North Branford ends Old Lyme's dominance in Shoreline Conference
Portland — If nothing else, there's this: At least nobody associated with the No. 1 small school girls' soccer team in Connecticut will not have to answer questions about the pressures linked to a potential undefeated season.
That's because Old Lyme's run of 17 straight wins this season and four straight Shoreline Conference tournament championships ended Saturday.
North Branford, Old Lyme's victim in last season's title game, scored twice early in the second half and took down the Wildcats, 2-1, at Portland High School.
Now the Wildcats (17-1) enter the Class S state tournament with a blemish, but perhaps some resolve, too.
"We had our run. Four in a row is pretty impressive. Seventeen in a row is pretty impressive," Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said. "The girls are a little emotional. But it's just a game. Now we get ready for states."
Old Lyme carried a 1-0 lead into the second half, thanks to Mya Johnson's goal in the 23rd minute. And yet North Branford coach Pat Kozloski was quite optimistic.
"If you told me at breakfast it would be like that, I'd have taken it," he said. "The first game (between the teams this season, a 1-0 win for Old Lyme) in the first 40 minutes we kicked it. It was bad. But (Saturday) we played well. There were a lot of girls home watching TV. We're still playing. Cherish the opportunity."
They did. North Branford's apparent game-tying goal was nullified by Old Lyme's hand ball in the 45th minute. But the Thunderbirds did get a penalty kick, on which Alexie Rosado converted and tied the game.
But the eventual game winner?
"Sometimes," Kozloski said, "it's better to be lucky than good."
Jenna Bryden, from deep on the right side of the field, appeared to cross the ball toward the net. Instead, it went in.
"No goalie could stop that," Gleason said.
"I bet if you asked her, she'd say she was serving it in," Kozloski said. "I don't think she was shooting."
From there, the game rested with Boston College-bound goalie and North Branford junior Allie Augur, who stopped Johnson's point-blank header with about 10 minutes remaining.
"We knew we had it in us," Augur said, "ever since last year when we lost."
And so now what is past is prologue for the Wildcats, who can only look forward to defending their state championship.
"I'm not a fan of league playoffs," Gleason said. "This is where you get injuries. I'd prefer you play the regular season to determine a champion and then you go to the state tournament."
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