Stonington advances to another ECC field hockey final

Stonington — One game prior, it was a lot harder for the Stonington offense to get things done.

"Both teams want it so much," Stonington left wing Ellie Korinek said of the Bears' regular-season field hockey finale last week against East Lyme. "Everyone's making sure all their movements are so tight. ... This made us feel so good. Our passing picked up."

Korinek, held scoreless against East Lyme, scored twice Tuesday as No. 2-seeded Stonington topped No. 3 Fitch 3-1 in the semifinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament, a fast-moving game in which the Bears constantly had to avoid breakaway opportunities from fleet Fitch sophomore Bridget O'Leary.

The Bears (12-2-2) advanced to meet No. 1 East Lyme in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday back at Stonington. Stonington and East Lyme tied each other 1-1 last Thursday to share the league's regular-season title, Stonington's 11th straight championship and East Lyme's first since 1990.

East Lyme won the ECC tournament's other semifinal Tuesday 5-1 against No. 4 Killingly.

"They were three good goals," Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said of the Bears' performance against Fitch. "They were well-executed. They weren't crummy goals. The thing I love about it is you're seeing the pieces come together. We executed. The penalty corners were executed.

"I'll take a scrappy goal any day, but those were fun to watch."

Korinek, who scored 15 goals to lead Stonington during the regular season, broke a scoreless tie with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half against Fitch on an assist from Maddie Mendez.

With 25:05 remaining in the second half, Kaira Wiltshire made it 2-0 in the Bears' favor. Sarah Flakus took the initial shot, which rebounded off goalie Hailie Kesterson back to Wiltshire on the right side. Wiltshire rattled the ball into the lower left corner of the goal cage.

Fitch followed with several breakaway attempts, one saved by Stonington's Claire Evans.

The Falcons (8-8-1) were awarded a penalty corner with 11:30 to play and O'Leary took a setup from Haley Rodgers and drove it past Evans to pull within 2-1.

Fitch followed with several more chances, driving to tie the score, including another line drive off a corner by O'Leary, but Stonington was able to reverse things back to the East Lyme side of the field and, with 4:33 to go, Korinek scored an insurance goal on an assist from Olivia Monte, who sent the ball from the right side to Korinek on the left.

"This is a tough game," Fitch coach Diane Kolnaski said. "I'm disappointed we didn't finish, put more goals in. I told the girls, 'They haven't seen you when you're on fire.' Their back defense, they were really good ... 3-1 doesn't tell the whole story."

Kolnaski felt it was Fitch's best effort against the Bears this season, even without senior center mid Maggie O'Leary, Bridget's sister, who is out with a concussion.

Tucchio didn't disagree.

"Bridget O'Leary is outstanding," Tucchio said. "It felt like she was compensating for the fact Maggie didn't play. She never played like that against us. She just exploded today. ... Sophia (Fernholz) had a bunch of stops on the right, Annie (Drago) had a few. I thought the defense did a good job."

Korinek said the plan is to have the offensive momentum carry over to the final.

"That's what we're hoping," Korinek said. "Everything we're doing, we're hoping it carries over to East Lyme."

"I thought our passing was so much better tonight," Tucchio said. "I thought it was much better. The girls thought it was much better. We combined for a lot of good passing."

• Kristen Healy had two goals and one assist to highlight East Lyme's 5-1 win over Killingly in the other semifinal. Emily Crandall added a goal and an assist for the Vikings (12-2-3) while Cailyn Maiolo and Sarah Healy each scored a goal and Caroline Real had two assists. Massey Guari scored for the Red Hawks (6-9-2).

The game was tied 1-1 when Kristen Healy, assisted by Real, scored her first goal to break the deadlock. She assisted Crandall on the third goal before Crandall returned the favor on the fourth goal.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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