Stonington - The question was posed to East Lyme High School field hockey coach Amy Lloyd late Tuesday afternoon after Stonington clinched yet another Eastern Connecticut Conference championship.
What, exactly, will it take to beat the perennially successful Bears for the ECC title?
"If I knew the answer to that, we would have a title," Lloyd said. "They have a strong program, a lot of tradition and pride and they're really athletic. Girls want to be a part of that. They always get some good athletes.
"When you think of Stonington and sports, field hockey comes to mind. They win year in and year out."
Chloe Slater scored twice for Stonington in a 2-0 victory over East Lyme that wrapped up what was the Bears' 21st ECC title in the last 22 seasons - and the year Stonington didn't win the league (2008) it used that as motivation to fight all the way to the state semifinals.
Stonington is now 10-3 overall, 9-1 in the ECC with two league games to play. East Lyme, which has played five overtime games this season, is 7-3-4 overall, 5-2-3 in the league.
The victory also avenged a loss to East Lyme the first time the teams met this season. The Vikings beat Stonington 2-1 on Oct. 3, scoring a pair of second-half goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit.
"As a team, we knew we had to beat this team and earn our title," said Slater, who scored her second goal of the game on a penalty corner with 3 minutes, 41 seconds remaining, thwarting another East Lyme comeback.
"(The) title is really important as Stonington Bears. We have high expectations. Last time we lost to East Lyme we definitely felt we were strong, but that showed us there are other teams out there. We're not the biggest fish out there."
Because East Lyme has ties this season against Killingly (twice) and Waterford and a loss to Waterford, it couldn't have overtaken Stonington on Tuesday merely by sweeping its series with the Bears. The Vikings would have had to win and hope for some help from other ECC opponents.
But Stonington wasn't willing to back into a title.
"We don't want to win a championship if we didn't beat one of the teams in the conference," Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said. "And besides, if we didn't win today, there are no guarantees. Killingly gave us a good game last time. We're playing NFA on their turf. 'If we don't win today, we'll still win the title.' That's an arrogant assumption to make."
It didn't help Tucchio's blood pressure any that the game seemed to mirror the events of the first matchup with East Lyme: 1-0 lead, a slew of penalty corners on which the Bears couldn't capitalize and East Lyme playing with a sense of purpose in the second half.
Stonington scored 2:17 into the game off a corner and again on Slater's shot with 3:41 to go, a line drive which echoed off the back of the goal cage.
In between, though, the Bears had 15 more corners which came up empty, much like in the first meeting when Stonington had 15 corners and only 10 shots.
"We had that conversation at halftime," Tucchio said. " 'This is very reminiscent of the last time we played them.' I did feel like that game, on defense, we were too relaxed. We got too comfortable. East Lyme wanted to fight and they did fight. This was the same situation.
"I'm glad Chloe scored (to make it 2-0). I was thinking of when I should stall and not blow it and then we're in overtime."
Slater said she believes Stonington has gotten better since the last time it played East Lyme, a day Tucchio left directly after the junior varsity game to go home and watch film of the loss.
"We've been playing more together as a unit," Slater said. "Jenna's been pushing us in practice, not to work harder, but that you've gotta play hard."
Annie Knizeski made six saves for Stonington. Goalie Sarah Bond made five for East Lyme, which is playing without All-ECC forward Caroline Regan, out for the rest of the regular season with a broken hand.