By Jim Sullivan
---- — Undefeated.
Once again the Newburyport (19-0-2) girls soccer team are the biggest and baddest dogs around. For the third time in the past six years, the Clippers are MIAA North Division 3 champions after defeating fellow Cape Ann League powerhouse Lynnfield in a shootout at Manning Field last night, 1-0 (4-2 in penalty kicks).
“A lot of the time, you’ll lose those games,” said Clippers’ co-coach, Rob Gonnam. “Because all it takes is one counter so you stand there with your heart in your throat.”
Last night’s action was tense, to say the least, and began with second-seeded Lynnfield (16-3-2) on the attack, consistently pressuring the first seed Clipper defense for the first 10 minutes of play. But Lynnfield would only record one shot against Clippers’ goalkeeper Lilly Donovan in that time.
The Clippers began clocking in during the next 10 minutes, recording a shot against Pioneers’ goalkeeper Hannah Travers and almost tasted their first goal when Julia Kipp broke away on Travers’ right side. But the Lynnfield junior charged in on the Port senior and stole away the opportunity. Newburyport was undeterred, however, and kept pushing the Lynnfield defense, controlling the flow of the game for the rest of the first half.
Lynnfield came out hot at the start of the second half, getting off a shot on Donovan 12 seconds in, but the momentum remained on the Clippers’ side as Abbie Bresnahan countered with one of her own. Kipp charged in again soon after, only to have her shot deflected by a sliding Samantha Fillipe.
Newburyport dominated the play for the next 35 minutes, but Travers was extremely impressive, turning back shot after shot until her offense began to wake up on a tired Clipper squad, knocking off a few shots of their own until the second half was over, sending the D3 championship into overtime.
“She was absolutely magnificent,” Gonnam said of Travers. “And that’s what tournament play is all about. A team that is motivated, a goalie that’s hot. I don’t care what seed you are, it makes no difference at all at that point.”
Both overtime periods came and went with both teams evenly represented and scoreless, leading to the shootout where Lynnfield nailed the first kick and, true to form, so did Newburyport, thanks to senior co-captain Aly Leahy.
“It was a lot of pressure, but we practice them all year,” Leahy said of her PK. “I was just thinking that it is just like practice and put it away in the left corner.”
Lynnfield botched the second kick and Carly Brand hit hers. The Pioneers missed shot No. 3 and Bresnahan sank the corresponding shot. Lynnfield hit the fourth shot, but so did Jaycie Triandafilou and the Clippers were champs once again.
“All of our 10 seniors have been watching (this team) since we were in fifth grade and just to be a part of it and to win championships together like we saw them win is a great feeling,” Leahy said, choking back tears. “We’re making our mark and it feels good.”