Immaculate ousts Stonington 4-3 in OT in Class S field hockey semis

Wethersfield — Miranda Arruda has a sense of urgency with everything she does, even her homework.

"I do it as soon as I get it, that day," Arruda said. "It almost gives me anxiety if I have stuff to do."

And so this season's Stonington High School field hockey team, decimated by graduation, was given the task to become Stonington-like, nevertheless, embracing the sense of history surrounding a program which had won nine straight Eastern Connecticut Conference titles and was coming off a trip to the semifinals of the Class S state tournament.

So the fact the second-seeded Bears were participants in yet another state semifinal, falling Tuesday night to No. 3 Immaculate in overtime, 4-3, took some season-long patience, according to Arruda. And maybe that sense of urgency also proved helpful.

Immaculate, which got the game-winner from senior Madison Halas with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining in the first of three possible 10-minute overtimes, moved on to Saturday's championship game, where the Mustangs will take on top-seeded Granby back at Wetherfield High School.

Stonington finished 17-2-2 with a 10th straight ECC title and a share of the league tournament championship with East Lyme.

The Bears trailed twice in the second half against Immaculate before forcing the 7-on-7 overtime session and, not only that, gaining distinct momentum at the start of it.

"We thought this was going to be a rebuilding season," Arruda said. "We weren't expecting to win that many games this season. Our parents even knew, 'Maybe we shouldn't think this team is going to win a lot.' We lost a bunch of seniors.

"... (The younger players) have the skill set. They go to the UConn camps. I think it's just confidence. They needed confidence."

Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio, who also picked up her 200th career win this season, adding to the list of the Bears' somewhat unexpected celebrations, credited Arruda and senior center back Colette Dreher — the two returning players with the most experience — with leading by example.

"You need a visual of what it's supposed to look like in terms of intensity, focus, execution. The rest of the girls knew there was a difference in the experience level," Tucchio said. "The girls emulated that. They're great examples. I can't get out there and demonstrate. They brought the girls along."

Stonington struck first against Immaculate with 15:50 remaining in the opening half, when Maddy Cassell got a rebound and slammed it into the goal cage. Immaculate answered quickly, though, on a deflection by Molly Coyle, and the score remained tied at halftime.

Coyle scored again less than 10 minutes into the second half for the 2-1 lead and the Mustangs seemed to maintain momentum throughout the half.

But Arruda scored with 14:08 to play to make it 2-2 and, following a quick goal by Halas to put Immaculate back in the lead, Cassell tied things 3-3 on an assist by Daisy Williams with 4:52 to go.

In overtime, Cassell fired the first volley for Stonington, defended by Immaculate goalie Lauren Oskam.

Arruda also got a shot on goal saved by Oskam with about six and a half minutes to play, with Oskam's kick save just out of the reach of Cassell's rebound attempt.

"We had a couple opportunities, but it's OK," Arruda said. "Their goalie's really good. Give her credit."

"They might be the state champs," Tucchio said, complimenting Immaculate. "That always helps (to know). I thought they played together well. They've got some good ballhandlers. They're big. They're physically very strong. I think we got bumped around a little bit, but not in a bad way. I think they're going to be tough to beat.

"Hey, we stayed with them the whole game. (Our kids) should be proud."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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