By Gianna Addario
---- — TOPSFIELD — The Newburyport girls soccer team gave Masconomet freshman keeper Kate Pelletier enough work for a month of soccer yesterday afternoon.
The host Chieftains played to an 80-minute, scoreless 0-0 tie against Cape Ann League Large front-runner Newburyport, but it was Pelletier’s 23-save effort that had people talking as they left the field.
“She definitely kept us in the game,” Masconomet girls soccer coach Paula Yanakakis said after her team’s second consecutive tie. “Katie got hurt during the Triton game (Friday) and was questionable. She practiced on Sunday and felt fine, so she was able to go.”
Pelletier notched 14 saves in the first half, including some brilliant diving stops. From a spectator’s view, Pelletier looks like a seasoned-veteran playing far beyond her years. She earned her fourth shutout of the season and second against the Clippers.
In their second go-around playing each other, the Clippers (14-0-2) pretty much held possession for the majority of the first half. While, the Chieftains (10-0-5) are a strong team on the ground, Newburyport is just as capable in the air.
Masco senior captain Paige Pratt played in her first game back since pulling her hamstring two weeks ago. Pratt and fellow center midfielder Courtney Bouchard usually have no problem getting the ball up to leading goal scorer Kaleigh White, but the Clippers crowded the midfield and marked White the entire game.
“When we tried to get the ball through the middle, Newburyport was always there to stop it,” said Pratt. “Every time we’d try to get it over them in the air, they’d win it. So I moved up top to get some more speed up there, because I didn’t feel like I could do as much in the middle.”
Newburyport held Masco to just six shots on goal the entire game. Clipper captain Carly Brand stuck with White for the full 80 minutes and barely allowed her any touches. At times, White had three defenders on her, which certainly limited Masco’s chances of scoring.
“Kaleigh is such a great player and I give her a lot of credit, it’s frustrating when you have someone following you and covering you the entire game,” said Brand. “It was my job not to let her get the ball and I did the best I could.
“There was a more riding on this game — we have an undefeated record and we didn’t want give that up. We needed to play our style, short quick touches, but we weren’t able to finish.”
Defensively, Izzy Scarpone and Sarah Katz were solid for the Chieftains and gave Pelletier a sense of security in net.
“If they get beat, they stay calm and collected,” said Yanakakis. “They’ll come from behind and try to sweep the ball away, and they’ve been playing great like that all season.”
Newburyport and Masco are the last remaining undefeated in the CAL Large. And while the Chieftains have yet to suffer a loss this season, the Clippers have more wins and will most likely earn the CAL title this fall, because Masco has three more ties.
“Both ties against Newburyport were good ties,” Yanakakis added. “The tie against North Reading was probably our worst game all season, so we really need to be focused.”