WELLESLEY — For the first time in program history, the Newburyport girls lacrosse team is going to the state championship game.
After trailing for virtually the entire game, the Clippers (15-4) came back with a huge second half to overpower south champion Norwell (11-10-1) and win yesterday’s state semifinal game 11-9 in front of several hundred fans at Babson College.
“I’m in awe. I’m so incredibly proud of these girls and what they’ve done this year, I’m at a loss for words. It’s incredible,” said Newburyport coach Catherine Batchelder. “They just refuse to quit and they refuse to lose a game. It’s awesome to see and it’s awesome to be a part of. They inspire me every day.”
Newburyport came out slow at the start of the first half and wound up in a 2-0 hole after just three minutes of play. Norwell’s midfield did an excellent job winning draws and maintaining possession, and throughout the first half most of Newburyport’s offense came on quick-strike breakaways.
Midway through the first half, Norwell extended its lead to 6-3, but after that point Newburyport began to settle down and keep Norwell’s talented attackers away from the front of the net.
As time began to tick down, a series of mishaps by the timekeeper resulted in a brief controversy, particularly after seven extra seconds ran off the clock after a Newburyport shot rolled out of bounds with 12 seconds to play.
The referees wound up putting four seconds back on the clock to give the Clippers nine seconds to make something happen, and senior Ali Peffer capitalized, scoring with one second left in the half to cut the deficit to 6-4.
After that, it was all Newburyport.
“I knew when it was close at halftime that we had a chance,” Batchelder said. “We’ve been a second half team all year and the girls just, again, they refused to let this season end. They want to let this season go on, and so do I.”