NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 10, 2014

After winning it all in soccer, four seniors have a chance to go out on top again

Mac Cerullo
Newburyport Daily News

---- — WELLESLEY — For a program that has never reached the state championship game before, Newburyport’s girls lacrosse team has plenty of girls who have been there before.

Four of Newburyport’s seniors — attacker Julia Kipp, midfielders Ali Peffer and Lilly Donovan, and defenseman Shannon Tinkham — were also members of last fall’s state championship girls soccer team.

Those girls were among the core of that championship team, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that every time Newburyport has looked to be in trouble this season, those four have usually been right in the middle of the inevitable comeback.

In yesterday’s case, Kipp scored three of her five goals in the second half, including the tying goal and the eventual game-winner, Peffer calmly scored a goal with one second remaining in the first half to cut Norwell’s lead from three to two, Donovan was in the middle of every offensive possession Newburyport had in the second half, and Tinkham helped lock down several of Norwell’s attackers, giving the offense a chance to catch up.

“They bring incredible leadership to this team and a really strong sense of confidence,” said Newburyport coach Catherine Batchelder. “And that’s what it takes to win games.”

Though the four had become accustomed to playing in big games during the fall, this kind of deep tournament run is unprecedented in the history of the girls lacrosse program. Prior to this year, no Newburyport girls lacrosse team had ever advanced past the second round of the state tournament, much less to the state championship game.

Coming into this season, the girls lacrosse team was not considered to be anywhere near a state championship contender either, especially after the team started the year 0-3.

“I can’t even believe it. Honestly, I’m shocked,” Donovan said. “It’s completely different than soccer. Soccer, all four years we’d been winning North Sectionals, we’d been winning tournaments, and lacrosse is completely different.”

Even after the team began its current 13-game winning streak, the exceptional performance of the boys lacrosse team continued to overshadow the girls team’s accomplishments. Peffer said up until they lost, most people around the school talked about how the boys were going all the way to the finals, and nobody ever said the same about them.

“Nobody ever expected us to make it this far, and we’re just blowing people’s minds right now that we actually made it,” Peffer said.

The girls said since they’ve played together for so long, it helps that they don’t have to think much when they’re on the field about what everyone else is doing, and instead they can focus on playing their game. They added that having a lot of composure is a good thing too, especially when it comes to setting an example for the younger players who have never played in games of this magnitude.

“Having the experience with soccer helps,” Donovan said. “And it also helps us pump up the younger kids and the other seniors who haven’t experienced it.”

Now, the girls have a chance to go out on top as seniors. Again.