LYNN — Carly Brand’s right ankle had been a burden for the majority of the season, but Tuesday night at Manning Field it was a much-needed spark in Newburyport’s 3-0 win over Cardinal Spellman in the Division 3 EMass title game.
In the final minute of the first half, the senior midfielder, who missed nearly half the season because of a high ankle sprain, delivered on a penalty kick for the game’s first score.
After teammate Abbie Bresnahan was pushed to the ground inside the opposing 18, Brand went to the line, approached the ball, hesitated, then fired a shot to the right side of the net, glancing it off the fingertips of Cardinal goalie Julia Schneider.
It was just what her team needed, after playing an uneventful first half, in which the Clippers tallied only two shots.
“It’s always our objective to get up,’’ said Brand, “and to get one right before halftime is critical because it just gave us more momentum going into the second, so it was definitely a turning point.”
After taking the lead, Clipper coach Robb Gonnam saw a completely different team in the second half.
“I don’t know why we struggled, normally we’re really fast in the beginning,” said the 21-year head coach. “Probably 75 percent of our games we scored in the first 10 minutes this year, but during the tournament we seem to be somewhat tentative in the beginning . . . I mean we were playing magnificent in the second half.”
Right out of the gate in the second half, Newburyport (20-0-2) brought a relentless attack, which remained constant through the remainder of the game.
Ten minutes into the second half, Newburyport was given another golden opportunity when Cardinal Spellman (18-2-2) was called for a hand ball in the box.
Senior Alyssa Leahy converted the penalty kick, doubling their lead.
Shortly after, Bresnahan, a sophomore striker, one-timed a bouncing ball, lobbing it 25 yards just over the outstretched fingertips of Schneider, who was diving to her left, securing a comfortable 3-0 lead.
“I was glad to see we got a regular goal instead of just penalty kicks,” Gonnam said with a laugh.
The Clippers, who have not allowed a goal in the playoffs, will face Granby in the Division 3 state final Saturday.