The Day's All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year: Old Lyme's Mya Johnson
The celebratory scene at Middletown High School finally wound down and this was a few hours later, when Mya Johnson, who had just helped author one of the best stories perhaps in the history of Connecticut high school sports, was trying to sleep.
"I was scared to go to sleep," said Johnson, the Old Lyme High School girls' soccer team's senior forward and the program's all-time leading scorer with 101 goals.
And still ...
"We have all these pictures I want to post on social media," Johnson said recently. "I'm trying not to wake up."
Johnson was named The Day's 2018 All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year, distinguishing herself with that honor for the third time in her career. Johnson finished the season with 20 goals and eight assists, named to the Class S all-state team for the third time and All-New England for the second time.
Playing with a badly sprained ankle suffered during the regular season, Johnson scored all five goals for Old Lyme (13-5-4) in the state tournament semifinals and finals, as the Wildcats won their fourth straight Class S state championship — four in a row, corresponding to Johnson's stay with the program.
Even Johnson didn't know how the potential fairy tale was going to play out, with Old Lyme facing 12-time state champion Immaculate, a frequent nemesis of the Wildcats in state tournament play.
Old Lyme came from behind to edge Immaculate 2-1, getting the game-winner from Johnson with 7 minutes, 53 seconds remaining when she collected the ball at the 40-yard line and pulled off a flawless give-and-go with teammate Britney DeRoehn for the goal.
"No, I did not think we were going to win," Johnson said a few weeks later, asked to reflect. "With our season, we didn't have the best of seasons. I didn't have that feeling.
"... As soon as we scored that one (to tie the game midway through the first half), then I saw our midfielders dribbling the ball around; their confidence boosted me, the defense's confidence boosted me, Sam Gray's confidence (in goal) boosted me."
Johnson began her career at Old Lyme as a 13-year-old freshman in 2015, when she had 31 goals and 12 assists, being named Shoreline Conference Player of the Year and The Day's All-Area Player of the Year. The Wildcats tied Notre Dame of Fairfield 2-2 for the title that year.
She finished with back-to-back state championship Most Valuable Player honors, scoring the game-winner in last year's title game, as well, on a header in double overtime.
"I don't know what other plaudits I can give Mya," Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said. "Everything's been addressed. I could use other adjectives, just she's a dynamic, dynamic player. Those are (going to be) big shoes to fill. ... She always led by example. She never bitched at anybody. She never yelled at anybody."
And yet the kid with the killer instinct, the impeccable sense of timeliness, the in-game swagger, also has a softer side.
"She's a sweetheart," Johnson's mother Lori said. "We've always been close. Honestly, she has a heart of gold. At the same time, she's very, very strong. Don't get me wrong, she does have a tough side; she's not a pushover, she's not a follower, she's strong.
"But there's the other side that's a sweetheart. She'll start the car in the morning for her brother. We like to lay on the couch and eat cookies and laugh."
It is that closeness with her family, parents Lori and Rick 24-year-old brother Brendan, that made Johnson commit to playing next season at nearby Connecticut College, a Division III program, meaning no athletic scholarships.
Johnson had a handful of Division I offers, she said, but chose not to take that path - "I wanted to love the game as much as I do right now," she said. The farthest campus from Old Lyme she considered was Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.
She couldn't be happier.
"I'm happy for all my friends and all my teammates (that signed Division I letters of intent)," Johnson said. "I keep it in the back of my mind that I can go visit them. I'm there for my college degree and obviously soccer and furthering that.
"I couldn't be more excited. I think my parents and my brother are such a big reason why I had so much success. They've supported me this whole time, I want to support them. I think the most exciting part is that they can go to every game. I just think both of my parents are such great people. They're my best friends."
During the celebration following the win over Immaculate, Johnson wept tears of joy.
"I know my dad said it at the end of the season," Johnson said. "'People will always remember Old Lyme girls' soccer, four straight.' That's unheard of. Most people don't get one.
"I just want to get better. I want to play well. I know college will have more intensity; it's a big intensity change. I want to match that."
The Day's 2018 All-Area Girls' Soccer Team
Player of the Year — Mya Johnson (Old Lyme)
Forward — Britney DeRoehn (Old Lyme), Kayla Park (NFA), Lauren Velazquez (Montville)
Midfield — Kaylee Armenia (Old Lyme), Vanessa Benjamin (Stonington), Juliette Hogan (NFA), Olivia Meehan (Montville)
Defense — Jessica Detwiler (Stonington), Julia Florek (Waterford), Angie Venditti (East Lyme)
Goalie — Lauren Ross (Montville)
Utility — Laura Agbayani (East Lyme), Ally Van Volkenburg (Ledyard)