LYNNFIELD — Yesterday’s North Division 3 state tournament quarterfinal matchup between the No. 4 Lynnfield Pioneers and No. 5 Newburyport Clippers at Pioneer Stadium couldn’t have been a closer game.
Unfortunately for the home team, it all came down to one mistake, which opened the door for the Clippers to pull out a 1-0 win in overtime.
The goalkeepers stole the show with Lynnfield’s MacKenzie O’Neill and Newburyport’s Jennifer Stuart engaged in an “anything you can do I can do better” battle through 80 minutes with each player racking up 15 saves and holding their ground on corner kicks (6 for Lynnfield and 5 for Newburyport.)
In the end, however, it all came down to a turnover in the backfield. Newburyport sophomore Olivia Sullivan played the ball to the feet of Clipper senior Margaret Cote, who launched a bullet of a shot from inside the top of a heavily packed box that O’Neill had her sights on, only to watch helplessly as the ball ricocheted off a Lynnfield defender into the net a little more than three minutes into the overtime period.
“It’s always tough when you lose, but this one, coming off a deflection is even harder, said Lynnfield coach Mark Vermont. “I thought we controlled the last 15 minutes of the first half and all of the second half, but their goalie made some great saves and overall it was a great game and a physical game. I mostly feel badly of the seniors, but we just got unlucky.”
Lynnfield got an outstanding effort from its defense, which limited the Clippers opportunities to long distance shots for the most part. O’Neill fielded all of them cleanly, many of them coming in heavy traffic out front.
“They didn’t really have any close-in shots, really none of them were what I call dangerous from really close in, until the last one, and there was nothing Mack could do about that,” said Vermont.
Lynnfield had several chances at open looks after Stuart came off her line to either clear or coverup through balls, but couldn’t convert.
Midfielder April Luders, who was recently called up from the freshman squad, created several chances on the right side and also made a key defensive play just seconds into overtime.
“The good thing about this game was also that we had some of the newbies, like April and Ashley Mitchell get in the game and really spark the offense and worked well with Kate (Mitchell) up top,” said Vermont. “Defensively, we got strong games from JP (Juliana Passatempo), Liz Sykes, and Olivia Montanile, who all played great as well as Hannah Filipe and Sydney (Santosuosso), who played practically the whole game.”
For Newburyport, the win was vindication coming just two years after the Pioneers eliminated the Clippers, 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
“Two years ago, they beat us right here on this field,” said Newburyport coach Robb Gonnam. “This year, it was our turn to be in the right place at the right time.”
Gonnam said the game MVP if he had a vote was Sullivan.
“She’s only a sophomore but had the game of her life, perhaps the single best performance by any player all season,” said Gonnam. “All of the chances they had, she was the one doing all the clean up work on defense, so a lot of the credit for this win has to go to her.”
While disappointed, O’Neill said that no how matter how you cut it, it doesn’t get any better than when it comes to the Lynnfield-Newburyport rivalry.
“We know whenever we play them, it’s going to be a tight game and this one was no different,” she said. “It was just unlucky that it was deflection off a defender and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I thought our defense played a fantastic game and we had a lot of shots, particularly in the second half, but their goalie just made every save.”
The Clippers will play the winner of today’s Wayland-Gloucester game in the semifinals on Thursday at 3:30 at Manning Field.