Stonington girls win first Class S state lacrosse title

Stonington High School's Valerie Muller celebrates after she scored the go-ahead goal Saturday, putting Stonington up 11-10 over Granby with 7:04 remaining in the state Class S girls lacrosse championship at Bunnell High School in Stratford. Stonington defeated Granby 13-10 to take the title.
Stonington High School's Valerie Muller celebrates after she scored the go-ahead goal Saturday, putting Stonington up 11-10 over Granby with 7:04 remaining in the state Class S girls lacrosse championship at Bunnell High School in Stratford. Stonington defeated Granby 13-10 to take the title. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Stratford — Eighteen minutes and 53 seconds. It's an eternity in lacrosse time. Teams can score in seven seconds off the draw. Or twice in 60 seconds.

Eighteen minutes and 53 seconds. That's how long Stonington High School shut out Granby to end Saturday's CIAC Class S girls' lacrosse final at Bunnell High School.

Eighteen minutes and 53 seconds. Shutting Granby out that long allowed Stonington to do something for the very first time - win a state title.

Stonington 13, Granby 10.

Hey, Stonington - you're a girls' lacrosse school.

"How long did we shut them down?" Stonington senior Emily Cassata asked. "Oh, that's awesome.

"Our defense has always been the strongest point on our team. We've got Libby (Elizabeth Morrison). We've got Margot (Calmar). We've got Celeste (Courtney), who has grown so much as a player this season. They've really been our anchor for most of the season."

Top-seeded Stonington finished 21-1.

"(That long) without a goal?," Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros said. "Awesome.

"We hang our hats on our defense. We have all year."

Stonington's defense allowed just 5.9 goals per game this season.

It was Stonington's second state championship this school year. Its field hockey team won the Class S title last November over, oddly enough, Granby.

"There were seven of us on the (field hockey) team," said Morrison, a senior. "We knew what it was like to play under pressure, and we knew that we could do it again. H-K (Haddam-Killingworth) tried to do it last year and unfortunately lost in the finals. We were able to pull through and we never gave up."

It was the first state final appearance for Stonington. The Bears join East Lyme (2006 Division II champions) as the Eastern Connecticut Conference's only CIAC champions.

"That's kind of neat," Medeiros said. "Eastern Connecticut, we're kind of behind the (lacrosse) times. Fairfield County is the place to go, the place to be."

Cassata and Morrison both each four goals for Stonington and seniors Emily Grey and Valerie Muller each had two goals. Junior Jenny Sieczkiewicz added a goal and sophomore goalie Lexi Bucko had six saves.

Olivia Johnson had four goals for fourth-seeded Granby (16-4) and Abby Orosz added four assists.

Stonington never led until the game's final eight minutes.

Granby led 7-4 with over nine minutes left in the first half.

"In the beginning, Granby wanted it more, and that's what I said to them at the half," Medeiros said. "'Granby wants it more. That's what I'm seeing.'

"Maybe that rung in their heads. They played much more aggressive in the second half, and it was definitely a difference-maker."

The Bears also switched from a zone-and-one to a zone-and-two.

Cassata scored three of her four goals in the final 11:15. Her second goal cut Stonington's deficit to 10-9.

"To have my last game be a state championship game, I was not about to lay down and go home knowing I couldn't do anything to help this team," Cassata said.

Muller followed with back-to-back goals to put Stonington ahead to stay, 11-10, with 7:04 remaining.

Those were Muller's only two goals.

"I had to step it up, just like everyone else," said Muller, a senior. "I had to do my part."

Cassata scored the game's final two goals.

The state championship completes Stonington's ascension from a program that started lacrosse a mere 15 years ago.

"My first five years, I was a volunteer. I didn't get paid at all," said Medeiros, now in his 14th season with the program. "It's actually the first year that we're a funded sport. I had to fundraise for my whole career for this program.

"It's neat how it's progressed. Here we are, finally, a fully-funded program. … So I guess it's fitting that we've given them a state title."

Cassata said, "I never expected it. I don't think anyone honestly expected it. It was a great surprise, but it never crossed our minds that we weren't going to do something big."

n.griffen@theday.com

Stonington goalie Lexi Bucko reaches up to deflect a shot by Granby's Olivia Johnson during the Bears' 13-10 win in Saturday's Class S championship game.
Stonington goalie Lexi Bucko reaches up to deflect a shot by Granby's Olivia Johnson during the Bears' 13-10 win in Saturday's Class S championship game. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
Stonington senior Emily Cassata scores a goal with 3:48 remaining, one of five straight to end the game and lift the Bears to a 13-10 win over Granby on Saturday in the CIAC Class S state girls' lacrosse title game at Bunnell High in Stratford. Cassata finished with four goals for Stonington, which won its first state title.
Stonington senior Emily Cassata scores a goal with 3:48 remaining, one of five straight to end the game and lift the Bears to a 13-10 win over Granby on Saturday in the CIAC Class S state girls' lacrosse title game at Bunnell High in Stratford. Cassata finished with four goals for Stonington, which won its first state title. Tim Cook/ The Day Buy Photo
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