By Dan Guttenplan
---- — The Newburyport girls soccer state-championship teams of 2007 and 2008 included a collection of future college athletes, including Jillian Kinter, who was a two-time Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year in her four-year soccer career at Colgate.
As talented as those champion Newburyport teams were — with other collegiate athletes like Taylor Bresnahan (Union College), Laura Muise (Bentley University) and Lindsey Tomasz (James Madison) — this year’s team may be the most talented in coach Robb Gonnam’s 21-year tenure.
However, in order to match the state-champion squads of 2007 and 2008, this year’s team must win two more games after claiming a Division 3 North sectional title Sunday with a win over Lynnfield. Newburyport (19-0-2) will play Cardinal Spellman (18-1-2) tonight (5 p.m.) in the Division 3 state semifinal at Manning Field in Lynn.
Even without the state championship on its record yet, this Newburyport team has done things that no other team in program history has achieved. This year’s team was the first in school history to have five All-Cape Ann League players in seniors Aly Leahy, Jaycie Triandafilou, Carly Brand and Lilly Donovan, along with sophomore Abbie Bresnahan.
The honors have continued to pour in for Newburyport’s top players since the CAL meetings. On Sunday, Leahy was named Division 3 Player of the Year as well as All-New England. Leahy and Triandafilou were named All-State. Leahy, Triandafilou, Bresnahan and Brand were named First Team Eastern Mass. All-Stars.
“Those are very impressive honors,” Gonnam said. “It’s the first time we ever had more than three All-League players. With all of the talent that has come through the program, we’ve never had it like this.”
Newburyport has not allowed a goal in 12 games, and has allowed just five all season. Donovan, the goalkeeper, boasts a 0.27 goals against average. The defensive grouping of Leahy, Julia Kipp, Bella Palma and Delaney Bartol has been the strength of the team, according to Gonnam.
“Our backfield has been so solid,” Gonnam said. “That creates offense for us. If they’re playing well, they’re winning balls facing forward. We rarely are retreating when we address the ball. It’s not a panic defense. Very seldom are we out of position so we have to do that.”
Gonnam believes the turning point of the season came after a 2-0 victory over Georgetown on Oct. 1. The Clippers had just played their second “mediocre game in a row,” in Gonnam’s view, and he and Sheridan addressed the captains about their leadership roles moving forward.
“We had a discussion with the captains,” Gonnam said. “We had a discussion with the captains and the team together. The captains had a discussion with the team. The next game, we played Rockport, and it was a turning point.”
Since that Rockport game, the Clippers have outscored their opponents 38-2.
After watching his team win in shootouts Sunday night, Gonnam is expecting another tight contest tonight.
“We saw Cardinal-Spellman play Dedham on Saturday night,” Gonnam said. “When we first got there, Cardinal Spellman was in control with a 2-0 lead. Dedham got a PK, and it was 2-1 at the end of the half. It was all Dedham in the second half, but the Cardinal-Spellman goalkeeper made some magnificent saves. They have a good team. Anyone that gets this far has a good team.”
Newburyport’s top scorers
Name, year Goals Assists Points
Jaycie Triandafilou, sr. 19 5 24
Abbie Bresnahan, so. 14 10 24
Carly Brand, sr. 14 2 16
Amy Sullivan, sr. 3 9 12
Aly Leahy, sr. 5 6 11
Julia Kipp, sr. 1 9 10
Season in review
Date Opponent Result
Sept. 4 North Reading W, 2-0
Sept. 9 HAMILTON-WENHAM W, 3-0
Sept. 11 Saugus W, 7-1
Sept. 17 MASCONOMET T, 1-1
Sept. 19 Triton W, 2-0
Sept. 21 PENTUCKET W, 5-1
Sept. 25 IPSWICH W, 4-0
Sept. 28 Manchester Essex W, 3-1
Oct. 1 GEORGETOWN W, 2-1
Oct. 3 Rockport W, 2-0
Oct. 7 Amesbury W, 6-2
Oct. 12 LYNNFIELD W, 1-0
Oct. 14 NORTH READING W, 3-0
Oct. 16 Hamilton-Wenham W, 1-0
Oct. 18 SAUGUS W, 10-0
Oct. 21 Masconomet T, 0-0
Oct. 23 Pentucket W, 7-0
Oct. 25 TRITON W, 2-0
* Nov. 4 IPSWICH W, 2-0
** Nov. 6 Hamilton-Wenham W, 3-0
*** Nov. 10 Lynnfield W, 1-0
**** Nov. 12 Cardinal-Spellman TBD
Home games in CAPS
* Eastern Mass. Division 3 North quarterfinal
** Eastern Mass. Division 3 North semifinal
*** Eastern Mass. Division 3 North final
**** Eastern Mass. Division 3 state semifinal