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West Haven - Phil Schneider was already a coach, a football coach at that, before he became the father of three daughters and his new sport became girls' lacrosse.
One of the groups he coached as youngsters included his twin daughters, Lindsay and Paige, now getting ready to graduate from East Lyme High School, where Schneider is in his fourth year as head coach. That means Schneider also coached most of the other seniors, 14 in all, who played their final game on Tuesday night in the Class M state tournament semifinals.
Coach to them all, he was dad to them all, too, as he used his cell phone to take a picture of the team posing on the turf at West Haven High School.
No. 2 East Lyme lost to No. 6 Wilton 12-7, the second straight year the Vikings were eliminated by the Warriors, who moved on to take on defending champion New Canaan on Saturday in a rematch of last year's final.
"I try and feed off that, mimic it in a game, the way he can control his emotions during a game," Lindsay Schneider said. "I like talking about lacrosse with him; he understands me. Paige started playing in second grade, I started in fifth grade … it was fun how he learned the game as we learned it."
The Vikings (16-5) have won the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament all four years under Schneider and played Wilton in what was their third straight state tournament semifinal.
Having lost 18-5 to Wilton last year, this time East Lyme gave the Warriors something to think about.
Down 5-0 early in the first half, despite Lindsay Schneider hitting the post twice and Jill Bartlett narrowly missing on a free position shot before Wilton ever got the ball, the Vikings came to within 8-7 with 18 minutes, 11 seconds to play in the second half on a goal by Kiki Ryan.
Down 6-2, East Lyme scored consecutive goals by Bartlett on a pass from Ryan and on one by Lindsay Schneider with 51.7 seconds remaining in the first half to make it 6-4. Wilton had the last say in the half, however, on a goal by Charlotte Noels to push the lead back to three.
In the second half, East Lyme struck first when Bartlett brought the ball back out to the perimeter and waited for the perfect moment to sneak back from the left to make it 7-5.
After Wilton answered to make it 8-5, it was Paige Schneider's turn to take Wilton by surprise, sprinting the ball all the way down the field and getting the ball past goalie Hannah Wiltshire to pull within 8-6.
Phil Schneider called a timeout with 18:25 remaining, as East Lyme had the ball back in front of the Wilton goal. It took Ryan only 14 seconds to score to make it 8-7.
"We played well," Phil Schneider said, following a lengthy huddle in which he let the seniors talk about what they took away from the season. "Last year we didn't make Wilton play the whole 50 minutes. Today we made them play the whole 50 minutes. We were still in the game at 8-7, 9-7, 10-7. When you play a team like that you've got to break their run."
Wilton, though, used a staunch defense, including all-staters Maeve Kennard and Casey Tucker, and Schneider said he thought the Vikings could have looked to feed each other the ball more instead of trying to take the Warriors one-on-one.
Ryan finished with two goals and an assist for East Lyme and Jill Bartlett had two goals. Kristen Walter also added a goal and Jane Bartlett - who along with her sister Jill make the second set of twins on the East Lyme team - finished her standout four-year career with 10 saves.
"It hasn't kind of hit me yet," Phil Schneider said of his daughters leaving the program. "Next week they're playing in the senior all-star game, so I'll get to coach them then. But I'll always be their father and support them."