East Lyme hands Fitch first loss in ECC D-I girls' lacrosse matchup

East Lyme — The score was tied at halftime, 6-6, and had been deadlocked three times before that between Fitch, the challenger, and 13-time defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I champion East Lyme.

"We knew since it was tied," East Lyme senior midfielder Julia Bates said, "we had to not just match their intensity but bring it up. It was really back and forth."

East Lyme, perhaps showing why it has won 13 consecutive ECC divisional titles, proceeded to carry out that second-half game plan. The Vikings scored three straight goals to start the second half, creating some distance, and senior goalie Maya Rose made a save of considerable magnitude with 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining as East Lyme hung on to edge previously unbeaten Fitch 10-8.

Fitch started the season 3-0 with momentum-building wins over Stonington, Waterford and Woodstock Academy — averaging 16 goals per game — before taking on East Lyme.

East Lyme (4-1, 1-0) led 2-0 before Fitch appeared to settle in. The Falcons first tied the game at 3-3 with 10:17 to play in the first half on a free position shot by Bridget O'Leary and finished the half with six different goal scorers. East Lyme's Abby Mountain scored three first-half goals.

East Lyme coach Phil Schneider said it was his team's senior leadership and its midfield which took over to start the second half.

"You need the seniors to step up in these situations," Schneider said. "... We beat Branford (14-9) on Tuesday; that's a good win. The girls are starting to round into their roles on the team."

Bates took advantage of a yellow card for Fitch to score two goals with a man advantage starting the second half, the first on a free position and the second assisted by Maeve Counter. Counter then scored on a free position to give the Vikings a 9-6 lead at the 18:50 mark.

When Fitch was assessed its next yellow card with 14:26 to play, that made four for the game, meaning the Falcons were forced to play the remainder of the game short-handed.

But with Fitch coach Michael Luethy shouting for his team to remain tough, the Falcons (3-1, 1-1) stayed remarkably resilient, scoring a pair of short-handed goals to keep the game within reach.

Zoe Pearse scored assisted by Maddie Catlett to pull Fitch within 9-7. East Lyme's Anna Johnson scored to give the Vikings back their three-goal cushion, but Catlett then added a goal for Fitch to make it 10-8 with 4:06 to play.

That's when Rose came in, saving a free position shot from point blank range with under two minutes to play to ultimately preserve the victory for the Vikings.

"Free position has been pretty hard this year," said Rose, who explained that a new rule this year prevents as many defenders from helping out the goalie in that situation. "I just had to focus. Coach Nora (Daly, assistant coach) talked to me about staying on my toes."

Rose finished with five saves for East Lyme, which will play games next week against North Haven (Tuesday), Waterford (Thursday) and ECC Division I opponent Woodstock (Saturday).

Mountain finished with three goals for the Vikings, Bates had two goals and an assist and Johnson added two goals.

Catlett had two goals and an assist for Fitch, Pearse two goals and Maggie O'Leary a goal and two assists. Goalie Molly Bresnahan made 12 saves.

"I think we played pretty tough," Luethy said of Fitch. "The girls showed a lot of toughness. I think the girls really stepped up. They're getting the confidence they need. I think it's a confidence-builder. I like where we are right now."

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

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