The new kid on the block, deLaforcade is crushing it for East Lyme's girls' soccer team

East Lyme — If you can get past the fact that the kid with the artful footwork and the killer corner kick is the same one who, when approached for an interview, appears with a mega-watt smile — and that’s already a tough one to reconcile — there’s more.

Stephanie deLaforcade, an East Lyme High School junior, has scored 27 goals this season for the girls’ soccer team, approaching the Vikings’ single-season record of 30 set by Kim Hartzler all the way back in 1992. She’s added 15 assists.

Never mind that deLaforcade hasn’t ever been named an Eastern Connecticut Conference all-star, nor did she earn a mention in this season’s East Lyme preseason preview.

So, where’d she come from?

“It’s a surprise to me as well as everybody else. I’m completely mind-blown,” deLaforcade said this week. “My freshman and sophomore year I scored like six or seven. Not a lot.”

“People will say, ‘Where’d you get her?’” East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. “She’s been here. Some people are really surprised.”

East Lyme, 15-1 overall, 9-1 and the ECC Large Division champion, will begin play in the conference tournament beginning Friday with a quarterfinal game against No. 9 Woodstock Academy (at East Lyme, 5 p.m.), a rematch of last year’s championship game.

The three-time defending ECC tournament champion, East Lyme is the league's top seed and also ranked 11th in the Class LL/L state poll.

The Vikings graduated nine seniors, including most of their defense, from last year’s team which went 18-1-1 and finished the regular season undefeated for the second time in three years. They started this season fresh.

DeLaforcade, a lefty who formerly saw most of her time at outside midfield and won the team’s “12th Player Award” as both a freshman and a sophomore, moved to forward. She scored a goal in her debut, an 8-0 season-opening victory over Plainfield.

“I was really excited,” deLaforcade said. “I scored one goal and thought, ‘I can do this.’ It took off.”

“Her footwork is awesome,” said East Lyme co-captain and Providence College recruit Theresa Durkee, the Vikings’ center midfielder. “She could be going to the corner and all of a sudden she’ll slide it past the goalie. … As a forward it’s your job to score, but she’s made beautiful passes. She’s not selfish at all.”

Redding has a word for it when deLaforcade gets the ball: Magical.

On Sept. 18, deLaforcade had a role in all of East Lyme’s goals in a 5-0 victory over Bacon Academy, scoring one and assisting on four. She punched the assist over to teammate Katie Christiansen for the game-winning goal in a 1-0 double-overtime victory over Waterford in the ALS Cup on Sept. 19 and delivered the winning goal herself in overtime in a 3-2 victory over Old Lyme on Oct. 3.

“I enjoy watching her play,” Redding said. “She can shake and bake around people. I tell her, ‘Steffy, you need to shake and bake this game.’ She says, ‘OK.’ And you know something’s going to happen. She’s like a hidden gem.

“A lot of it has to do with her attitude. She has a happy-go-lucky attitude and that’s not to say she’s not competitive. She is. But if something goes wrong, don’t get down, let’s make it better. … Her smile captures the room. Her smile is definitely contagious.”

DeLaforcade has done her prep work. She’s been practicing the long ball since she was a little kid, set on someday making an impact as she is now with her overwhelmingly precise corner kicks. And she’s drilled continually with older brothers Alex and Ryan, both of whom have played for the East Lyme High boys’ soccer team. Ryan is the senior sweeper for this year’s team, which is 12-4-1 and also defending back-to-back ECC titles.

“With Ryan, we talk about soccer all the time. We talk at the dinner table,” deLaforcade said. “He takes me out in the yard and we go 1 v. 1 to goal. Sometimes he gets the better of me as a defender … but I pull out a couple tricks.”

East Lyme has a pair of returning All-ECC picks and members of The Day All-Area team in Durkee, a Class L all-state selection last year, and Izzy Moore at forward, who has 19 goals and nine assists. The Vikings have outscored their opponents 84-4 this season, with 13 shutouts, perhaps even exceeding their own expectations with so many new pieces.

DeLaforcade, who has been competing since she was 5 years old and named Camper of the Week at an MLS-run camp, has fit right in.

“She never backed down,” Redding said, speaking of her leading scorer’s demeanor from the time she was a member of the East Lyme varsity. “She would fight for every ball. … I guess I'll keep her.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

Twitter: @vickieattheday

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