DURHAM -?Despite having lost only one game this season, there was the feeling amongst the Portsmouth High School boys lacrosse team that it was still starting games to slow.
With that in mind, the Clippers wanted to make sure they were firmly in control from the start of Saturday afternoon¨s Division II quarterfinal against Oyster River.
Mike O¨Neil scored all three of his goals in the first half and helped?Portsmouth get out to a 5-0 halftime cushion, a lead it would?expand upon in the second half en route?a 9-2 victory.
＾We really just wanted to come out strong,” O’Neil said. “The last time we played here we didn¨t really come out that strong. The?focus was?to come out strong today and we did that.￣
Freshman Zach Amend added two goals for the Clippers, while senior Houston Heidenger had?five assists.
＾We had to come off the bus ready,” Heidinger said. “We didn¨t have a lot of time to warm up because we didn¨t want to get too hot, but we came out ready. I feel like we moved the ball quickly. Recently, we¨ve been starting games really slow, so this was big to get back into the way we played today.￣
Portsmouth (18-1) will now get a chance at the measuring stick of Division II in Wednesday¨s semifinals when the Clippers host four-time defending champion Derryfield (16-3). The Cougars advanced with a 15-2 victory over Pembroke Academy.
The Clippers completed a 3-0 sweep of Oyster River after regular-season wins by scores of 12-5 and 7-0.
＾We played great in transition,” Portsmouth head coach Chad Vischer said. “They played a great zone, they¨ve got a great goalie, they¨re well coached and they¨ve had a great year. Knowing they were going to play zone, they did and they did it effectively, but we were able to break them down in transition.
＾That transition is gritty stuff and that’s what we do well,” Vischer added. ＾It¨s not flashy, but it¨s a lot of grit.￣
Heidinger found O¨Neil with 8:29 left in the first quarter and Oyster River nearly kept the Clippers off the board the rest of the quarter until Amend scored with 51 seconds left to give Portsmouth a 2-0 lead.
O¨Neil quickly opened the scoring in the second quarter by scoring two goals within a 21-second span to give Portsmouth a 4-0 lead. Ryan Patten beat Oyster River starting goalie Finn Mason (12 saves) late in the first half for the 5-0 halftime cushion.
＾I think our fast breaks, along with moving the balls very quickly, was very healthy for our offense to get going, especially from the start,￣ O¨Neil said. (Nick Smith) did a great job with faceoffs, and we just went from there.￣
Amend gave Portsmouth a 6-0 lead before Gabe Goodwin beat Portsmouth goalie Skyler Mikolaities (seven saves) midway through the third quarter. Hayden Marshall scored Oyster River¨s other goal, while Dylan Roelofs, Danny Bottrill and Mike Durkin scored second-half goals for Portsmouth.
＾We expected to be more competitive, even with how good they are,￣ Oyster River coach Ruppy Hailey said. ＾Not taking anything away from them. They played a very smart game and made us pay for every one of our mistakes.￣
Portsmouth may have beaten Derryfield during the regular season, 5-4, but Vischer knows dethroning the Cougars in the tournament will be a different story. Portsmouth lost to Derryfield in the 2017 and 2018 title games, before it fell to Winnacunnet in the 2019 semifinals.
＾We¨re excited to see them and we¨re proud of the program to get to the semis, but we know we¨re going to play a very, very well coached team that is ready to go,￣ Vischer said. ＾We¨re ready to see what we can do.￣