On trip to Georgia, Norwell discovers ‘what lacrosse is like in another part of the country’
At first glance, it appeared as though the Norwell girls’ lacrosse team was heading up Route 3 for vacation week matchups against Cambridge and Milton.
But a closer look at the schedule revealed a “(GA)” to the right of those games. Suddenly, it became evident this was anything but a routine week for the Clippers.
Norwell wasn’t competing against those Massachusetts schools. Rather, the Clippers were in Georgia, facing teams from those towns in the Peach State.
Norwell traveled South during spring break, scrimmaging Lassiter High School this past Monday, then battling Cambridge on Tuesday and Milton on Wednesday. The Clippers are scheduled to host Roswell-based Blessed Trinity Catholic on Thursday as well.
Lassiter is ranked No. 2 in the state, Cambridge is fourth, and Blessed Trinity is third. Milton, a perennial powerhouse, has won 12 state titles and checks in at No. 1 in Georgia and seventh in MaxPreps’ nationwide rankings. The Clippers (6-0) — who captured the Division 2 state title last year and are currently third in the Globe’s Top 20 — are using the trip as a chance to see how they stack up against some of the top-tier teams outside of New England.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to travel with the team and play these competitive teams,” said Norwell coach Kara Connerty. “We haven’t had this opportunity before.”
The Clippers have made the most of the trip. They impressed against Cambridge, cruising to an 18-3 win thanks to a balanced attack and strong defensive effort. Annie Hilsinger led the way with five goals and four assists, Allie Connerty had four goals and three assists, Maddie McDonough, Casey Ward, and Lily Warendorf added two goals apiece, and goalies Izzy Pithie and Emily Kelly combined for 12 saves.
While the trip transformed into a memorable experience for everyone on the roster, it initially began as McDonough’s brainchild, the senior captain. McDonough, who spent time in Virginia, California, Colorado, North Carolina, and Rhode Island as a kid, grew up playing lacrosse with several players from Georgia through a program called XTEAM.
One day, she started brainstorming of ways to see her old friends while also gaining experience and continuing to bond with her Norwell teammates. The idea of a trip to Georgia came to her, and she quickly wondered how feasible it would be.
McDonough asked her mother, Ruth, for some guidance, and the Norwell parents sprung into action.
“We thought it would be a good idea to go down there and be able to play higher teams and get more exposure,” McDonough said.
The anticipation built for months, and when the trip finally arrived, the Clippers were eager to make the most of it — both on and off the lacrosse field. They rode the 20-story SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel in Centennial Park, frolicked at the Georgia Aquarium and Zoo Atlanta, and lounged at the local pools.
The players were extremely thankful for the parents and members of the Norwell Boosters who helped fund the trip. Not only is it a chance to see the sights and play lacrosse, but it’s also a chance to bond as a team, they said.
“Every day, we practice with each other for two hours, and we leave practice wanting more time with each other,” said Warendorf, a senior captain. “This is such a long period of time together.”
Make no mistake, though, Norwell’s excursion to Georgia centered around lacrosse. The Georgia teams are almost done with their regular seasons and entering the playoffs, so they’re playing at a very high level.
The Clippers are still getting acclimated to the new season and figuring out how to ensure they play their best lacrosse when it matters most. If the start to this trip was any indication, they’re heading in the right direction.
Said senior captain Hilsinger: “I think it’s a really good chance to see what lacrosse is like in another part of the country.”
■ Spencerport (N.Y.) scored eight-straight goals in the first half to hand defending state champion Wellesley (4-1) its first loss of the season, 18-6, on Saturday afternoon. Junior Bridget Noonan led the Raiders with three goals in the defeat, which came just two days after they prevailed against Walpole in a rematch of the Division I finals. Wellesley head coach Michelle Cook hosted the out-of-state powerhouse because she knows Rangers head coach Tricia Condon from their days in upstate New York. Senior Maddy Balter is also committed to play at Northwestern next year alongside Spencerport’s Erin Coykendall, the reigning MaxPreps National Athlete of the Year. Coykendall and the Rangers also dealt No. 1 Notre Dame (Hingham) its first defeat of the year during their weekend trip to Massachusetts. On Tuesday, both the Cougars and Raiders put the setbacks behind them with a victories over Longmeadow and Hingham, respectively.
■ Lexi Schmalz continues to carry No. 5 Needham with fellow All-American Callie Hem missing time due to injury. Schmalz, a Duke-bound senior, paced the Rockets (4-1) with six goals as they beat No. 14 Duxbury, 14-12, on Monday. Rockets coach Paula Kelley’s daughter, Grace, scored two goals and added a team-high four assists while Lily Callahan recorded nine saves in net.
■ Melrose erased a four-goal deficit late in the second half to earn its first Middlesex League win of the year, 14-13, at Arlington on Thursday.
■ Senior Abby Cunningham started the afternoon with her 100th career goal and finished it with a game-winner with just 20 seconds to play. Emma Randolph also added four goals in the come-from-behind victory.
Games to Watch
■ Thursday, Needham at Westwood, 2 p.m. -- A day after taking on No. 15 Duxbury, the No. 8 Wolverines (4-1) host the No. 5 Rockets in a battle between powerhouse programs.
■ Thursday, Peabody at Swampscott, 4 p.m. -- The No. 19 Tanners (5-0) have been storming through league play, but the Big Blue (2-0) will be their biggest test yet. Swampscott’s 11-8 victory on Tuesday marked the program’s first-ever win over Beverly.
■ Thursday, Lincoln Sudbury at Reading Memorial, 4 p.m. -- On Tuesday, Reading edged North Andover, 8-7, in a battle of undefeated teams. Now the Rockets face another tough test versus No. 7 Lincoln Sudbury (5-0), which recently took down No. 10 Wayland (5-1) to claim sole possession of first place in the Dual County standings.
■ Saturday, Wayland at Needham, 2 p.m. -- After falling to Lincoln-Sudbury last Thursday, the Warriors survived a double-overtime thriller at Marblehead. Wayland’s schedule only gets tougher with No. 17 Chelmsford on Thursday morning and fifth-ranked Needham waiting on Saturday afternoon.
■ Tuesday, Newton North at Natick, 3:45 p.m. -- The No. 14 Redhawks (4-1) will try to build on Tuesday’s upset of No. 20 Foxborough when they host the Tigers (4-1), which have won four-straight games since their season-opening loss to No. 4 Walpole.
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com. Riley Overend also contributed.