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State championship game pressure is unlikely to rattle the Stonington High School girls' lacrosse team today.
Several Bears have experienced it before. They know what it takes to keep their poise and hold the trophy after the final whistle.
Seven players on the roster captured a state title last fall in field hockey.
Their tournament experience and winning attitude helped carry the lacrosse program to its first state championship appearance. Second-seeded Stonington (20-1) faces fourth-seeded Granby Memorial (16-3) for the Class S crown at 3 p.m. at Bunnell High School in Stratford.
"It's our third state championship game in two years," senior Elizabeth Morrison of her field hockey resume. "It's really a big deal for lacrosse. We never thought we'd make it this far."
Just so happens that Stonington is playing the same school that it beat in field hockey. The Bears won, 1-0, and junior Margot Calmar was the game's most valuable player.
Earlier this week, Calmar mentioned to coach Jeff Medeiros that she didn't feel nervous about the championship game but thought she should be.
Medeiros is not surprised that his state championship game veterans are as cool as an ocean breeze.
"In the championship game in field hockey, it was a one-goal game, so they've handled the pressure," Medeiros said. "I can understand why they're not that nervous.
"But when they're sitting on that bus on the ride up there, I think it's going to start hit them that we're in the championship."
Medeiros saw that this group had championship potential two years ago. With a talented sophomore class, the Bears went 12-4 and lost by one goal in the first round of the state tournament.
Since then, Stonington has put together what Medeiros considers the best defense in Class S. The Bears reached the quarterfinals last season and continued their rise this spring, scoring a last-second goal to rally past Old Lyme, 12-11, in the semifinals.
"I knew this was the team that was going to do it if we were going to do it," Medeiros said.
Senior Emily Cassata and her fellow two-sport teammates brought a winning attitude that's been contagious. Both Cassata and Morrison are all-state selections.
"We have that championship mindset," Cassata said. "Most of the field hockey girls have been in the state championship twice before. We've won once.
"Just having that experience and being able to bring it to a team that's never had that experience definitely helps calm some of the nerves because we know what to expect and know what we're getting ourselves into."
"It's been like a domino effect. It's spreads to everyone. When you have a group of girls that have the will to work hard and get back to that place, it just spreads to everyone. That's a really great thing."
Granby has state championship game experience, too. It will be appearing in the lacrosse final for the third time in four years. It fell short in the two previous trips.
Eight players also were on the field hockey state runner-up team last fall. Revenge will be on their minds.
"Our coach thinks they'll be a little bit angry because of field hockey," Cassata said. "It's going to be a rematch. Hopefully, we can come out on top again."
Like Stonington, Granby needed a late goal - with 1:25 left - to win its semifinal, beating No. 8 Bethel, 13-12. Junior Olivia Johnson, an all-stater, fired in seven goals.
Today's outcome might come down to which team handles the pressure better.
"I hope they're so worried about winning that it actually affects them negatively," Medeiros said. "The pressure of winning is there. I've already told our girls that we're going to have to play our best game because I'm sure they're going to play their best game."