Old Lyme still going strong after four straight state titles
East Lyme — Things that were still the same for the Old Lyme High School girls' soccer team as they were on Nov. 18, 2018, when we last saw the Wildcats as they won their fourth straight Class S championship:
Coach Paul Gleason was still confounding the media by speaking Latin.
"Primus inter pares," was Gleason's opening remark Saturday night after Old Lyme won its opener 1-0 over East Lyme in the traditional girls' and boys' soccer doubleheader between the two neighboring towns. "First among equals.
"We got lucky. You could see the inexperience in our outside mids and forwards. You can't teach fast enough the integral parts of the game. The last 20 minutes we were on our heels. We just happen to be first among equals."
Junior Kaylee Armenia scored the only goal of the game 4 minutes, 55 seconds into the second half for what proved to be the game-winner, despite the Wildcats being outshot 10-6 by East Lyme (1-1).
Aremenia's goal ricocheted off East Lyme goalie Avery Owen and neutralized a strong half by East Lyme, which played a dynamic second half, stealing the ball from the Wildcats and getting a shot on goal from sophomore Margaret Dunne just 10 seconds into the half.
The second thing that didn't change a great deal from Old Lyme's 2018 2-1 state championship victory over Immaculate was the Wildcats' defense. Juniors Emily DeRoehn and Ellery Zrenda switched off in the middle of the back line and held East Lyme without a goal, with DeRoehn, in particular, wearing distinct orange shoes, clearing chance after chance.
Old Lyme goalie Sam Gray made eight saves in the shutout. Owen had five for East Lyme.
"We were, of course, nervous," DeRoehn said. "We wanted to come out with a win and show we're still the one to beat.
"You've got to feel confident. The best players are confident. Mya (Johnson), Dani (McCarthy), Caroline (Wallace), Britney (DeRoehn, all graduated seniors from last year's state championship team) taught us to keep your head high, be confident and work hard. Game time is when you've got to be serious and confident."
It was the third straight win in the series for Old Lyme.
East Lyme, however, doesn't figure to be the same team it was a year ago when it finished an uncharacteristic 4-12-1. A pair of dynamic freshmen last season, Dunne and defender Ella Mazzulli, missed the entire season with injuries, as did now-junior Karenna Kung.
The Vikings fared well in the preseason, according to coach Rachel Redding, as well as beating defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II tournament champion Stonington 6-1 in their opener Thursday.
"Last year was a growing year," Redding said. "We're going to continue to play great soccer. I'm pleased. I'm absolutely happy (with the progress). We're still young, but not the youngest."
East Lyme pressured Old Lyme throughout the second half, including back-to-back near misses by Alivia Catanzaro and Kung with about 19:00 to play. Redding said the Vikings made some corrections in the second half.
"Rachel's going to be unstoppable the next couple of seasons," said Gleason, whose daughter Ally coached the Old Lyme boys in the second game of the doubleheader. "... It was pretty cool (to win Saturday). I was really proud of that Emily. Her sister (Britney DeRoehn) left the legacy of the great pass to Mya to beat Immaculate (for the title).
"I'm extremely proud of the effort the girls gave. I'm pleased. I'm pleased."
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The goal which finally put the game away for the East Lyme girls' soccer team, bringing with it the first ECC division title since 2016, couldn't have been a more perfect illustration of how Wednesday's game went for the Vikings.
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