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For all the soliloquies this week by Stonington High School field hockey coach Jenna Tucchio, for all the firsts, for all the pomp and circumstance, Tucchio is hoping for one thing now that the Bears have reached the Class S state championship game.
"I've been just saying to them it's business as usual for the Bears," Tucchio said earlier in the week. "Our goal is to represent us to the best of our ability. As far as the girls go, there's been no chatter, no silliness. It's focused. … We've beaten some big opponents, a win over Branford, a win over Granby. I don't think I need to pump them up for them to maintain their confidence."
That said, the sixth-seeded Bears (15-4) will cap a pretty special week in program history by playing No. 3 Haddam-Killingworth (16-2-1) in the championship game at 2 p.m. today at Wethersfield High School.
It is Stonington's first championship appearance since 1991 and would be its first title since 1987 when Tucchio was a freshman under then-coach Janis Ingham.
"I've never been so excited," said Stonington senior captain Amanda Roy. "It's awesome to be a part of something this big. I know people in basketball who won the state championship, some of the Bacon (Academy) girls from last year, and I always talk to them about it."
This week, the Bears have generated their share of excitement.
They beat three-time defending champ Granby on Sunday 2-1, despite Granby amassing 24 penalty corners to none for Stonington. This served as somewhat of a Granby exorcism, with the Bears having been eliminated by Granby the last two times they reached the semifinals (2002, 2008).
Stonington then played as close to a perfect game as possible in Tuesday's 3-0 semifinal victory over No. 2 Immaculate of Danbury.
It was prior to the Granby game that Tucchio invoked all the memories of Stonington past, letting her players know about the team's old field at West Vine Street School, which was the Bears' home turf during their last championship run.
"I remember Andrea McKenna, Lauren (Ellis) McGugan, Billi-Jo Schachner. How gritty and how tough they were," said Tucchio, describing the 1987 championship team. "That final game they were diving all over the place, bodies flying.
"I told the girls to leave their mark on this field (before the team makes a new, artificial turf field its home next season). Think about the footprints left on those fields and all those people that came before them."
The Bears are led in scoring by junior Libby Morrison (20 goals, 12 assists) and sophomore Molly Crowley (19 goals, 3 assists).
Stonington now has one more piece of business: beat Haddam-Killingworth. The Cougars edged Stonington during the regular season, 1-0 in overtime. H-K, which has two championships in seven appearances, upset top-seeded Lauralton Hall 1-0 in the semifinals. H-K scored against Lauralton on its only shot.
"I want that game back. The girls want that game back," Tucchio said of the loss to H-K. "There's our opportunity."