the offensive end, and King's overall performance is so good that Hinchion considers her an MVP candidate for the Falcons.

Hinchion got used to life without both last year when each went down with torn ACLs (King in the first game of the season, Sullivan in the second). The Falcons were still a solid team without the duo, but everyone is getting a better sense of how much they were missed last year since the tournament began.

"We had some good forwards (last year), but if you put Ashley with Taylor Orlando and Brianna Russo, that would have been an incredible forward line. Those girls were great, but missing Ashley for a year was tough," Hinchion said.

"And Casey has been an MVP-type player for us. She dominated today. If we don't have her, we're not winning a lot of those balls in the air."

Danvers needed strong defense and someone capable of winning the 50-50 balls yesterday in a game that was primarily played in the middle of the field. Both teams were so strong defensively that possession became increasingly important with each passing second.

The unforced error Wakefield goalie Erin Jackson committed on Sullivan's goal was the only thing that prevented overtime.

Sullivan's right-footed shot from 15 yards out wasn't struck particularly well, but it had enough spin on it to slip past Jackson and trickle across the line.

"She really kept us in every game," Wakefield coach Janel Stevenson said about Jackson, her junior goalkeeper. "I'm not really sure what happened on that goal; it was just a bad little bounce. You hate to see the game end on that type of goal, but that's the nature of the tournament."

It takes mistake-free soccer to win at this stage of the tournament, and with players like King and senior goalie Caraline Moholland (six saves) anchoring the defense, Danvers is very difficult to score on.

But with 15 solid seniors who play all over the field, it's difficult to say the Falcons' strength is anything but its balance.

With all the injuries behind them, this group of Danvers seniors | which won a state championship in youth soccer | has finally reached its biggest goal to date. They'll gladly tuck that North championship trophy away for the moment, in hopes of adding some more hardware to the collection over the next week.

"It feels so good to come back from so many injuries and win big," King said. "We've been waiting so long for something like this."

The Big Goal

Danvers' Ashley Sullivan scored her fifth goal of the playoffs yesterday afternoon to power the Falcons to the Division 2 North championship, a 1-0 victory over Wakefield. The only goal of the entire contest, Sullivan's blast from 15 yards out wasn't a rocket, but rather a spinning shot that wound its way past Wakefield goalkeeper Erin Jackson for the game-winner.

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