Old Lyme girls play for third straight Class S soccer title on Saturday
Old Lyme — She was jostling around for a ball in the penalty area in the first half of Tuesday's semifinal game and Maddie Ouellette, the extraordinary midfielder for the Old Lyme High School girls' soccer team, fell to the ground and landed on her left wrist.
“I came off the field and said, 'I broke my wrist. Can you just wrap it?'” Ouellette said. “My mom was standing behind the fence behind the bench. She couldn't argue. It's senior year. … It's not going to stop me. It's not going to rain on my parade.”
Ouellette, now with a cast on her left arm, blue to match Old Lyme's school colors, will play for the top-seeded Wildcats in the Class S state championship game Saturday against No. 2 Holy Cross, too.
The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Middletown High School and Old Lyme (20-1) will be vying for its third straight title. The Wildcats tied for the Class S title in 2015 and won it outright last year with a 1-0 victory over Old Saybrook.
Ouellette's persistence is just a continuation of what Old Lyme has been dealing with all season.
Two-time all-state midfielder Keelin Hurtt broke her foot Oct. 5 and Ouellette has been holding down the center of the field with the assistance of a pair of freshmen in Emily DeRoehn and Ellery Zrenda.
Defender Caroline Wallace wound up in the hospital at one point this season. Also, sophomore Lydia Tinnerello and freshman Kaylee Armenia will miss the championship game.
“We definitely realize what we are missing,” senior center back Maddie Zrenda said earlier this week. “Keelin was an integral part of the team. We're just trying to give the younger players confidence — one of them is my sister — so they know we have confidence in them. We try and demand a lot of them, get them to play at the next level.”
“The seniors embraced the juniors and embraced the sophomores and embraced the freshmen,” Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said of this season's adaptations. “We don't talk about it (the injuries). I believe the players you train should be better than the players you face (no matter what.)”
It's a good thing for Maddie O., as Ouellette is called by her teammates.
“I heard my husband talking on the phone to one of his friends,” assistant coach Ally Gleason was saying. “He was talking about (Ouellette). He was saying, 'She's like Gronkowski (Patriots tough guy).'”
With Old Lyme leading 3-0 at halftime of Tuesday's 4-2 semifinal win over St. Paul, Ouellette sat out for the start of the second half, but stayed on the sideline. When St. Paul scored twice to pull within a goal, Paul Gleason looked at Ouellette. She was ready, her wrist wrapped in foam.
“I said, 'I need you to stabilize things,'” Gleason said. “They stopped being able to attack us through the middle (with Ouellette in).”
Zrenda calls this one final game for Old Lyme's five seniors “nostalgic.” Ouellette agrees.
“We've come all this way. Some of us have played 12 years together,” Ouellette said. “… Me and Keelin and Julia (Smith), Julia's dad was the coach of our team. We were always goofing around and he would yell at us.
“It's a true team effort, no negative things. We all push each other to play.”
Holy Cross, meanwhile, is 16-3-3 and has won 11 of its last 12 games. The Crusaders lost the Naugatuck Valley League title to none other than St. Paul (2-0).
Looking for its first championship in program history, Holy Cross reached the final with Class S tournament wins over Somers (1-0), Tourtellotte (8-0) and East Hampton (2-1). The Crusaders are led by striker Kiley Harnish, named the NVL's most outstanding senior.
Old Lyme is led by junior Mya Johnson with 32 goals. The Wildcats have 16 shutouts to their credit.
“Obviously we're going to go out there and play our best,” Ouellette said. “We're pumped up. We're not confident we're always going to win, but we're confident we're going to do our best.”