LINCOLN -- Cumberland High head coach Scott Carpenter couldn’t believe his good fortune when, back on March 19, two new girls claiming to be goalies showed up at to his first practice at Tucker Field.
“I was grinning ear-to-ear, and I know the girls were wondering why,” Carpenter chuckled. “We had two kids who had never played lacrosse before; they were (senior Kara Gorman and (freshman) Julia Eaton. From Day One, you could definitely see both had huge potential.”
Carpnter wasn’t kidding. Gorman drew the start against Division II-North rival Lincoln High in this “Battle of Unbeatens” on Wednesday afternoon, and made 17 saves – most of the stellar variety – to help the Clippers to a satisfying 15-10 triumph at Ferguson Field.
With the verdict, Cumberland remained flawless on the spring at 8-0, while the Lions fell to 6-1.
“Kara was awesome, wasn’t she?” Carpenter smiled afterward. “Our goalie coach has been working with both Kara and Julia a couple of times a week, and it shows. They’ve taken their game – and our team – to the next level.
“In this division, and lacrosse in general, a goaltender is absolutely crucial to the success of a team,” he added. “Kara is definitely the real deal.”
Gorman wasn’t alone in providing pretty plays. Freshman attack Lindsay Sheehan closed with six goals, while junior middie Chloe Andrews mustered five goals and an assist. Sheehan’s older sister, senior Alexandra, notched a pair of tallies, and classmate Sophie Kissaberth notched one.
Versatile sophomore Arianna Coutu and freshman midfielder Maddie Andrews led the
Clippers in assists with three, while senior attack Maddie Spoerer added two.
Incredibly, Lincoln’s “go-to gal,” senior Jillian DeSimone, recorded only three goals, and junior Annie Carroll had the same.
Juniors Ashley Moreau and Brittany Redding finished with two each.
DeSimone, by the way, had tallied 53 goals in the previous six wins. At least four times in the contest, however, Gorman poke away DeSimone’s shots from varying distances.
The reason: Cumberland’s stifling defense, one bolstered by seniors Alyssa Chito, Kayli Travassos and Emily Murphy, not to mention Coutu.
“We knew coming in that we had to stop Jillian; she’s easily their top goal scorer,” Carpenter said. “From March 19, when we started, we’ve been preaching team defense. We’ve been practicing the ‘ride’ a ton – that is, one girl on an opponent’s top scorer at all times, then look to set a ‘double.’
“We played ferocious defense for 50 minutes (Wednesday), and that was a huge reason for the win,” he added. “Our team has 100 percent bought in to all of the systems we’ve put into place.
“As for Ari Coutu, she’s fantastic. She’s my ‘do-everything’ girl. She played middie, attack and defense, and excelled in all phases.
“The one thing that concerned me was we’ve had a very hard time starting fast, scoring goals early to put the other team on the defensive. We’ve been fumbling and bumbling for the first five or 10 minutes, and I told them that if we did the same thing against a team like this (Lincoln), we’d be all done.
“One of the things we’ve been focusing on the last couple of weeks is to get it going early, grab the momentum and keep it. We did that.”
Call that an understatement. Lindsay Sheehan posted a hat trick just 3:11 into the game, the first two unassisted and the last courtesy of a Coutu feed, to give the Clippers an immediate 3-0 advantage.
DeSimone registered Lincoln’s first at 5:14, and Carroll sliced the gap to 3-2 on an unassisted tally at 8:51, but Alexandra Sheehan fired a low shot past Lions’ junior netminder Nina Fournier at 16:11 to make it 4-2.
Just seven seconds after that goal, Carroll drilled a bounder past Gorman, and junior Brittany Redding hustled through the Clipper defense and ripped a grounder goal to tie the score at 4-4 at 17:49.
A mere 40 seconds after the deadlock, Lindsay Sheehan drove home a Coutu pass to make it 5-4, and that opened the flood gates, with Cumberland scoring three more times between the 18:29 and 22:27 marks. Chloe Andrews tallied all three, the last on a feed from sister Maddie.
The Lions’ Ashley Moreau sliced it to 8-5 with an unassisted goal at 22:27, but Carpenter’s crew entered intermission with a 9-5 cushion, that after Chloe Andrews scored again with only 13 ticks left.
In the first half alone, the younger Sheehan and elder Andrews racked up four goals apiece, while holding DeSimone to only one.
Only 35 seconds into the final stanza, Fournier made a splendid save on Chloe Andrews, but Lindsay Sheehan snagged the rebound and sent it past the goalie for the 10-5 advantage. The Lions cut it to 10-6 on Redding’s score at 4:02, and it seemed as if DeSimone would make it 10-7 on a penalty shot, though Gorman stood firm.
The two squads then traded goals twice; in fact, Carroll manufactured a pretty tally at 11:38 for a 12-8 lead, but Alexandra Sheehan and Maddie Andrews hooked up at 13:50 and Lindsay Sheehan scored again on a low drive at 14:31 to give the Clippers what proved to be an insurmountable 14-8 lead.
Chloe and Maddie Andrews came together for Cumberland’s final goal at 19:37, and DeSimone managed a girl-advantage tally with 4:32 left.
Fournier mustered six saves in the loss.
“They have a fabulous goalie, that’s for sure,” offered Lincoln mentor Sue Renzi after the match. “She played really well, and I thought she was a key difference. As for our defense, I thought it was pretty poor. We were just getting pushed around too much, and I wanted them to hold their ground.
“They just outplayed us,” she added with a shrug. “They were better than we were at the ground balls. My girls, at times, don’t think they have to work at that; now, they definitely know. Our defense was a little weak, and this shows us we have to work on that, too.”
If there was a bright spot, Renzi indicated it had to be Carroll.
“She didn’t give up until the very end. (The Clippers) all knew beforehand that they needed to key on Jillian, shut her down, and I told our girls that everyone needed to step it up a notch. Annie, for one, did that.
“My girls should’ve been more aggressive, and give it right back to them. I didn’t see it.”