By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — LYNN — It was another year, another Division 2 North semifinal for the Newburyport girls soccer team at Manning Field Saturday morning.
But this year’s result was not what the defending Division 2 North champs had wanted, losing a defensive showcase in overtime to Belmont, 1-0.
The fourth-seeded Clippers (13-3-2) eliminated eighth seed Belmont (11-3-3) in the second round of the tournament last year, but the Marauders would have their revenge against Newburyport thanks to a header off a corner kick from Olivia Lyons.
“It was two mistakes at a critical time, and that’s the way it should be,” said Clippers co-coach Robb Gonnam. “If you make a mistake in a critical game, that’s what championship games are about.”
The Clippers started the first 20 minutes of the game on hot footing, taking the ball to the Belmont defense early and often. But the Marauders held strong long enough to begin changing the momentum.
“When we were hitting feet, we were keeping possession ourselves, that’s when we were playing well,” said Gonnam’s co-coach Kevin Sheridan. “That’s when we had the run of play and when we lost that, that’s when they started to push forward a little bit.”
Both Belmont goalkeeper Maria-Alice Menitas and Newburyport keeper Lilly Donovan managed to keep the game scoreless in the first half and did the same in the second behind impressive play from their defenders, taking things into overtime and that’s when the critical mistakes were made.
Belmont drew a foul with five minutes left, allowing a corner kick that found Lyons waiting patiently, and she headed the ball up and over Donovan’s right side to end the Clippers’ season.
“When you get fatigued, you lose the mental focus and you lose the discipline,” explained Gonnam. “And when you lose the discipline, that’s what wins and loses championship games.”
“The game was played back and forth. There weren’t too many scoring opportunities,” said Sheridan. “It’s unfortunate that it went the way it did. But that’s the game of soccer sometimes.”
After shocking the Cape Ann Legue by taking out undefeated Amesbury in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night, Belmont now proceeds to the division finals on Monday, leaving Newburyport humbled.
“They’re a good team,” Sheridan said of Belmont. “They possessed the ball, and they played really hard in terms of the defense going through the ball and things like that. They played hard and they’re a good team. That’s why they won against Amesbury and that’s why they won today.”
“It was a good game,” admitted Gonnam. “We played well at times. We played well early, and we played well fairly late. And who knows what we did in the middle. We were peaking at the right time. I thought we had probably better control of the play in terms of possession and they won the air. So we had to play with the intent that we were going to lose the air and win the second ball. And for a good part of the game, that worked.”