East Lyme - It was a day of anticipation and expectation at Bridebrook Park, the last home game, the biggest home game for East Lyme High School.
The anticipation of a trip to the state girls' soccer semifinals. The expectations that come with an undefeated record and top seed. The hope and wonder that came from across the field, lined with supporters, one end to the other, even a fellow student wearing the official Viking horns.
"I have to admit," senior Madison Horner said after the game, "in school today, I didn't know how this one was going to go. Plus, they're from Fairfield County. Every year someone from Fairfield County wins it all."
Horner was referring to No. 9 Wilton, the opponent.
When it was over, though, Horner wore the grin of a team whose season of a lifetime marches on.
East Lyme 2, Wilton 1.
It was junior Meredith Moore - again - who rescued the Vikings, scoring two goals within five minutes in the second half, rallying her team from a 1-0 deficit. East Lyme (18-0-2) will play No. 4 Masuk of Monroe in Saturday's semifinals at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury (3:30 p.m.)
"They know that no matter what, they believe in each other," East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. "Sometimes, being down actually sparks them. Like, 'wait a minute, let's make things happen here.'"
Redding's team remained calmer than a library, even after Wilton scored early in the second half to snap a scoreless tie. Maybe that's because all of the Vikings could have paraphrased Geno Auriemma's old line and said, "but we have Meredith Moore and you don't."
Moore's accomplishments this season to date: game-winner in the regular-season championship game of the Eastern Connecticut Conference's Large Division with six seconds left. Game-winner of the ECC tournament final in overtime. Then Wednesday.
"I think there's always going to be pressure on us because everyone expects so much," Moore said. "But we do it together. It starts in the back. We're really lucky to have each other."
Nowhere was that more evident than in the middle of the second half. Goalkeeper Allison Stoddard, hands full with a swarm of Wilton players around the net, needed Horner to kick a ball off the goal line, preserving the lead.
"I was hoping to get a foot on it," Horner said. "Didn't matter where it went."
Redding said: "Of course as a coach you get nervous. But Maddie Horner has probably done that three, four, five times this season. The same with Lindsay (Schneider). The whole defensive line has done a fantastic job this whole season."
When it ended, Redding and her coaches ran to the middle of the field to greet the players. The Vikings shook hands with Wilton and sprinted across the field to thank the people for attending.
"Unfortunately, the ECC is not looked at as one of the stronger leagues," Redding said. "I don't know if we're expected to win this. I think we're surprising a lot of people. People might look at us and go 'wow, East Lyme is a good team.' It's been a long time."