Old Lyme girls beat Old Saybrook 1-0 in Class S state soccer final

West Haven — Old Lyme senior Caleigh O'Neil had no intention of scoring as she lined up for a direct kick early in the second half of Saturday’s Class S state final.

And why would O'Neil have even considered scoring? The defender hadn’t scored all season. She was kicking from the 22-yard line of Ken Strong Field to the left of the Old Saybrook goal, which Kelsey True had made as impenetrable as Fort Knox.

O’Neil sailed a shot towards the right that bent in, hit the inside post. … and ricocheted into the net.

“First goal, last goal,” O’Neil said with an ear-to-ear grin.

It was all the Wildcats needed to win their first outright CIAC girls' soccer championship.

Old Lyme 1, Old Saybrook 0.

“I was trying to hit the back post area so that one of my teammates could head it in,” said O’Neil, who earned MVP honors. “I didn’t expect it to go all the way in. It was definitely one to remember.”

O’Neil’s goal came in the 43rd minute against the Rams, Old Lyme's Shoreline Conference and Baldwin Bridge rival.

“That was probably the best free kick I’ve ever seen,” senior Jenna Peduzzi said. “I saw it go over my head and I was hoping it wouldn’t go out (of bounds). And then I turned behind me and I just saw it hit the inside of the post and go in. It was awesome.”

Second-seeded Old Lyme had been teeing off on True but to no avail. The sophomore was magnificent as she finished with 17 saves.

True’s excellence made O’Neil’s goal even more remarkable.

“We work on that every practice, and she never scores in practice,” Old Lyme head coach Paul Gleason said. “So she had the kick down, but she didn’t have the end of the kick down. Today she did, and it was the opportune time. So we’re pretty happy about that.”

It was the third state championship for the second-seeded Wildcats (19-1-2). They were Class S co-champions with Immaculate (2009) and Notre Dame of Fairfield (2015).

“I was upset,” Peduzzi said about last season’s tie. “We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose. I didn’t really know how to feel. It is what it is. But we won it outright this year, so that’s all that matters.”

Gleason said, “They were crying last year when we split with Notre Dame. They didn’t like sharing a title.

“The great elephant came through. That’s what I’ve called my girls the last two weeks.”

The great elephant?

“It’s a huge compliment to be called the great elephant,” Gleason said. “It’s the greatest animal on the planet.”

Old Lyme and No. 13 Old Saybrook (12-5-5) played to a 2-all tie the only other time they played (Oct. 3).

True kept the Rams in Saturday's game with one save after another, many from point blank range.

“Our goaltender had an outstanding game today,” Rams head coach and Montville grad Berkeley Cecchini-Bond said. “She made a lot of great saves, but (Old Lyme) is a powerhouse.”

Peduzzi said, “Props to (True). She had so many saves. We had so many shots on her and she didn’t give up.”

The win sent the Wildcats’ three seniors out in style — Mary Bolles, O’Neil and Peduzzi. Old Lyme won a record four straight Shoreline Conference champions during their four years. And now the trio has an outright state title to go with those.

“I’m proud of what they do on the field,” Gleason said of his team. “I think what these girls carry from here to their schoolwork and into life is what’s really important. This is nice, but two days from now. … it won’t be a big deal. Right now it’s a big deal. What they accomplish in life and what their future is what’s important. I feel that pretty strongly. I know that sounds crazy.

“This is special today. I’m not taking anything away from that. It’s special to finally be on top. To attain that level of play is pretty cool. It’s pretty cool.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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