By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — For the first time in program history, the Newburyport girls lacrosse team has won the North Sectional championship, and now the Clippers are just two wins away from being crowned the top team in Massachusetts.
The Clippers (14-4) defeated Marblehead (15-7) by a score of 12-11 in Saturday’s Division II North Final, coming back multiple times in the second half to tie the score before taking the lead for good with three minutes to play.
Newburyport will now advance to today’s state semifinal, in which the Clippers will face south champion Norwell at Babson College starting at 5:30 p.m.
“They’re a very strong team, they’ve got a strong program, they’ve been here before and they’ve won a couple of championships,” said Newburyport coach Catherine Batchelder of Norwell. “We’ll have our hands full, but we play a very disciplined and smart game and I like our chances against anybody.”
Newburyport punched its ticket after overcoming a series of late deficits against Marblehead on Saturday. Midway through the second half, Marblehead took a 10-8 lead with about 14 minutes to go before senior attacker Julia Kipp and Lilly Donovan scored in quick succession to tie the game at 10.
The Magicians took the lead again after scoring with six minutes to play, but after Newburyport regained possession following a Marblehead turnover, Kipp struck again to tie it. About a minute later, Donovan scored to give the Clippers the lead for good. She and Kipp each finished with three goals each, senior midfielder Ali Peffer scored four, and sophomore Olivia Kearney scored two.
“It was a great game, it was really warm and the girls showed a ton of resiliency and effort and guts,” Batchelder said. “It was an amazing win for our program.”
Prior to this season, the Newburyport girls lacrosse team had never made it past the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Though this may be the first time the girls lacrosse team has reached this point in the tournament, many of the players have been here before. Several starters on the lacrosse team — including Kipp, Peffer and Donovan — were also members of the state championship girls soccer team this past fall, and Batchelder said their experience has helped guide the younger players through the gauntlet of the state tournament.
“I think being a part of something successful, they bring a confidence to our younger players about what it means to be a team and work together and believe in themselves,” she said.
Now the Clippers are on the precipice of capturing their first state championship, and Batchelder said her team deserves a lot of credit for reaching this point.
“At this point, we’ve climbed this incredible mountain and won 12 in a row, so [Saturday] when we won I wanted the girls to take a minute and let it soak in,” she said. “So I want us to play loose and enjoy what they’ve achieved, enjoy how hard they’ve worked and really take in the moment.”
DIVISION II SEMIFINALS
Newburyport vs. Norwell
Babson College, today, 5:30 p.m.