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Waterbury — Throughout a storybook season, East Lyme always found some late-game magic to extended its unbeaten run.
With that in mind, coach Rachel Redding still held out hope for another dramatic victory Saturday when an intensely played Class L girls' soccer semifinal headed for overtime.
"I was thinking we were going to sneak one in; we've done it before," Redding said. "We beat a couple of teams with six seconds left, a minute left. I was hoping we'd pull it off again doing that."
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they ran out of magic.
After scoreless double overtime battle, top-seeded East Lyme lost on penalty kicks (3-2) to fourth-seeded Masuk at Municipal Stadium.
East Lyme ended one of the program's best seasons in recent memory at 18-1-2 record.
"We wanted to go to the finals," senior Lindsay Schneider said. "But it's okay. We played our hearts out and played as a team, which was our goal all along."
"... This is the most amazing season ever. There's no other way that you can say it."
Penalty kicks decided the outcome because neither team could crack the other's hard defensive shell. Prime scoring opportunities were limited to a handful due to constant ball pressure.
Schneider anchored the back line and sophomore Megan Holt did an terrific job chasing down and containing Masuk senior Michelle Andrzejewski, a speedy, skilled forward.
Nine minutes into the second half, Andrzejewski broke free for a breakaway. Holt raced back in time to disrupt the Masuk senior's shot. Goalie Allison Stoddard was in the right position to make the save.
A minute later, Andrzejewski bolted on another solo run but her shot rolled right to Stoddard who finished with nine saves.
"Megan Holt did a really good job of handling her in the back," Schneider said. "We played together as we've done all season."
Junior Meredith Moore, East Lyme's lethal offensive weapon, also ran into plenty of resistance. She managed just a few shots from distance.
"They had her number," Redding said. "They were all over her."
By overtime, play became ragged as both teams battled fatigue.
During penalty kicks, East Lyme shot first and quickly fell behind, 2-0, after two rounds. Goalie Megan Fitzgerald made two diving saves and teammates Emily Montgomery and Diana Antenucci buried well-placed shots.
As they've done in the face of adversity all season, the Vikings fought back. Freshman Isabelle Moore fired a shot into lower right corner in the third round. Her sister, Meredith just barely beat a lunging Fitzgerald high left to tie the score at 2-2 at the start of the fourth round.
But Nicole Yanouzas hit a perfect shot into the left corner for a 3-2 Masuk lead. East Lyme couldn't answer.
"It can go either way when it goes down to penalty kicks," Redding said. "Today wasn't our day unfortunately."
After Redding's postgame chat, Stoddard walked over to hug her coach. More Vikings joined her in one final act of team unity.
"My team is just amazing," Redding said. "I can't say enough about them. They're the best. It's sad that they have to go out this way. They deserve everything they did this year."