Johnson serves as Stonington's point guard ... during lacrosse season, too
Old Lyme — Kate Johnson, fresh off a basketball season in which she served as Stonington's point guard, dodging, whirling, dishing the Bears to an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II title, used a little of that same athletic skill Tuesday as it applies to lacrosse.
"Kate is one of our best with being able to go one-on-one against somebody, get through traffic," Stonington High School girls' lacrosse coach Jeff Medeiros said.
Johnson wove her way traffic enough to score eight times, including all seven of Stonington's first-half goals and eight of its first nine, as the Bears leapt out to a considerable lead and held on for a 13-11 victory over Old Lyme.
Stonington and Old Lyme have become rivals, somewhat, during recent seasons due to the success of both in the Class S state tournament, including a meeting last year (won by Stonington) in the second round.
Tuesday marked the season-opener for Old Lyme, while Stonington had a 12-9 victory over Valley Regional under its belt from Saturday, a game in which the Bears came from down five at halftime and blanked Valley in the second half, with first-year starting goalie Isabella McCarthy earning player of the game honors.
Stonington is the defending ECC tournament champion, having finished the regular season in a three-way tie for the ECC DII title with Woodstock Academy and Bacon Academy.
"Old Lyme's defense played tough," said Johnson, who has 11 goals in two games to start the season and 96 for her career. "When we practice, we play in a zone defense. Old Lyme played man. I was able to make cuts. ... In the attacking end, we've been playing together for a long time. Overall, I have a lot of confidence in this team."
"We started out a little flat," Old Lyme coach Emily Macione said. "We didn't close the double (team against Johnson) effectively. There should be someone sliding over. We improved on that in the second half. ... That intensity needs to come out 25 minutes earlier."
Johnson kept the Bears ahead of Old Lyme in the first half, scoring the final goal of the half with 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining to make it 7-5 in Stonington's favor less than a minute after Old Lyme's Olivia Stack had pulled the Wildcats within 6-5.
Stonington then got a 5-1 run to commence the second half, getting a goal by Emma Sabbadini 1:14 in on an assist by Kathryn Logel before Johnson chimed in one more time.
Old Lyme's Anna Sather beat McCarthy, the Stonington goalie, low to pull back within 9-6, but Logel, Hannah Lamb and Sabbadini — with Sabbadini notching the 100th goal of her career — scored in succession to give the Bears a 12-6 cushion with just 11:45 to play.
Sabbadini, a senior, finished with three goals and an assist, giving her 101 goals for her career after opening with three Saturday against Valley Regional.
Stack had four goals for Old Lyme, Tinnerello three goals and three assists and Sather two goals, with the Wildcats scoring the final four goals of the game, two by Tinnerello, one by freshman Emily Mesham and one by Stack with 2.8 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats next play at Shoreline Conference rival Old Saybrook on Friday, with Macione hoping her team learns from its opening day mistakes.
"Every game and especially a loss, you figure out what you need to tighten up," Macione said. "Stonington moves very aggressively to the ball, they move the ball well. Kate did a great job allowing them to get the momentum going."
Aside from personnel, Stonington had an addition to its team this year, choosing to be one of the only girls' lacrosse teams in the state — if not the only one — to wear helmets.
Medeiros said there was a player during the postseason last year who suffered a concussion in practice and would have had to wear a helmet this season. He felt the Bears had been affected too much by concussions in recent seasons and proposed the addition to the entire team, for which the Bears' fundraised.
"It was a little bit of a transition, but I think my girls are happy to have them," Medeiros said. "The boys wear them, but for the girls, it's considered a non-contact sport. Now, we do not throw the ball without a helmet on. Aethetic isn't a problem; we all look the same. It's been brought up before (at the state level), but people are afraid it's going to change the game.
"... I like my team. Offensively, we're pretty strong and the defense will catch up."