|Norwell's Laura Ferzoco (left) and Leah Smith celebrate with goalie Justine Sullivan. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Clippers ride wave, roll North Andover
WELLESLEY - A strong first half made sure that the path to the Division 2 girls' lacrosse state championship was smooth sailing for the Clippers of Norwell.
The blue and gold claimed their first title since 2006 on the strength of a stellar opening 25 minutes at a cool, drizzly Babson College. By the time junior Kate MacDonald and sophomore Molly Cox had each scored their third goals of the game, it was 8-1, and the Clippers cruised from there, finishing with a 15-6 win over North Andover.
MacDonald and Cox each finished with five goals to lead the Clippers (17-5-1), who will bring back all but two players next year - a fact that may have made their triumph not just of the present, but perhaps of the near future as well.
Cox said the pain of losing in the title game last year at Babson fueled her and her teammates.
"Last year, we left here with that awful feeling and when we arrived here today, we said to ourselves that it was not going to happen again. I don't think our team's ever wanted something so much," she said.
The Scarlet Knights (20-5) played much tougher in the second half, but could only get as close as 13-6. North Andover coach Karen Lahey said that her team wound up playing to Norwell's strengths instead of its own and thought that turnovers also played a big role.
"Lacrosse is one of those speed games that when you turn the ball over, it can come down on you really fast," she said. "A team like Norwell - to get down by six goals, it's a hard climb to make coming out and we knew that."
Cox opened the scoring with a goal at 57 seconds, and MacDonald followed with a free shot after a foul at 3:18 for a 2-0 lead. North Andover's Jen Pino bagged her own free shot at 4:59, but Cox then scored from the left side of the net after an assist from Olivia Huie (one goal, one assist) to start a 6-0 Norwell run.
The run was capped by Cox and MacDonald - after she set up for a free shot, MacDonald fired to Cox, who zipped it into the net from point-blank range with 4.9 seconds left in the half.
Nicole Zahoruiko scored on a low shot to get the Knights within 8-2 to begin the second half, but three straight goals by Norwell stopped any momentum for North Andover.
Eventually, the scene shifted from action to celebration for coach Emily Stearns and her Clippers. Stearns took the reins of the program this season with an uncertain lineup after having lost nine seniors to graduation.
"It's always interesting when you're the new coach in town, but they worked hard for me and I really appreciated all their hard work," Stearns said.
"They treat each other and their coaches with a lot of respect and I think that's the most important thing as a team. Everything else comes secondary, so you treat each other with respect and work hard and you're going to have a great team."