Portsmouth boys lacrosse starts 3-0, motivated to win back title in 2024: 'Don't forget'

DURHAM — Portsmouth High School senior Nick Smith, and the rest of the Clippers' boys lacrosse team seniors, have won two state championships during their careers.

"Senior year championship would be the cherry on top," Smith said, following Portsmouth's 14-7 win over Oyster River Monday. "That means everything, that's been the goal since we got here."

PHS, still a long way away from the Division II state tournament, will be seeking a third championship in four years. Head coach Chad Vischer remembers the bus ride home after the one time Portsmouth didn't win the title.

"'Don't forget how this season ended, and let's get back after it'," Vischer said, repeating Smith's words to the team after the season ended a year ago.

Portsmouth High School freshman Gus Baker looking for an opening during the Clippers' 14-7 Division II win over Oyster River on Monday at Oyster River High School.
Portsmouth High School freshman Gus Baker looking for an opening during the Clippers' 14-7 Division II win over Oyster River on Monday at Oyster River High School.

After state final victories in 2021 (9-6 over Timberlane) and in 2022 (16-10 over Derryfield), Derryfield exacted revenge in 2023 with a 12-11 win over the Clippers to take the three-peat opportunity away from Portsmouth.

"I look around the team and I see Ben (Purcell), I see Zac (Amend), Masi (Shone), Kai (Patterson), all those guys ... we were the ones on the bus thinking about this year," Smith said. "I remind every one to this day, we don't want to have another one of those bus rides."

Although, Shone and Patterson are juniors, they've experienced a championship, while midfielder Lucas Patten is also a senior alongside Smith, Amend and Purcell. Shone was second-team All-State in 2023, proving to be an anchor defensively.

"I feel like it's fueling us this year to work harder," Purcell said coming off that loss. "I feel like our practices are a lot more intense and I feel like the hunger for all out upperclassmen are there."

The Portsmouth High School boys lacrosse team defeated Oyster River, 14-7 on Monday afternoon at Oyster River High School.
The Portsmouth High School boys lacrosse team defeated Oyster River, 14-7 on Monday afternoon at Oyster River High School.

Amend, Division II's Offensive Player of the Year in 2023, said you have to have the "'"goldfish mentality" and can't think about the loss too much.

"You can either, A, let it consume, keep thinking about it and let it kind of bring you down," Amend said. "Or you can use it as a learning experience and use it as motivation for next year. So that's what I've really been trying to do and it's helped me progress as a player."

"If we're fortunate enough, and I don't want to look all the way to the championship by any stretch, but if we're fortunate enough to get into the playoffs and compete, I think the guys will be there," Vischer said.

Looking at Purcell's use of "fueling" and Amend's choice of motivation, it's not hard to see Portsmouth off to a 3-0 start, winners of 21 of its last 23 games dating back to a year ago.

"When we got in, we knew we had to get to work," Amend said. "We knew what the goal was, and it wasn't going to be handed to us. I think last year, we might've been a little too content coming into the season, because we were the state championship winners the (two) years before. So it's just staying humble with our work and (being) determined."

Portsmouth handled out-of-state opponent Newburyport (Massachusetts), 19-13 to begin the campaign, and came back in state to defeat Pembroke, 21-3, before the win over Oyster River-Newmarket.

"We expect that," Smith said of the 3-0 start. "We have a really strong group this year, so we came in expecting wins, that's what we want to do ... we know the bulk of our schedule is still ahead of us, but it is nice to see those wins start piling up on the board."

Step by step approach

Purcell and Smith talked about building blocks in order to end their high school lacrosse careers how they've always envisioned. Smith thinks it'll come down to how well the team can come together and play as a group.

"We've just got to keep coming together and keep developing as a team," Smith said. "We've got a lot of talent on this roster, and I think that's no secret."

"I don't think it's going to be one guy," Purcell said. "It's going to be from the top of the bench to the bottom of the bench, cheering loud and working hard on the field."

Through three games, Portsmouth is averaging 18 goals per contest, one more goal per game than Timberlane, which scored 17 goals in each of its first two games.

The Clippers play on Tuesday at Timberlane at 4 p.m.

"I think once we get going, we don't like to stop," Purcell said of the offensive outburst. "I think we liked to play fast paced lacrosse. We don't like to slow it down, we just want to keep going."

Smith had five goals in the win over the Bobcats, while Purcell had four and Amend had three. Patten and Reilly Collins both had a goal each.

Depth matters for Portsmouth

Vischer identified depth, along with staying healthy, as key factors for Portsmouth to make a deep playoff run.

In Monday's game, a lot of the second unit players received extensive playing time on the turf, playing a lot of the second half.

"Our big thing right now is to build depth and replace some of those guys," Vischer said, noting Portsmouth graduated nine seniors and five starters in 2023. "Going in today, as you can see as we got into some of our reserve guys, they're learning, so it's nice to have a couple of wins like this to try to build that experience."

Smith pointed out some names of younger players such as freshman defender Nash Conklin, and two additional freshman in Sam Biddle and Henry Purcell, and sophomore Andy Brown.

"The younger guys are great," Amend said. "They want to get better and that's the best thing you can have. They hustle which is great and they follow directions easily. As they get older, they're just going to continue to get better and better."

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth boys lacrosse starts 3-0 in 2024, has big motivation