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East Lyme - Kiki Ryan's stick broke during the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament semifinals on Wednesday. First she didn't realize it and couldn't figure out why something didn't feel right. Then she played with a borrowed stick.
"I would never. I can't switch," Ryan said of the reason she enlisted her dad, Bill, to do a little handiwork prior to Friday's championship game.
Her stick safely repaired, Ryan unloaded for five goals and three assists as the East Lyme High School girls' lacrosse team beat Fitch 17-5 to win its seventh straight league tournament crown. Ryan, who will join former teammate Erin Fritz at Stonehill College next season, was named the recipient of the James Courtney Award, which goes to the game's most outstanding player.
Top-seeded East Lyme (15-3), which defeated Stonington 12-6 in Wednesday's semifinals, didn't come away from that game feeling it played very well against a strong Stonington attack and aggressive Bears defense.
Against No. 2 Fitch (11-6-1), it took the Vikings only 19 seconds to appear more crisp, as Caroline Gonsalves won possession of the opening draw from teammate Caroline Regan and scored unassisted to immediately make it 1-0.
East Lyme, in fact, scored the game's first five goals, two from Lindsay Schneider, and led 11-3 at halftime. Ryan either scored or assisted on her team's final six goals of the half.
"It's catching and throwing. Against Stonington we had a hard time," East Lyme coach Phil Schneider said. "We got a real good feel today in warmups; we were passing the ball well, Jane (Bartlett) was stepping up big in goal. Maybe they got the sense that this was the ECC finals because it's the best they've played in a while."
Bartlett, who has also been tournament MVP during her career, finished with 18 saves after finishing with 13 in the semifinals. She also intercepted several Fitch passes around the goal to abruptly change possession in the Vikings' favor.
Jill Bartlett added three goals and Kristen Walter had three goals and two assists.
Schneider and Gonsalves finished with two goals each.
Daria McKenna led Fitch with two goals and an assist, while Sarah Giblin added a goal and an assist and goalie Caity Noel made 16 saves.
Fitch reached the championship game with a 9-8 come-from behind victory over No. 3 Norwich Free Academy in the second game of Wednesday's semifinal doubleheader, with Giblin scoring the game-winner in the final 13 seconds.
"It was a new moment for them," said Fitch coach Tricia Semancik, whose seniors were playing in the ECC tournament for the first time. "We were really happy to make it.
"… East Lyme looked like their usual self. They're a formidable opponent. I thought both goalies did a good job. I was proud of Caity. And then Jane comes out of the goal and makes those interceptions; those are tough. She deserved her All-ECC."
Phil Schneider said that Ryan, although she was a first team all-state selection last year, took some time this year to figure out she needed to be the leader on offense.
"She was always a feeder, a distributor. She was playing with kids that are playing in college now," Schneider said. "Ever since we played Northwest Catholic and she had eight goals and five assists, she's been real tough. I've been telling her to be the best player out there."
"Even though we have won every year since I've been here, it's still amazing. It still means a lot to us," said Ryan, whose tear resulted in her passing the 100-point mark for the year in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
"The second time we played Fitch, they came out stronger than they did the first time. We had to get pumped up for this. We made sure everyone was in the zone."