Old Lyme girls a win away from returning to Class S soccer final
Old Lyme — Since the beginning of the Class S state tournament, Old Lyme High School forward Mya Johnson gets the feeling that every other girls' soccer team would just as soon play for a tie against the two-time defending state champion Wildcats and settle the game in penalty kicks.
That has yet to happen.
“Against Bolton, they were very strong defensively,” Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said. “They played with nine in their defensive zone and a point. Against Coventry, we scored two quick goals and then they put eight people on the defensive side.
“Unless you have Peles to put the combinations of passes together, it's hard … we almost have Peles, but not quite.”
Top-seeded Old Lyme (19-1) will meet No. 4 St. Paul in the Class S semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Falcon Field in Meriden.
The Wildcats tied for the Class S title in 2015 and won it outright last year with a 1-0 victory over Old Saybrook.
Johnson, a junior who has 31 goals this season and 86 in her career — breaking Winnie Bing's all-time Old Lyme record of 80 career goals — has seen her share of triple-teams in the state tournament.
“It's definitely different. It's a different game,” Johnson said following Monday's practice. “Instead of me getting the ball, turning and shooting, I'll one-touch it to (someone else) and they'll shoot. We know it takes all 11 players.”
“They were keying on Mya every time she touched the ball,” Gleason said. “People want to bury us. They just want to bury us.”
Gleason says he's blessed to coach this team.
“It's a beautiful team. There's a lot of talent out here,” he said.
The Wildcats finished the regular season 16-0 for the first time in program history before enduring their first loss in the Shoreline Conference tournament championship game against North Branford (2-1), with Old Lyme vying for its fifth straight league tournament title.
In Class S, Old Lyme had a first-round bye before beating No. 16 Bolton 2-0 behind goals by Johnson and Kaylee Armenia and topping No. 9 Coventry 2-1.
The Wildcats have played the last 10 games without all-state midfielder Keelin Hurtt, who broke her foot Oct. 5 in a game against Cromwell, Gleason said. Gleason has used freshmen Emily DeRoehn and Ellery Zrenda to rotate into the midfield along with senior star Maddie Ouellette.
Old Lyme has 16 shutouts this season behind first-time goalkeeper Emily Rivera and a defense which includes senior center back Maddie Zrenda, who has helped the team to 47 shutouts in her four years.
St. Paul was 10-3-3 in the regular season and followed by winning its first Naugatuck Valley League tournament championship in program history, 2-0 over Holy Cross. St. Paul freshman goalie Nina Zwolinski was named tournament MVP after making 21 saves in the final.
The Falcons reached the semifinals with Class S tournament wins over Lyman Memorial (7-1) and East Granby (2-1 in double overtime in the quarterfinals).
Johnson said the loss in the Shoreline final snapped things into focus for Old Lyme.
“We realized we're not indestructible,” Johnson said. “… I think this has been the most fun season, maybe just because I'm a junior now. It's such a good feeling. We have to really appreciate what we have now and just have fun win or lose.”
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