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Old Lyme girls' soccer team is unbeaten, still working on perfect

Old Lyme — Old Lyme's girls' soccer team is unbeaten but not quite perfect, nor does it claim to be, after losing the bulk of its defense from a year ago, including The Day's All-Area Player of the Year in Emily DeRoehn and goalie Sam Gray.

The first half Thursday afternoon, in what both coaches agreed would be an 8-on-8 matchup due to Hale-Ray's small roster, was a little farther from perfect than first-year coach Kendra Flaherty would have liked. The Wildcats led just 1-0 in what was eventually a 5-1 victory to put their record at 7-0-4 overall, 5-0-4 in the Shoreline Conference.

"I think it's hard to get pumped up for a small-sided game," Flaherty said. "There was also a stern talking to at halftime. 'You're No. 3 in the state (in the CIAC Class S rankings) and you're No. 2 in the Shoreline Conference and you're not playing like it.'"

The Wildcats heightened the game's energy in the first 45 seconds of the second half, though, scoring twice, and led 5-0 before Hale-Ray scored the game's final goal, with Flaherty subbing her starters in and out in waves of seven.

Junior forward Alexis Fenton, who missed the first part of the season with an ankle injury, scored three goals, giving her 10 in the last six games for Old Lyme. Fenton scored on a first-half penalty kick, then added two goals in the second half assisted by freshman Kate Walsh.

Ali Kyle scored 24 seconds into the second half and Fenton followed 21 seconds later.

Flaherty said she switched the Wildcats' formation in the second half to include an extra midfielder, which facilitated getting the ball forward more easily.

Calla Gilson scored Old Lyme's final goal with 6:39 to play, making it 5-0.

"Alexis has gained a lot of confidence, I think," said Flaherty, who was an assistant last season under longtime Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason. "She wants to be unselfish, but I'm trying to get it in her head, it has to be her. She has good instincts. She has good foot skills; her left foot keeps people off guard.

"We had a (penalty kick) at the beginning of the season and I said, "Alexis, why don't you or Kate take it' and she said, 'No, no, no.'"

Fenton, though, part of Old Lyme's state championship girls' tennis team in the spring and the Shoreline doubles champion along with now-graduated fellow soccer player Lauren Wallace, has become one of the team's leaders, perhaps from her time on the bench while injured.

"It was sad," Fenton said. "I wish I was out there. I just tried to bring the energy."

The Wildcats have now won four straight following a 0-0 tie with Cromwell on Sept. 30. Old Lyme also has ties with Morgan (1-1), Portland (2-2) and Old Saybrook (0-0), with Morgan also unbeaten. Old Lyme will play four out-of-league games down the stretch against Montville, Ledyard, Waterford and Granby in preparation for the league and state tournaments.

Old Lyme has been to five straight state championship games, last finishing as the Class S runner-up in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 tournament.

Flaherty credits the defense, a traditional strength within the program but this time with a different cast of characters including freshman goalie Olivia Kelly, for keeping the team's record spotless this long.

"Our defense has been spectacular this year and our freshman goalie has been phenomenal," Flaherty said, listing the line of juniors Maddie McCullough and Lyla Powers and seniors Kyle and Hannah Britt. "Ali played forward for us last year but she's a much better defender."

"We're definitely a second-half team," Fenton said. "We have to work on coming out stronger. (The first half) was really flat. That was definitely not our best shot at all. (The second half), that's how we need to play in the first half. But we're undefeated. We have to just keep playing like this, keep rolling. We're trying to form a new team but we're getting there."








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