By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport boys lacrosse team picked up a huge win yesterday afternoon, beating a tough North Reading team 12-5 to gain some serious ground in the league standings.
After giving up a goal early, Newburyport (6-1, 4-1 CAL) rebounded to take control with four unanswered goals in the first quarter to take a lead they would never relinquish. Junior attacker Mike Shay scored each of the team’s first three goals, and junior midfielder JJ Bajko chipped in the fourth to make it 4-1 after the first break.
North Reading (8-4, 4-2 CAL) mounted a mini-comeback in the second quarter with two quick goals early on to make it 4-3, but that was as close as the Hornets would get. Junior attacker Matt Kelleher and Shay each scored to extend the Clippers’ lead to 6-3 going into halftime, and then Newburyport scored four more in the third to effectively put the game out of reach.
The win was Newburyport’s fifth in a row, and between North Reading being knocked down a peg and Triton’s loss at Masconomet, the Clippers now stand alone in second place in the Cape Ann League’s Kinney Division. Masconomet is in first place.
Newburyport head coach Ed Gaudiano said after the game that he was happy with the effort his team gave, but he believes there is still room for improvement, particularly on the mental aspect of the game.
“I think we could play smarter, we made a lot of mental errors and that’s what we told the guys after the game,” Gaudiano said. “There was some great hustle and good lacrosse, but there were times where we fell off doing some smart things on the field, and I think North Reading was able to take advantage of some of those.”
One example of a mental lapse on the part of Newburyport came after a Clipper defender was sent off for cross-checking a North Reading midfielder so hard that the player was knocked off his feet and had to come out of the game with a wrist injury.
The incident fired up both sides and words were briefly exchanged among a few players, but ultimately both coaches got their players back under control and the game proceeded without further incident.
“I just said we don’t do that,” Gaudiano said. “That’s not to say kids don’t make mistakes, but it’s easy to get them refocused.”
After the game, Gaudiano said he was happy with the way Shay and senior attacker Nick Federico were able to play their game in front of the North Reading net, adding that it was encouraging to see them play so well to complement the threat that Kelleher poses opposing defenses.
“[Shay] had a good game, I think he’s on, he knows he’s part of the offense, it’s not all Matty Kelleher and today he took advantage of his opportunities,” Gaudiano said. “I think the other guy who had a good game was Nick Federico. He was able to get a bunch of assists and that shows he’s on as well. He’s the guy to get the ball around and get those other two their shots.”
Shay finished the day with a team-leading 5 goals and 1 assist, Federico scored a goal and tallied 4 assists, Bajko scored 2 goals, and Kelleher added 4 goals and an assist of his own, bringing his season goal total to 32 in just seven games.
Newburyport will be back in action today at home against Marblehead, and after that the Clippers will have a day off to rest before Friday’s pivotal home matchup against Triton.