NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport girls lacrosse team is headed to the regional finals after beating Manchester Essex 10-8 in last night’s Division II North Semifinal, riding a huge second-half rally to avenge the team’s early-season loss to the Hornets.
Newburyport (13-4) and Manchester Essex (11-8) found themselves evenly matched for most of the game, with each team coming back to tie the score after every time the other pulled ahead. The Clippers finally took the lead for good late in the second half, when they scored four unanswered goals to take a 10-7 lead, and then the defense clamped down to put the Hornets away for good.
“This team has shown a ton of hear coming through these playoffs,” said Newburyport coach Catherine Batchelder. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be where we are right now, and it’s because the girls have played really well together, they trust each other and they’ve risen up and they’re playing great lacrosse right now.”
The first half proved to be a back-and-forth affair as each team’s stars on offense took turns making big plays. Newburyport midfielder Ali Peffer scored the game’s first goal in just under two minutes, and then Manchester Essex’s Brittany Smith, the Cape Ann League Baker Division’s Player of the Year, scored to tie it up.
Peffer and Smith then traded goals to tie the score at 2-2 before Manchester Essex’s Taylor Meek and Ashling Batchelder scored to give the Hornets a two-goal lead.
It wouldn’t last, however, as Newburyport seniors Julia Kipp and Lilly Donovan scored in quick succession to tie the game again at 4-4.
The pace picked up in the last four minutes of the half, as Meek scored twice more before Newburyport sophomore Olivia Kearney and Kipp responded to tie the game at 6-6. With only about five seconds to play in the half, Smith scored her third goal of the game to give the Hornets a 7-6 lead going into halftime.