In mid-March, before the start of the season, Julia Kipp and Alexandra Peffer joked about winning a state championship.
It would not be their first — the senior tandem played key roles in the run of the Newburyport High girls to the Division 3 state soccer title last fall — but it would be special to end their high school athletic careers with a final bow.
“At first we were like ‘Ha ha, it would be funny if we actually went on to win in our last season,’” Peffer recalled. “We just thought we’d see how far we can go.”
On Saturday, those preseason jokes became a postseason reality.
The Newburyport girls’ lacrosse team edged Bromfield, 7-6, in the Division 2 state final at Boston University.
Peffer netted the final goal of her high school career with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, breaking a 6-6 tie. And that goal held up as the winner.
“Today we’re standing here like, ‘Oh my God, we actually won another one,’” said Peffer, who is headed to Drexel University in the fall to study nursing.
“I never thought it would be possible. . . . It’s something you dream of.”
The feat undoubtedly was not on their minds when they first took the soccer field together at age 5. Or when they joined forces in the town lacrosse program as fifth-graders.
Four years ago, they were two of only four freshmen on the varsity lacrosse team, when they vowed to fully grasp the true meaning of team leadership.
“We’ve been best friends for, well, forever now,” said Kipp, who will play soccer at Union College.
“Growing up together, you can’t ask for anything more.”
This spring, the senior captains answered the call.
In their fourth year as starters, they thrived as the Clippers’ go-to offensive options. Kipp, an attack (95 goals, 31 assists), and Peffer, a midfielder (90 goals, 14 assists), each finished strong.
“They’ve been the heart of our team all season,” said coach Catherine Batchelder of the duo. “I put a lot of pressure on those two and I always have, since they were freshmen.”
“It’s all a matter of them going out and putting together what they know. And they did.”
In the final two tournament games, the pair combined for 13 goals and seven assists. But they are always the first to deflect credit to their teammates and coaches before speaking about their own play.
Defensively, the Clippers limited their final two foes, Norwell and Bromfield, to just three total goals in second-half play. That included a shutout of an explosive Bromfield attack led by Sophie Turchetta , the state’s leading scorer.
However, Peffer and Kipp left their imprints on the program’s first Division 2 state title, the first for a high school program north of Boston since Winchester in 2008.
“There’s nothing showy about us,” Kipp said. “Hopefully we left a legacy that’ll be here for years to come.”
Before the opening whistle of each game they have played since freshman year, Kipp and Peffer have performed a traditional “step-dance, kick-shake,’’ their version of a pregame handshake.
It is a superstitious act that the duo — recalling a forgettable performance earlier this season after the two forgot their pregame routine — jokingly claim foreshadows a game’s outcome.
On Saturday, there was no joking around.
They saved their best step-dance for last.
Jobs well done at Beverly, Andover,
The Hamilton-Wenham (Division 3) and Beverly boys (Division 2), along with the North Andover girls (Division 1) each reached the state semifinals in their respective divisions. Here is a look back at their postseason runs:
Division 3 North champs
Key moment of the regular season: Despite losing to Newburyport, 11-10, in overtime in mid-May, coach Josh Wedge believed his Generals’ second-half performance was a wake-up call.
Four weeks later, they won the rematch, 7-6, in the D2 North final.
Key stat: The Generals (14-6) embarked on a program-best eight-game winning streak after dropping their first two games of the season.
Defining moment of state semifinal: After pulling within one goal of Cohasset, 7-6, with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Generals ran out of steam in a 10-6 loss.
Coach Josh Wedge: “We had massive amounts of injuries and felt like we had to start over a couple times in the year, but never felt like our goals were not achievable. The seniors just willed us to go as far as we did.”
Unsung hero: Joe Lattanzi , a sophomore midfielder, played four different positions at times of need all spring.
Future: The graduation of nine seniors, including goalie Grant Thompson , the Cape Ann League Baker Player of the Year, will leave a void. But 22 returnees, augmented by a strong sophomore class, will help restock the roster.
Division 2 North champs
Key moment of regular season: A 10-2 loss to Wayland in early May prompted a 6 a.m. practice the following day that provided plenty of motivation.
Key stat: Junior attack Nick Albano finished the season with 58 goals and 64 assists.
Defining moment of state semifinal: With Beverly trailing, 8-7, with 16 seconds left in the game against Hingham, junior midfielder Ian Butler fired home the equalizer, forcing OT. The Panthers (14-9) fell in the extra session.
Coach John Pynchon : “Couldn’t ask for anything more than the way we put it all together in the end. Some people doubted us, but the guys proved they’re building a great program.”
Unsung hero: Rick McFarland , a senior midfielder, averaged two goals per game in the playoffs and provided the emotional leadership all season.
Future: Senior goalie Kevin Lally is a key departure, but the Panthers return 20 players.
North Andover girls,
Division 1 North champs
Key moment of regular season: A 15-5 midseason loss to Notre Dame Academy derailed an undefeated start, but created a new perspective for the team the rest of the way.
Key stat: Sophomore goalie Lauren Hiller posted a 60 percent save percentage. Junior Leah Chittick (84 goals, 44 assists) and sophomores Abbie Kiralis (70 goals, 42 assists) and Michelle Poirier (67 goals, 33 assists) led the team in scoring.
Defining moment of state semifinal: The Scarlet Knights came up empty on multiple scoring opportunities with heavy ball control in the opening minutes of the first half against Westwood in an eventual 14-4 loss.
Coach Meredith Prior : “What a great ride. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to have my first season with. They shocked a lot of people. . . . Came out of nowhere and became a powerhouse.”
Unsung hero: Dominique Goodman , a sophomore defender, forced many turnovers in the tournament with dominant one-on-one play.
Future: Prior returns 15 players, many of whom played in both the North final and state semifinals the past two years.