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Capturing the moment: That’s exactly what the Clippers did en route to Div. II girls' lacrosse title

June 4, 2012

Cumberland senior Allie Sheehan aided the team’s championship drive on Sunday night with two goals and an assist. The Clippers finished what was a remarkable season with a 17-1 record, their lone loss coming in a non-leaguer. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.

CUMBERLAND — As a sophomore, Cumberland High senior Kara Gorman blew out a shoulder throwing the javelin, but attempted to make a comeback her junior outdoor track and field season.
“It was a ‘no-go,’” she explained. “Way too painful.”
This past fall, a few members of the girls’ lacrosse squad begged her to sign up for their program, as they desperately needed a goalie, and she finally acquiesced.
“I talked with my (future) teammates and Coach (Scott Carpenter), and he told me about the winter clinic, so I went,” she noted. “It was at the Wide World of Indoor Sports (facility) off of (Route) 146; I had to learn the basics. I was there once a week for, like, 13 weeks.
“There were times I absolutely asked myself, ‘Why are you playing lacrosse? You know nothing about it,’” she added. “I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off, but I ended up really liking it.”
On Monday afternoon, Gorman claimed she now loves the sport – and her decision to play it – during a post-season “wrap-up” team gathering held inside the Diamond Hill State Park’s ski lodge. That came of no surprise, as – just 18 hours before – she made eight saves to help the Clippers snag the R.I. Division II Tournament championship with a wild 12-10 triumph over Tiverton at Rhode Island College.
Not only did Carpenter’s crew garner the state title it had craved since the first day of practice back on Monday, March 19, but it also closed its D-II season with a perfect 17-0 slate. (Cumberland did drop a 13-8 decision to I-South powerhouse North Kingstown earlier this spring, but Carpenter deemed that a non-league contest).
“I think we worked really well together as a team, and we became closer,” Gorman stated. “We knew what each other’s strengths were, and knew how to put it all together on the field.”
Senior attack Kelsey Carpenter, who after last season was selected a “quad-captain” with classmates Alyssa Chito, Alexandra Sheehan and Sophie Kissaberth, mentioned after the meeting she’ll never forget that initial workout, held not at their Tucker Field home but the one behind the school.
“When I walked out of that practice, I just knew we’d be good, but I never dreamed we’d be as good as we turned out,” said Carpenter. “We just clicked as a team.
“His favorite quote, the one he always used to say, was ‘You play how you practice and you practice how you play,’” she added, referencing not only her head coach but her dad. “He wanted us to go 100 percent all the time, so we always did.
“You know, we were more than a team, we were a family. We wanted to be together all the time, whether it was on the lacrosse field or off. We’d have pasta dinners together, we went on a team camping adventure in (senior) Maddie Spoerer’s backyard and even went to see the (lacrosse) movie, ‘Crooked Arrows’ together.
“We just bonded, and when you’re that close off the field, it naturally brings you closer together on it.”
Stated Chito: “I think Coach’s message was we could make this season whatever we thought it could be, what we wanted it to be, if the commitment was there. It was the trust thing. We knew what our teammates were going to do; we just worked as one.
“This wasn’t a group of girls that came together only to play lacrosse; we were friends on and off the field, even before lacrosse began,” she continued. “We were like sisters. For me, this is a dream come true. I was on the volleyball team (last fall) that went to the state championship game, and we finished second. I was heartbroken. I wanted to win it so badly, but winning (Sunday) night, it feels better than I ever imagined.”
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Without question, the elder Carpenter proved to be the consummate disciplinarian, but also a teacher, mentor and – he admits, at times – counselor to his girls.
He claimed he opened each practice with 10-15 minutes of “core” drills, including sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, etc., then would ask them to run for approximately 25 minutes for conditioning purposes. He then would have them do uphill sprints to increase speed and leg strength before conducting technique and other fundamental drills.
“We really did work harder this year,” grinned junior attack Chloe Andrews, who notched four tallies and three assists against Tiverton in the title tilt, and earned the MVP laurel as a result. “If he told us to run for 30 minutes last year, we all would’ve freaked out and complained. We’d say, ‘But, Coach, it’s too hard!’
“This year, we knew we had so much potential, we wanted to run and work as hard as we could to get to where we – and he – thought we should be.”
When asked what may have been the turning point in the campaign, these Clippers provided a variety of answers.
Andrews chose the first victory over Lincoln, a 15-10 decision at Ferguson Field.
“That’s when it kind of hit us (that) we really had a shot at it,” she said. “They had made it to the state championship game, so we were thinking, ‘Hey, we just beat the state runner-up!’ That showed us how much we had improved over last season.”
Senior defensewoman Kayli Travassos believed it came in the defeat at North Kingstown.
“We went into it really nervous, because that was the only D-I game we had all year, but I think we ended up showing our true colors in the second half,” she offered. “We were down, 10-1, at halftime, but we outscored them, 7-3, and won the second half. That helped us believe.”
Carpenter the Player immediately piped up, “To be honest, I think it was just our attitude. We focused every day in practice. Sure, we had some goofy times, but we stayed focused because we knew we had to in order to achieve our goals. We got done what we had to every minute of every day.”
That’s when Chito chuckled, “Yeah, but it also was Coach’s quote: ‘We’re going to outwork everyone in practice so we can outplay them in every game.’ We actually climbed a mountain. We ran the trail up the old Diamond Hill ski area, and it took about 25 minutes.
“It absolutely stunk while we were doing it, and the pain was excruciating, but we knew (all the while) it would pay off in the end.”
Against Tiverton, the Clippers held a scant 5-4 advantage at the break, but surrendered three straight goals early in the final stanza. Coach Carpenter immediately called a timeout, regrouped his players and told them they needed to go back to the defensive fundamentals that got them to the final.
“With us, once the defense is working well, then it filters its way up to our offense,” said sophomore Arianna Coutu, who plays attack, midfield and defense when called upon. “That’s when our offense starts to click. If Kara makes a good save, it pumps us all up. It makes us all want to work harder and do better.”
Explained Kelsey Carpenter: “(Sunday) night, Kara made a breakaway save, and it was a total momentum change. Without that save, we don’t win that game.”

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Coutu went further, stating the stop initiated a great transition.
“Kara passed it to me, and we worked it up the field really quick,” she said. “We already had scored twice to make it 7-6, and Chloe scored the game-tying goal, then Maddie (Spoerer) scored again to put us back up, 8-7. We ended up scoring five in a row in the span of about five minutes, and that proved to be huge.”
Even the mentor Carpenter couldn’t believe the season ended in such fashion.
“Any time you can take any team into 17 games and not have a hiccup, it’s amazing,” he grinned. “That kind of consistency doesn’t happen that often. They exhibited so much dedication to themselves and to me. We’d do a one-on-one defensive drill, and they knew if they’re the better player, they should go out and dominate the other player. They also know if they do dominate that less talented player, it’s only going to make her better.
“That’s what I think led this team to trust each other on the field,” he continued. “They bonded early on – whether it was the pasta dinners or the sleepovers or scouting a game, they did it all together.”
Carpenter indicated Friday night, May 16, proved to be a key time in the season, perhaps even a revelation.
“The entire team went to South County to scout the Narragansett-Portsmouth game, and then we all drove to Patriot Place in Foxboro,” he stated. “We had some pizza and water in the parking lot, then went to the Showcase to see the ‘Crooked Arrows’ movie.
“A couple of girls had suggested (previously) that the team see it together, so I called around and discovered the only place it was showing that night was Patriot Place. That was a key moment right there. That mountain run the girls talked about? It came from a few of the movie scenes. There were Indians running through the woods dodging trees as part of their training.
“I told them a couple of days later I wanted them to do the 30-minute run up the trail, and that’s what they chose to do, dodge trees,” he added. “We’d practice every day (Monday through Friday) from 3-5:30 (p.m.), and they’d do independent runs on the weekends to keep their conditioning. I didn’t force them to, but I strongly suggested it, and they all did.
“This was a very driven team; their one common goal from the beginning was to achieve a state championship. Every athlete goes into every season hoping, dreaming to win a state title, but to actually achieve it is incredible. I had a first-year goalie and two freshmen starters, and everything worked out just right. It all jelled early on, and I think that provided them with the confidence they needed.”

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