Ledyard earns hard-fought ECC Division II title win over Montville

Waterford — Ledyard showed up for Thursday's Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II girls' soccer final determined to take home a championship banner.

The top-seeded Colonels secured the title but not before surviving hard fought battle with No. 3 Montville.

Most Valuable Player Lexi LaPerle scored on a breakaway early in the first half and freshman Jess English blasted home a free kick with just over eight minutes left to close out the 2-0 victory at Waterford High School.

"I'm very proud of my team right now," LaPerle said. "We came into this knowing that we could definitely do this, and we were able to accomplish it. ... This was the main goal of ours."

Ledyard (14-3-1) and Montville (7-8-3) spilt a pair of tight regular-season meetings, each winning by 1-0 margins.

Thursday's final was also a fiercely competitive match.

Entering the game, Ledyard coach Emily Lehet expected the outcome to come down to penalty kicks.

"Definitely expected it to be tough," Lehet said. "Montville knows what they're doing. It's always fun to play against them because they're so organized. They come out to play and fight and they're tough."

LaPerle, an ECC Division II all-star, scored the all important first goal with a great individual effort. With a defender right on her heels, LaPerle dribbled in alone on goalie Julia Beaupre and buried a hard shot into the left corner.

"I try to aim for corners the best I can," LaPerle said of her strategy. "This is honestly the first time I've scored against Montville in my four years of playing."

The goal settled down the Colonels, who owned the edge in possession and goal-scoring chances.

"This is a team that typically if they score early, they do better," Lehet said. "They feel a lot more comfortable in their positions. That was one of our goals today, to get one early and set the tone."

Ledyard's tenacious defense took over from there.

The back line of junior Kate English, freshman Delaney Vaudrey, senior Olivia Crawford and senior Karissa Paul disrupted and disarmed Montville's attack. The Indians managed just four harmless shots, with senior goalie Savannah Wahrer making three saves.

They played tough, too, as Vaudrey left the game twice due to a bloody nose, which happened during first-half collision, and returned to play both times. When Vaudrey went out, LaPerle moved into the back until her teammate was ready to return.

Ledyard sealed the victory with eight minutes, 16 seconds left when Jess English blasted home free kick from about 25 yards out. LaPerle drew a foul to set up the chance.

The Colonels have enjoyed quite a turnaround this season, going from five wins to 14 so far heading into the CIAC tournament.

"I give credit to the seniors," Lehet said. "The seniors have been great."

Montville lost in the championship game for the second straight year. The Indians exceeded expectations by reaching the ECC final with a young team. They have only two seniors on their roster.

"A lot of people had doubts about us, losing six starting seniors," coach April Parady-Walter said. "So, I think it's a huge effort and kudos to them for working hard all season and getting to the point where we could be contenders for not only our division but being right here in the finals.

"I'm super proud of the girls. They put together a great season. We're still in post-season right now with the states coming at us, so we're not done."

• Top-seeded Plainfield won the Division I championship by defeating No. 3 Killingly 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout after the teams played to a 2-2 double overtime tie. The Panthers (13-1-4) rallied from a 2-0 deficit in regulation after the Red Hawks (10-3-5) took the early lead on a pair of goals by Abby Burgess.

g.keefe@theday.com

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