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The lax Norwell Girls trio was already celebrating a title before the MIAA playoffs

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NORWELL – Call it a championship appetizer.

Before Charlotte Pithie, Holly Panttila and coach Kara Connerty began their fight for a MIAA Division 4 state championship with the Norwell High girls lacrosse team, they took a detour to North Carolina last weekend and won a national crown.

Pithie, a junior goalkeeper, and Panttila, a junior midfielder, were part of a combined Massachusetts/Rhode Island high school all-star team that won a top title at the USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament. Connerty was co-head coach with Notre Dame Academy’s Meredith Frank McGinnis.

The Mass./Rhode Island team was dominant, winning all four games, highlighted by a 17-0 blowout of Washington in the Red Division final.

“That was so much fun,” Panttila said. “It was impressive to see all the (top) girls (from across the country) and the style and competitiveness of that level of play.”

“It was awesome,” agreed Pithie, a Bryant University employee who recently recorded her 300th career save. “It was such an exciting experience leading up to the tournament because we won a national championship together and we got to play on a team with our coach. It was so special. It’s so good to be with such great talent to prepare for this (MIAA) tournament.”

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Connerty, who had the opportunity to coach her niece, NDA’s Emma Connerty, said the national exposure should be a “confidence builder” for Pithie and Panttila. She called winning the title a “huge achievement.”

On Friday, the seventh-seeded Clippers’ performance was more modest, easily defeating No. 26 Bromfield School, 20-4, in the Div. 4 playoff opener. Freshman Lexi Davos led the way with 5 goals, Panttila added 4 and Danielle Cox had a goal and 8 assists for the Clippers (10-10).

Norwell graduated a ton of talent from Div last season. 3 second team. Davos has taken a big lead on offense by filling the void left by South Shore League Sullivan Division MVP Maddie McDonald (51 goals last season).

“I heard I have big shoes to fill,” Davos said. “But I’m happy to take on that challenge. I think I did a good job.”

“She impresses me every day at practice with her stick skills,” Panttila said. “She came across confident and ready to play with us. She has added so much to our team. She does exactly what we need her to do.”

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Norwell’s defense for Pithie is also brand new with a pair of freshmen (Tess Murray and Ally Kelley) teaming up with junior Lainey Burns (who was on JV last spring) and senior Audrey Loring. “We have a very young D,” Panttila noted. “We’ve been working a lot on communication because that’s what it’s all about. I can’t say enough about how athletic the girls are there, so they’re really holding their own.”

All of these younger players had to grow up quickly as Norwell played the usual grueling regular season schedule. The Clippers finished under .500 (at 9-10) for the first time since 2014 (when they reached the state semifinals), but still earned a No. 7 seed based on their strong schedule. Their ten losses came against teams that combined for a 160-30 record. That group included the No. 1 seeds in Div. 1 (Central Catholic), Div. 2 (NDA) and Div. 3 (Medfield).

“Obviously, Kara is known for stacking our agendas, which we love and hate,” Panttila said with a laugh. “But in the long run, she always tells us how it’s going to pay off in the end and that’s exactly what it did last year, getting us to the state finals. I have a feeling that’s going to happen for us this year.”

“Hopefully that will pay off in the tournament,” Connerty agreed. “It was with the intention of better preparing us (for the play-offs). With a young team (playing that gauntlet) you don’t want them to lose confidence, but that didn’t happen.”

In the Round of 16, Norwell will face the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 10 Tahanto Regional (14-4) and No. 23 Stoneham (7-13).

In nine of the last 10 MIAA tournaments, the Clippers have won the state crown themselves (four times – 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018) or been eliminated by the eventual champion (five times). It goes without saying that the standards here are high.

Panttila said, “The goal is to get to that state final in June.”

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