East Lyme girls reach first state soccer semifinal since 2012, topping E.O. Smith 5-2
East Lyme — East Lyme High School's girls' soccer players made it about four minutes into halftime late Saturday afternoon before they might have thought coach Rachel Redding lost a couple of her marbles. The Vikings were trailing 2-1 at the time.
First, Redding predicted a victory. Then she scrapped her team's traditional, possession-style offense for an over-the-top kick and run attack.
“I looked at the clock with 5:47 left (at halftime) and I said, 'I'm calling this a win. I'm not kidding you guys. We're going to work together and win this game.' They all thought I was crazy, but guess what? I was right.
“Then we talked about putting the ball up and over and letting our horses run on to it. They must have thought, 'What is going on? Did she just say we're going to start kicking the ball far?'”
East Lyme followed through, too. The 20th-ranked Vikings scored four times in the second half of their Class L state tournament quarterfinal, beating No. 21 E.O. Smith 5-2. East Lyme outshot the Panthers 13-1 in the second half.
Having started the tournament on the road Tuesday with a victory in four rounds of penalty kicks (16-14), East Lyme then received back-to-back home games as the higher remaining seed and won both to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2012.
The Vikings (11-6-4) will meet No. 1 RHAM in the semifinals on Wednesday night at 6:30 at Falcon Field in Meriden.
E.O. Smith finished the season 10-9.
“This doesn't happen every year,” Redding said of the semifinal bid.
“We came into the tournament knowing they're a good team, but you can play better,'” said East Lyme senior forward Karlie Rowe, who scored twice against E.O. Smith and has five goals in three games in the tournament. “We know we can play up to their potential. … We're confident, but we surprise ourselves every time; we try to stay humble.”
Rowe scored the first goal of the game with 17 minutes, 55 seconds in the first half on an assist from Alivia Catanzaro, with Rowe beating E.O. Smith goalie Rachel Hughes one-on-one.
E.O. Smith, however, took a 2-1 lead at the half on consecutive goals by Julia Alicea off corner kicks by Kaleigh Dale which doubled as laser beams.
East Lyme tied the game almost immediately in the second half on a goal by Catanzaro assisted by Kayla Markovitz.
The Vikings very matter of factly took the first nine shots of the second half, with Rowe firing on goal several times and East Lyme taking back-to-back corner kicks.
It wasn't until there was 15:32 to play that East Lyme got the tiebreaker, a penalty kick by Rowe, awarded for a hand ball in the penalty area, that she ripped into the top left corner of the net.
Sarah Christensen and Catanzaro each scored insurance goals in the final 5:14.
Rowe said East Lyme's defeat against Norwich Free Academy in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament was a “tough loss.” The Vikings were the defending tournament champions, in addition to watching the potential game-winning goal roll into the net a split second after the buzzer sounded to end regulation, forcing overtime and finally penalty kicks.
That gave the team more than a week without a game. Rowe said the Vikings conditioned for the first couple of days, took it easy for a couple days, then began fine-tuning things for the state tournament.
“It's so exciting,” Rowe said. “Losing three Division I players from last year, people don't know of us anymore. We took some tough losses in the ECC. We wanted to do everything we possibly could to make this work.”
“Each game (of the state tournament) we started doing one or two things differently. One or two things the first game, one or two things the second round,” Redding said. “Really, the first round of states got the ball rolling. They built so much confidence. They know they're going to have a dogfight every game and they're going to give it their all. Right now the ball is rolling our way.”
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