Johnson, Bears are quick on the draw, beat East Lyme to reach ECC girls' lacrosse final
Stonington — Kate Johnson, asked the secret to her dominance of the draw circle Tuesday evening, attributed it to several things.
"I think just the intensity that goes along with playing East Lyme," Johnson, a Stonington High School senior midfielder, said. "Also, the girls on the circle help me a lot. When we played East Lyme the first time, we didn't draw and keep possession the way we wanted."
"Definitely practice," Johnson added.
Whatever it is, Johnson has perfected the art of the draw control. Her proficiency was on display for third-seeded Stonington in the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' lacrosse tournament semifinals against No. 2 East Lyme in what was a rematch of last year's ECC championship game.
Stonington, the defending tournament champion, held off East Lyme 10-9 and found its way to the final to meet No. 4 Woodstock Academy beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday at East Lyme. Woodstock defeated top-seeded Montville 16-5 in the second game.
The Vikings won 11 straight ECC tournament titles before Stonington's triumph last season.
East Lyme (13-4) bounced back to beat the Bears (15-3) 13-9 on April 30 this season.
On Tuesday, however, the Vikings didn't quite have the ball as much.
They had just finished a span of 4 minutes, 59 seconds in the second half without touching the ball, capped with a goal from Stonington's Hannah Lamb, assisted by Johnson, giving the Bears a 7-4 lead, and then ... Johnson won the ensuing draw.
"If we have possession longer, that means East Lyme didn't have it," Johnson said.
"That's her thing," Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros said of Johnson on the draw. "Kate's the real deal. She's the horse we ride. She won the (draws) we needed in the end."
Johnson led Stonington with four goals and an assist. Emma Sabbadini had three goals and two assists and Lamb scored twice.
The Bears took a 3-0 lead in the first 7:12, getting the third goal on a pass from Kathryn Logel to Sabbadini, prompting an East Lyme timeout.
Stonington won the draw, but East Lyme intercepted it and the Vikings responded with three straight goals of their own, by Anna Johnson with East Lyme a man down, by Caroline Real and by Abby Mountain to make it 3-3 with 10:26 in the half.
Sabbadini gave Stonington the lead for good at 5-4 with 1:14 to play in the first half, scoring on a free position shot.
The Bears compounded the lead to start the second half, winning the opening draw and scoring right away on a free position by Johnson. Lamb scored twice to make it 8-4 in Stonington's favor with 15:51 remaining.
East Lyme scored three straight goals, two by Megan Bauman, the last with 2:05 to play to pull the Vikings within 9-8. But Johnson took the draw and scored on a free position for good measure to provide the Bears the eventual game-winning goal.
Kristen Healy scored East Lyme's final goal with 49.5 seconds to play, but Johnson won the draw and fed the ball to Lamb, who ran out the clock.
Mountain and Bauman had two goals each for East Lyme and Natale Taylor and Julia Bates each had a goal and two assists.
A good part of Stonington's strategy came from its transition game and eluding East Lyme's pressure defense, given to swarm like barracudas with four seniors leading the way.
Medeiros said he watched the film of Stonington's previous loss to East Lyme over and over — begrudgingly — to find the answer. On Tuesday, the Bears moved the ball laterally at times and sometimes even back to goalie Isabella McCarthy to avoid the Vikings full-court press.
"Especially in transition, they were triple-teaming us," Stonington sophomore defensive wing Megan Detwiler said. "We were passing it back and forth or back to our goalie. It was choppy at times ... East Lyme has such an intensity. It's just such a huge accomplishment to beat them."
"We're a good team. They're a good team," East Lyme coach Phil Schneider said. "We're both going to be playing late in June. We're going to get over it. ... It was back and forth. We battled. It was a close game. Anyone who knows anything about lacrosse could have predicted it was going to be played that way."
Alexis DeLucia and Ashley Rewers each scored twice for Montville (13-4) in the second game of the doubleheader and Mackenzie Ullrich added a goal.
No. 3 Stonington 10, No. 2 East Lyme 9
No. 4 Woodstock 16, No. 1 Montville 1
At East Lyme
No. 3 Stonington vs. No. 4 Woodstock, 5 p.m.
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