Old Lyme girls beat St. Paul 4-2 and head back to Class S soccer final
Meriden — The accomplishment was not lost on Paul Gleason, a man who understands his program's tortures of tournaments past against "choice" schools.
The accomplishment of making the Class S state girls' soccer final? Nah.
The accomplishment of little ol' Old Lyme defeating St. Paul of Bristol, a "school of choice" with the ability to attract kids from multiple towns.
And the top-seeded Wildcats, who have been eliminated by choice school Immaculate of Danbury alone nine different times in their state tournament history, did the eliminating Tuesday night at Falcon Field. They dispatched No. 4 St. Paul — Gleason's alma mater — 4-2 and moved to Saturday's state championship game against, yes, choice school second-seeded Holy Cross of Waterbury.
The CIAC is expected to announce Saturday's site and time on Wednesday.
"Does it feel good? Yes it does," Gleason said. "They have a huge area where they can draw from. We have 34 kids. And it feels pretty good to take them and get them to play at this level without going beyond our natural borders to get players."
And to think it almost didn't happen.
Old Lyme (20-1) nearly lost a 3-0 lead, having to perspire for a while in the final 15 minutes with a one-goal lead until Danielle McCarthy's second goal of the game — from what felt like the parking lot — allowed a group exhale on the Old Lyme sideline.
"When they got it to 3-2, I remember kneeling down and going 'oh, no.'" McCarthy said. "But I knew our defense could hold up. I thought we could score again. I just kind of shot it from a long way. I saw it go in and I was so happy."
McCarthy, Maddie Ouellette and Mya Johnson have the Wildcats a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes. Also in the first 20 minutes: Caroline Wallace ducked in behind goalkeeper Emily Rivera to prevent a St. Paul shot from crossing the line, a play whose significance increased once St. Paul closed within 3-2.
"I was pretty calm," Gleason said, alluding to St. Paul's rally. "We have a very good team here. I kept telling the kids to shoot the ball, because on a night like this on this turf, a ball could easily skip past a goalie. That's what happened. I'm very proud of my players."
Old Lyme is the defending Class S champ, defeating Old Saybrook last season in the finals. They'll have to conquer another school of choice that split with St. Paul during the regular season. Holy Cross defeated No. 11 East Hampton 2-1 in Tuesday's other semifinal.
"It was a special night," Gleason said. "I think I had 15 old buddies from Bristol here. Even my accountant showed up."
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