Old Lyme wins fourth straight Class S girls' soccer title
Middletown — It was only after she had received the Most Valuable Player plaque and the cameras were off that Mya Johnson, the answer and the antidote for everything over the last four years at Old Lyme High School, began weeping tears of joy.
"It's just awesome," said Johnson, having just been handed the game ball by athletic director Hilda Heck, trying to explain the enormity of the moment. "... I thought last year was awesome."
Johnson scored both goals Sunday, the 100th and 101st of her career, as 14th-seeded Old Lyme came from behind to beat No. 4 Immaculate 2-1 in the Class S girls' soccer state championship game at Middletown High School.
It was the fourth straight title for Old Lyme (13-5-4), which hadn't really had the best of luck against Immaculate in past tournaments, being eliminated from postseason play nine times by the 12-time state champion Mustangs.
The triumph came in a season Old Lyme suffered four regular-season losses, four more than last year, and lost in the first round of the Shoreline Conference tournament, following the graduation of previous all-state players Maddie Ouellette, Maddie Zrenda and Keelin Hurtt.
And it came despite Immaculate, which had outscored opponents 15-0 in the tournament en route to the title game, taking a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 28 seconds into the game on a goal by sophomore Henny Rodriguez. Immaculate won the Class L title in 2014 and shared the Class M crown in 2016, coming back to Class S prior to this season.
"We're all pretty teary-eyed," Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said. "(Johnson) is pretty stoic. This meant a lot to her. They knew Immaculate had beaten coach (Don) Desautels and coach (Rob) Roach (past Old Lyme coaches) many, many times. I told them today, 'Let's expunge the ghosts of the losses. Let's dedicate this to coach Desautels and coach Roach and let's bring home that trophy.'
"When they scored, I yelled out, 'This is still our game, girls. We have the talent, we have the speed, we have the strength. Play it hard and we'll be successful.' ... When Mya scored, that solidified their belief that 'Yes, we can.'"
Johnson evened the score 1-1 with 21:52 to play in the first half. Fellow senior Dani McCarthy was fouled, giving Johnson a free kick at the 17-yard line. She struck a bouncer into the left corner for the goal.
"I saw that there wasn't a wall," Johnson said of choosing to shoot low. "I figured everyone thinks all free kicks go up in the air. It's a lot harder (for the goalie) to have to dive for it."
Johnson, Old Lyme's all-time leading scorer and an All-America candidate who will play next season for coach Norm Riker at Connecticut College, was exhausted by the time the opportunity presented itself for her final career goal.
Immaculate (16-5-1) was awarded a goal kick and the ball was won by Johnson at approximately the 40-yard-line. Johnson one-touched the ball to senior Britney DeRoehn and saw DeRoehn take off with it, but suddenly Johnson's instinct kicked in that she had to be the one to receive the ball from DeRoehn in return.
DeRoehn played the ball back to her teammate charging down the right side and Johnson beat several defenders before slipping the game-winner past Immaculate goalie Aimee Cirella.
"After they scored, we had to come together even more as a team," said Old Lyme sophomore defender Emily DeRoehn, Britney's younger sister, who played a significant role in the defense shutting out Immaculate for the final 76:32. "Negativity doesn't help anything. You have to come together. It was early, but we knew we had that much time left."
Old Lyme, which has seven seniors, began its string of titles by tying Notre Dame of Fairfield 2-2 in 2015. In 2016, the Wildcats won their first outright championship in program history with a 1-0 victory over Old Saybrook and last year they edged Holy Cross 2-1 in double overtime on a header by Johnson.
This season, the Wildcats beat four teams in the state tournament that were seeded higher than them, topping No. 3 Cromwell (2-1), No. 6 Portland (2-0) and No. 7 East Hampton (3-1) before facing Immaculate. Johnson also scored all three goals against East Hampton in the semis.
"I love that girl," Emily DeRoehn said of Johnson. "Playing with Mya has made me better. Playing with this team has made me better. ... The other day I broke down in the car crying because this is going to be my last game with (my sister)."
"That's what's awesome about Old Lyme girls' soccer," Johnson said. "We have a girl playing goal (Sam Gray), who's never played soccer before and she works just as hard as everyone. We have girls picking each other up. All four years we've had a bunch of great girls."