Waterford - East Lyme might have lost the league's leading scorer from a year ago in Kennedy Nickerson, now playing for New Hampshire, just as the year before it lost Olivia Moore, who now starts for Wentworth.
"With Kennedy gone I was kind of freaking out," East Lyme goalie Allison Stoddard said. "She was such an important part."
What the Vikings have, however, is a competitiveness to carry on with this enviable unbeaten streak they've strung together so far this season. And another Moore or two.
Meredith Moore, a junior and Olivia's younger sister, scored the game-winning goal with 6 seconds remaining Tuesday night, as East Lyme strengthened its hold on first place in the Eastern Connecticut Large Division with a dramatic 2-1 victory over three-time defending champion Waterford.
The teams played to a scoreless tie in double overtime on Sept. 24, setting up a possible matchup of unbeaten teams this time around. Waterford fell to Bacon Academy on Thursday, though, giving East Lyme a leg up in the division. This meeting was played for the ALS Cup.
But it was Moore with the final word, taking a pass from Samantha Lee and beating a defender until she was all alone with Waterford goalie Julia Zawacki. Moore placed the ball inside the right post for the victory, leaving East Lyme still undefeated at 9-0-2 overall, 4-0-2 in the ECC Large.
Waterford, which has won 12 of the last 13 league titles in either the Large or Medium division, is 8-2-2, 3-2-2.
"I know the heart of this team," East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. "They're great kids, they're awesome athletes. They work hard every single day. … The fun thing is they hate getting beat and it shows."
"In the second half, they were playing for something and you could tell," Waterford coach Rob Brule said of his opponents. "We were playing like it was just a matter of time before (Hannah Scahill) or Melina (Spanos) would put one in. Their coaches did a good job of adjusting; they tried to play behind our defense and it worked."
Waterford took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half when Genaya Loftis boomed a shot that rattled off the right post and past Stoddard. The Lancers almost scored again with 14:01 left in the half on a ball by Scahill that hit the inside of the post and seemed to be on its way to putting the Lancers ahead 2-0 before bouncing away.
Waterford outshot East Lyme 12-6 in the first half.
In the second half, while Waterford still had its opportunities - Stoddard was forced to make a leaping save when Summer Wyatt took an off-balance shot that nearly sailed over the head of the East Lyme goalie - the momentum seemed to shift the Vikings way.
The tipping point came with 11:58 to go when freshman Theresa Durkee sprinted in from the midfield to receive a cross from the right side by Moore. Durkee's goal, the first for the Vikings in 168 minutes against Waterford this season, resulted in a celebratory pileup of players in front of the goal.
East Lyme's Madison Horner also had a shot at the game-winner, smacking it over the crossbar with six and a half minutes to go. But the moment belonged to Moore, who plays, ironically, for Brule's club team during the offseason.
"When Sam Lee passed the ball to me, I saw this fire in her eyes, almost like she knew it was going to happen," Moore said of the game-winner. "I was just thinking, 'Don't miss it. Don't miss it.'"