Franco, Vikings rout Bears to win ECC girls' lacrosse title
Montville — It wasn't Gigi Franco's idea to become a goaltender while working her way up through youth lacrosse.
Franco kind of wasn't given a choice.
"I was a defender to start off my lacrosse career, but I was too aggressive," Franco said while laughing. "So they put me in goal."
Franco has evolved quite nicely in the net. She and top-seeded East Lyme held Stonington scoreless for over 23 minutes and blitzed its way to an 18-4 victory in Thursday's Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament final at Montville High School.
Franco had nine saves on 17 shots and was named the James J. Courtney Award winner as the tournament's most outstanding player for the Vikings (14-4).
"At first I didn't really want to be a goalie, but once I started playing in my eighth grade year, I just fell in love with it," Franco said. "I couldn't do it without the encouragement of my other teammates who've I've been with since eighth grade.
"It really is just all adrenaline (as a goaltender). I just really like seeing everything and then being able to call out what I see and the way my defense will get there and just help me out is amazing and I just love seeing it all come together. I love making clears and seeing my attackmen make shots off of them. It's my favorite thing."
East Lyme won all three games against the third-seeded Bears (14-5) this season.
Senior Meredith Healy had two goals and three assists, junior Abigail Belleville had four goals and junior Dani Bruno had three goals and an assist for the Vikings.
Also contributing to the East Lyme offense were senior Sydney Sager (three goals), senior Greta Schwartz, junior Meghan Nagle (goal, two assists), junior Alanna Benoit (two goals), sophomore Lillian Poletto (goal, assist) and senior Kaci Pierce (goal).
Another example of the Vikings' dominance was that Stonington only scored on free position plays. Freshman Emma Logel scored twice and senior Ivy Goodman and sophomore Gabriella Dimock each added a goal.
"We felt that we had a good game plan," Bears head coach Jeff Medeiros said, "but key drops, key mistakes (hurt). And every time we did have a key drop, they capitalized with a goal, and slowly the game kind of got away from us."
What made East Lyme's win even more impressive was that third-seeded Stonington (14-5) had a resounding 15-5 edge on draws.
The Vikings made up for it with defense and controlling the ball. They had an outrageous 25-6 edge on ground balls.
The Bears won the first three draws of the game.
It didn't matter as the Vikings went ahead 3-0 before the game was four minutes old.
"Yes, we won the first few draws," Medeiros said. "We did a lot of good things early on but as soon as we got in position, (there'd be) a bad pass.
"A mistake, a dropped ball, (East Lyme is) going to score. And once you get behind these guys, good luck."
The Vikings led 10-3 at halftime.
"It starts with our attack," Vikings head coach Phil Schneider said. "It starts with them being smart, working in the midfield, the defense talking and communicating."
The Vikings also made a defensive adjustment going into the tournament.
"We used to play a man-to-man D," Franco said. "That worked really good and everybody knew what they were doing but when we first started to play against Fitch (in Tuesday's 18-7 semifinal win) we wanted to run a backer (zone) defense.
"Our backer, (junior) Bella Chambers), she got thrown into that position in 20 minutes and she learned how to do it really well. It was really impressive."
For more photos from the ECC girls lacrosse title game click here.