By Dan Guttenplan
---- — WORCESTER – The Newburyport girls soccer team made a state championship feel like an inevitable conclusion.
Newburyport (21-0-2) clinched its third Division 3 state championship in seven years Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Granby at Foley Stadium in Worcester, completing the first undefeated season in school history. The Clippers didn’t allow a single goal in five state-tournament games, bringing their shutout tally to 18 on the season.
“The current seniors were ball girls for (the 2007 and 2008) teams,” Newburyport co-coach Rob Gonnam said. “They said, ‘When it’s our turn, we are going to win this.’ It came full circle.”
Senior captain Jaycie Triandafilou, the team’s leading goal-scorer, notched her 20th goal of the season in the sixth minute off a corner kick from Amy Sullivan. Seeing as though the Clippers had not allowed a goal since October 7 against Amesbury, the goal figured to be all the Clippers needed to hold on for a championship.
“I got lucky on the goal,” Triandafilou said. “I hit it with my stomach. Their goalie (Brittany Hauschild) didn’t get a hand on it. I’m so grateful to get it.”
After the Clippers displayed what co-coach Kevin Sheridan called “first-half nerves,” they took control in the second half. Collectively, Newburyport hit three crossbars and had three other situations that resulted in a Clipper and Hauschild in a 1-on-1 situation.
“We struggled in the beginning of the first half, even after the goal,” Sheridan said. “We started to control the game in the second half. It was big for us. That’s the way you want to win a championship.”
Newburyport rarely showed moments of weakness all season, with two ties against Division 1 North semifinalist Masconomet serving as the only thing separating the squad from a perfect season. In Newburyport’s run through the Division 3 North sectional, the Clippers faced Cape Ann League foes in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final.
“That was good preparation,” Gonnam said. “Everybody in our league played us like it was the World Cup. Although that wears you down, it doesn’t allow the luxury of going to sleep in a game. It forces you to play at the maximum in every game.”
A team laden with senior talent will graduate the program’s first All-New England player in center back Aly Leahy, as well as three other All-Cape Ann League players in Triandafilou, midfielder Carly Brand and goalkeeper Lilly Donovan. The team will return All-CAL selection Abbie Bresnahan, a sophomore who dominated at points during the first half on Saturday.
“Aly’s an All-New England player, and she showed why,” Gonnam said. “She dictates what happens on defense. She makes Lilly’s job a lot easier. She makes her teammates’ job a lot easier. She barks (at the fullbacks) a lot, she’s tough on them. But it’s a lot better when you have somebody directing traffic.”
Donovan made two saves on Saturday, but also thwarted several scoring threats by venturing out of the goal to cut off crossing passes. After finishing the season with a school-record goals-against average of 0.23, Donovan said she could hardly remember the feeling of allowing a goal.
“Not really, actually,” Donovan said. “The last game was Amesbury (October 7), and honestly, I don’t even remember it.”
Of the 10 seniors on the Newburyport roster, seven have played club soccer for Gonnam with the SF Vikings since they were in sixth grade. A collection of about 15 sixth- through eighth-graders from Newburyport attended Saturday’s game, and served as ball girls, much like players like Leahy, Brand and Liza Twomey served as ball girls for the state championship teams in 2007 and 2008.
“Probably 10 of those kids will be on varsity next year,” Gonnam said. “We’ll start over again.”
Season in review
Date Opponent Result
Sept. 4 North Reading W, 2-0
Sept. 9 HAM-WENHAM W, 3-0
Sept. 11 Saugus W, 7-1
Sept. 17 MASCONOMET T, 1-1
Sept. 19 Triton W, 2-0
Sept. 21 PENTUCKET W, 5-1
Sept. 25 IPSWICH W, 4-0
Sept. 28 Man. Essex W, 3-1
Oct. 1 GEORGETOWN W, 2-1
Oct. 3 Rockport W, 2-0
Oct. 7 Amesbury W, 6-2
Oct. 12 LYNNFIELD W, 1-0
Oct. 14 N. READING W, 3-0
Oct. 16 Ham-Wenham W, 1-0
Oct. 18 SAUGUS W, 10-0
Oct. 21 Masconomet T, 0-0
Oct. 23 Pentucket W, 7-0
Oct. 25 TRITON W, 2-0
* Nov. 4 IPSWICH W, 2-0
** Nov. 6 Ham-Wenham W, 3-0
*** Nov. 10 Lynnfield W, 1-0
**** Nov. 12 Card.-Spellman W, 3-0
***** Nov. 16 Granby W, 1-0
Home games in CAPS
* Eastern Mass. Division 3 North quarterfinal
** Eastern Mass. Division 3 North semifinal
*** Eastern Mass. Division 3 North final
**** Division 3 state semifinal
***** Division 3 final