East Lyme girls score statement-making soccer win over Woodstock

East Lyme — East Lyme expected to learn a great deal about itself facing the defending Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament champion on Monday.

A 4-1 victory over Woodstock Academy showed the Vikings that they're a vastly improved girls' soccer team and a Division I title contender.

"It's a huge statement game for us," East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. "We have a young team and the girls played awesome and they did what they had to do to win."

What made the victory even more impressive is that the Vikings scored four times against a team that had shut out its previous four opponents while outscoring them by a 17-0 margin. The Centaurs fell to 4-2 overall, 1-1 in Division I.

"They came out and wanted to beat us," Woodstock coach Dennis Snelling said. "We have a target on our back from winning the division and winning the (ECC) tournament for a few years in a row. That's fine. We want the competition. I have a lot of respect for Rachel and her program."

All the goals came in a high-scoring second half. Senior Alivia Catanzaro led the charge with two goals and an assist.

The Vikings (3-1-1, 2-0) played like a team with something to prove. They suffered through some growing pains last season while winning just four games.

"We had a really rough year last year," Catanzaro said. "But I think the people that we added and all the work that we've done has really made us good at this point."

The Vikings started on their heels, as the Centaurs kept the pressure on in the opening 15 minutes. Skilled freshman Grace Gelhaus rattled a hard shot off the crossbar, much to the relief of East Lyme goalie Avery Owen, who finished with eight saves.

Gradually, the Vikings gained control of the game and build a consistent attack, using their speed and sharp passing to break down the defense.

"We're definitely a second half team," Catanzaro said. "I think we get more energy and we build when we see how we're playing in the first half and then we want to change it and go out and play."

After a scoreless first half, East Lyme broke it open with three straight goals. Sophomore Meredith Healy opened the scoring by running onto a ball and ripping a shot into the corner for a 1-0 lead just 51 seconds into the second half.

The goal seemed to energize the Vikings, who rely heavily on underclassmen.

They struck for two goals less than three minutes apart, with Catanzaro involved in both plays. Junior Caitlin O'Dea's pass from the right side found Catanzaro who dribbled into the box and buried a shot into the far corner with 23:27 left.

Then Catanzaro set up freshman Abigail Belleville whose one-timer found the back of the goal for a 3-0 edge.

The Viking defense limited the Centaurs to mostly harmless shots from distance until Gelhaus scored off a great individual play to cut the gap to 3-1 with 11:38 left.

"We work on our defense and work on containing," Redding said. "We just work on working together and that's what they do."

East Lyme never let up. Catanzaro's corner kick bounced off the keeper's hand and fell into the goal to close out the scoring.

"It was very surprising," Catanzaro said. "I don't normally take corners."

After the game, Redding told her team to remember the feeling. The rematch will be Oct. 16 in Woodstock.

"Woodstock is an amazing team," Redding said. "They've got great coaches."

g.keefe@theday.com

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