East Lyme faces Guilford in Class L girls' soccer final
East Lyme — Two of the freshmen with limitless promise spent last season sidelined with injuries for the East Lyme High School girls' soccer team. Defender Ella Mazzulli's injury, for instance, came in game one.
"You don't know their capabilities yet," East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said of her feelings about what awaited in the 2019 season, following a year in which the traditional mainstay of the Eastern Connecticut Conference fell short of even qualifying for the state tournament.
"There's a lot of what-ifs. But here we are, preparing for the finals."
"She said at the beginning," senior sweeper Angie Venditti said of Redding, "'This is the team. We could be going to the finals.' She knew it. She had a feeling."
Thirteenth-seeded East Lyme (12-4-5) will vie for the CIAC Class L championship at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Hartford's Dillon Stadium, meeting No. 6 Guilford (17-2-4) for what would be East Lyme's first state title in program history.
The Vikings last reached the Class M final in 1998, falling to Berlin 3-1.
East Lyme reaches the final having not given up a goal in the Class L tournament, with shutouts so far of No. 20 Maloney (3-0), No. 4 Ledyard (1-0), No. 5 Mercy (0-0 tie, 3-2 in penalty kicks) and No. 8 Sheehan (1-0) in Tuesday night's semifinal.
Guilford, the Southern Connecticut Conference champion, has beaten No. 27 North Haven (2-0), No. 22 Law (1-1 tie, 5-3 in penalty kicks), No. 3 Pomperaug (1-0 in double overtime) and No. 2 Suffield (1-1 tie, 3-1 in penalty kicks). The Indians are being coached on an interim basis by Rick Geremia, who took over following the sudden resignation of coach Scott McMahon.
Guilford edged East Lyme 1-0 on Sept. 28.
East Lyme's defense has held. It has featured a praise-worthy efforts, too, from the sophomore stopper Mazzulli, who was forced to watch from the bench last season.
Mazzulli has the distinction of being matched with the opposing team's best offensive player. In the past two games she's guarded Mercy's Lindsay Stevenson, a Division I signee who will play next year at Central Connecticut State University, and Sheehan's Olivia Dubuc, who signed with Division II Tampa.
"She is so patient and so strong," Redding said of Mazzulli. "Give her a job and she's taking it to the fullest. I always say, 'You've got your next best friend (to mark).'"
Mazzulli said her job is to frustrate the opposing player.
"The whole team feeds off that and it makes us play better," Mazzulli said. "My job is to stay on them like glue, just play as hard as I can."
Now, after what would seem to have been a tenuous day one following last season, there's this chance for a championship.
"Sports and stuff is when things click. We had a good season (this year), but we really started clicking toward the end," Redding said. "It's great to watch. It's great to see that they see it. They work hard. They care. They're not satisfied when they make a mistake. They hustle. You hustle, you're going to win. They're not giving up."
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