East Lyme beats Stonington 1-0, ties Bears for ECC field hockey lead
East Lyme — The season started with the East Lyme High School field hockey team winning a game against defending Class S state champion North Branford, a rain-soaked matchup with an overtime period coach Kristy Behbehani didn't initially even realize was going to be played.
“A really, really good team,” Behbehani said of North Branford. “We came out hot.”
And then Wednesday night on their home turf, the Vikings got even hotter.
A 1-0 victory over Stonington, which hadn't lost an Eastern Connecticut Conference game since 2013, left East Lyme's Julia Bates out of breath from the celebration as she tried to define her emotions.
Stonington, winner of the last nine consecutive ECC titles, was 63-0-3 in the league since last losing 1-0 to Killingly on Oct. 9, 2013.
East Lyme (10-3, 9-1) and Stonington (10-1-1, 8-1) are now locked in a virtual tie atop the ECC standings, with another meeting between the teams looming on Oct. 25 at Stonington, scheduled as Stonington's Senior Night.
Bates was the one who delivered the victory for East Lyme, scoring with 5 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the second half on an assist from Kristen Healy off a penalty corner sequence while the Vikings were actually down a player due to a yellow card.
“We're so happy,” Bates said. “A couple years ago we were able to tie them … this was the real deal. We're all so happy. We so deserve it.”
Bates said she heard teammate and fellow senior Katie Durkee yell to her, “Bates, go!” as the rebound off a penalty corner shot bounced off Stonington goalie Abby Mann. Bates' goal sent the Vikings sideline into euphoria.
“When Katie talks, I just listen,” Bates said. “She's great at whatever she does. I was able to get my feet there. You always have to make sure you're there for the rebound. … We knew Stonington was going to come out strong and we had to come out just as strong.”
Due to a rainout earlier in the year, the teams were playing for the first time Wednesday, with both meanwhile building their momentum.
Stonington, despite losing the bulk of its lineup to graduation, had its only blip in a 0-0 overtime tie against Branford on Sept. 22. East Lyme lost nonleague games to Valley Regional (1-0) and Old Saybrook (4-3) but remained unbeaten in ECC play until losing to Waterford 2-1 last Saturday.
Stonington edged East Lyme 1-0 for last season's ECC tournament title.
“We played as a team today. Everybody attacked together and everybody defended together,” said Behbehani, who recorded her first win over the Bears in her five seasons as head coach. “They were all excited about the game. They were really focused. … You've got to keep going with it, keep this momentum going and do better next time. We have a lot of work to do.”
There weren't many scoring opportunities between the teams, each finishing with seven shots.
Stonington accrued several penalty corners in the second half, seeming to seize the momentum at points, but the Bears' corners weren't connecting, a couple of them broken up by Durkee, who was getting out quickly as East Lyme's flyer. East Lyme goalie Lydia Swan, with several diving saves, also proved difficult for the Bears to negotiate.
Stonington then missed a penalty stroke with 10:17 to play, while East Lyme followed by capitalizing on one of its few opportunities.
Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio, who was going for her 200th career win, was complimentary of East Lyme, while saying that a number of her players had never been in that situation before.
“Also, this is still a young team,” Tucchio said. “There are two players that have multiple years varsity experience and the rest are freshmen and sophomores.
“When we play again Thursday we need to work on penalty corners and confidence. The learning experience is going to be a part of this whole process. They have to understand they need to be aggressive … they can't sit back and wait to see what the other team is doing before they make a decision. They need to act instead of react.”
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