Vikings are full of surprises
East Lyme - There have been other times East Lyme field hockey coach Amy Lloyd thought her team was going to beat Stonington.
In 2006, Lloyd had what she thought was her best team. She even had her sister Laura at the game posing as the Viking mascot. But that day Stonington's goalie stopped a penalty stroke. And the Bears won their 16th straight Eastern Connecticut Conference title. Oh, yeah, and it was Lloyd's birthday.
"After I talked to (the newspaper), I went home and cried," Lloyd said.
And so Wednesday East Lyme beat first-place Stonington 2-1, just the second time the Vikings have won that matchup since 1990. East Lyme also won in 2005, Lloyd said.
"We knew we were kind of the underdogs," East Lyme center midfielder Paige Schneider said. "It feels great, great to get a win."
Stonington (4-3, 4-1) is still technically in first place in the ECC. Waterford (4-2, 3-1) also has one loss, while East Lyme, which stumbled early in the season as it integrated the new members of its starting lineup, is 4-2-2, 3-1-1.
East Lyme perhaps turned the corner in a Sept. 24 tie with North Branford, 2-2. Stonington lost to North Branford 1-0 on opening day.
"Rightfully so, everyone's out to beat them," said Lloyd of Stonington, which has won 20 of the last 21 ECC titles. "Sometimes it can get in the players' heads. But against North Branford we went in with a clear mind, with nothing to lose. We did that again today, we came in with a clear mind.
"Right now we have some good momentum. We're putting the ball in the cage more consistently."
Ellie Bruckner scored the game-winning goal with 5 minutes, 59 seconds remaining, assisted by Kailey MarcAurele.
The game was tied 0-0 at halftime. Stonington's Molly Crowley scored first, assisted by Chloe Slater on a penalty corner with 21:10 to go, but in all the Bears generated just 10 shots off 15 corners, bottled up by the Vikings' defense and their own execution errors.
East Lyme's Alice Navarro tied the game on an assist by Caroline Regan about four minutes later.
It was then Stonington's turn for a flurry of offense and East Lyme's Schneider, one of the Vikings' top and toughest play-makers, was forced to come out of the game with 12:39 remaining with an injury to the fingers on her left hand.
Lloyd moved Regan, a forward, to Schneider's spot in the midfield and she carried the ball in, generating the winning goal.
"That could've had an impact (losing Schneider)," Lloyd said. "Even if we were just a little off."
Regan, Schneider, Samantha Horner and Kelsey Shukis were the four players Lloyd said were most involved in breaking up Stonington's corners, something the Vikings practiced extensively leading up to the game. East Lyme "switched up" its defensive placement on corners, Lloyd said.
East Lyme's Sarah Bond made nine saves in the victory.
"We had a lot more opportunities, but we didn't handle the ball," said Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio. "We have lots of mistakes we need to address. East Lyme is a skilled team, but you need to execute the fundamental pieces of the game properly. ... You can't make any mistakes (and still win the ECC). Well, you can make one, but you can't make two."
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