Foster delivers game-winner as Stonington girls win first ECC tourney title
Montville — Good thing somebody broke through with a championship-deciding play on Thursday night.
Otherwise, Stonington and Montville might still be battling.
The two high school girls' soccer programs are that evenly matched. They split the regular-season meetings, each winning by one goal.
And the high-intensity, spirited Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II tournament title game came down to one goal.
That wonder strike was delivered by Stonington senior Holly Foster, who slammed home a rebound into an open goal with 28 minutes left in the first half to hand the Bears a 1-0 victory and their first conference tournament championship.
"They're a very solid team and they match up with us very well," Stonington coach Jennifer Solomon said. "It could go either way. This time, our girls finished a great opportunity and I think we played very well defensively.
"They all worked very hard and played their roles. They executed what we needed them to execute."
An opportunistic Foster smartly followed a play that started with sophomore Vanessa Benjamin's breakaway. Goalie Lauren Ross raced out to block Benjamin's shot but it deflected to Foster, who finished the job.
"I just hit it in the back left corner," Foster said. "It was very exciting."
The Bears have practiced all season to follow their shots, according to Foster, who earned most outstanding player honors.
"Holly followed perfectly and the keeper couldn't react at that point," Solomon said.
Montville made a hard push for the equalizer in the second half. The Indians nearly closed the deal when a long free kick sailed deep into the box. But sophomore goalie Tori LoPresto charged out and just barely beat a Montville player to the dangerous ball, knocking it away.
A compact, aggressive Stonington defense refused to buckle. The Bears followed Sullivan's instructions to her defenders about being disciplined. It seemed like every time a Montville forward collected a pass, she was swallowed up by the Bears.
LoPresto needed just two saves to record the shutout.
"They parked the bus a little bit," Montville coach April Parady-Walter said. "They had four in the back. They played defensively. After they scored, they changed up their game and went full on defense on us, so it made it hard. There were a lot of numbers there and it was hard to get through their traffic."
Montville's defense also was solid and allowed just five shots. The Indians played a high line and it frustrated the Bears for most of the game.
Stonington countered by either playing through balls or lofting passes over the defensive back line.
The game-winning play started with a long pass from a midfielder and ended with Foster's polished finish.
The fiercely competitive game added another chapter in the rivalry between the two programs.
"Gosh, this has been building ever since I've been with the program for the past 10 or so years," Parady-Walter said. "We've always had a nice rivalry with them. They play hard and they play physical. And we play the same way. They bring out the best in us."
• Heather Converse scored off a made scramble following a corner kick with 52 seconds remaing as second-seeded Woodstock Academy defeated No. 1 Plainfield 1-0 to win the ECC Division I title at East Lyme.
2018 ECC GIRLS' SOCCER AWARD WINNERS
Following is a list of Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' soccer all-stars, sportsmanship and scholar-athlete award winners:
First team — Forwards: Kayla Park (NFA), Ivy Gelhaus (Woodstock), Madelyn Catlett (Fitch); Midfielders: Juliette Hogan (NFA), Ashleigh Angle (Woodstock), Linda St. Laurent (Woodstock), Avery Lyon (Fitch); Defenders: Laura Agbayani (East Lyme), Angie Venditti (East Lyme), Natalie Dionne (NFA); Goalkeeper: Irene Askitis (Woodstock).
Honorable mention — Peyton Saracina (Woodstock), Madison Lynch (Fitch), MacKenzie Teper (NFA), Brynn Kusnarowis (Woodstock), Hallie Saracina (Woodstock).
Sportsmanship award — Sarah Christensen (East Lyme), Jillian Brunelli (NFA), Kayla Gaudreau (Woodstock), Valentina Silva (Fitch).
Scholar-athlete — Connie Tang (East Lyme), Maddy Perrino (NFA), Emma Redfield (Woodstock), Katrina Corbeil (Fitch).
First team — Forwards: Izzy Newbury (Plainfield), Abbie Burgess (Killingly), Lexi LaPerle (Ledyard); Midfielders: Kate Carleson (Plainfield), Molly McLoughlin (Bacon), Ally Van Volkenburg (Ledyard), Taylor Jax (Killingly); Defenders: Grace Nichols (Killingly), Alexis Price (Plainfield), Cassie Carleson (Plainfield); Goalkeeper: Savannah Wahrer (Ledyard).
Honorable mention — Hannah Dagenais (Plainfield), Claudia Blazquez (Waterford), Lindsey Price (Plainfield), Victoria Violette (Bacon), Sarah Vilardo (Bacon).
Sportsmanship award — Emma Marceau (Killingly), Addison Belcamino (Bacon), Sophie Mercer (Plainfield), Julia Karlberg (Waterford), Jenna Topalis (Ledyard).
Scholar-athlete — Jessica Savage (Bacon), Alexis Price (Plainfield), Ciana Chiappone (Waterford), Olivia Crawford (Ledyard).
First team — Forwards: Megan Detwiler (Stonington), Lauren Velazquez (Montville); Midfielders: Olivia Meehan (Montville), Bella Rubino (Griswold), Vanessa Benjamin (Stonington), Victoria Hannaford (St. Bernard), Kara Beaupre (Montville); Defenders: Amelia Caron (Stonington), Jessica Detwiler (Stonington), Jillian Murallo (Montville); Goalkeeper: Lauren Ross (Montville).
Honorable mention — Lindsay Clement (St. Bernard), Caitlyn Shetland (Griswold), Kate Johnson (Stonington), Michaela MacCracken (Montville), Kiera MacCracken (Montville).
Sportsmanship award — Calla Millovitsch (Griswold), Holly Foster (Stonington), Megan Bergeron (St. Bernard), Katelin Price (Montville), Iyana Gills (New London).
Scholar-athlete — Caitlyn Shetland (Griswold), Emma Sabbadini (Stonington), Hope D'Amico (St. Bernard), Kara Beaupre (Montville), Bria Fielding (New London).
First team — Forwards: Kaylee Tackson (Tourtellotte), Laylah Chavez (Putnam); Midfielders: Rylee Valliere (Windham), Ashley Morin (Tourtellotte), Mekayla Minarik (Tourtellotte), Mariah Travisano (Putnam), Madison Murphy (Lyman Memorial); Defenders: Madilyn Crawford (Lyman), Eliza Olsen (Lyman), Lauren Ramos (Tourtellotte); Goalkeeper: Addie Hauptmann (Wheeler).
Honorable mention — Parker Sessums (Putnam), Gracie Anderson (Wheeler), Jolie Wilber (Tourtellotte), Adriana Hernandez (Windham), Kayleigh Lyons (Putnam), Kate Anderson (Lyman).
Sportsmanship award — Cecilia Hunter (Windham), Jolie Wilber (Tourtellotte), Emma Braithwaite (Putnam), Daniela Roy (Wheeler), Mackenzie Cook (Lyman).
Scholar-athlete — Ivette Lopez (Windham), Rori Johnson (Tourtellotte), Kaitlyn Eddy (Putnam), Gracie Anderson (Wheeler), Sidney Pankowski (Lyman).