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    Tuesday, October 04, 2022

    A day of celebration for East Lyme girls' lacrosse

    East Lyme High School's Kaci Pierce, left, carries a ball past Fitch's Grace Moriarty during a girls' lacrosse game Tuesday afternoon at Groton Middle School. East Lyme won 16-11 to capture the ECC Division I regular-season championship. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Groton — East Lyme had a couple reasons to celebrate Tuesday.

    The Vikings clinched the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I regular-season title in girls' lacrosse.

    Also, junior Dani Bruno scored her 100th career goal in a hard-earned 16-11 victory over Fitch at Groton Middle School.

    To reach that milestone in a meaningful title-clinching victory made it even more special.

    "Definitely a huge accomplishment," Bruno said. "These last two years have been so fun. But I wouldn't have been able to do it without my team."

    All in all, it was a good day for the Vikings, who swept the regular-season series against Fitch and improved to 11-4 overall, 7-0 in Division I.

    "We forget that last year's team, we hadn't won the ECCs in four years," East Lyme coach Phil Schneider said. "So, we came back last year and that was our goal. This is a whole new team than what we had last year.

    "Every time we win a game, those are special occasions. You get 16 of them in the regular season. You can't not be excited about winning a game."

    The Vikings were powered by a balanced scoring attack, as seven different players scored goals. Bruno topped the charts with four goals and one assist while Meghan Nagle had three goals and Abigail Belleville, Alanna Benoit, Sydney Sager and Lillian Poletto chipped in two goals apiece. Kaci Pierce added one.

    They never trailed, racing out to an 8-2 start, leading 9-5 at halftime and never allowing their advantage to shrink any closer than two goals in the second half.

    Bruno's milestone moment came at an important point in the second half.

    Fitch seized the momentum starting the second half and cut the deficit to 10-8 on senior Rita Sefransky's free position goal. Sefransky finished with four goals and an assist.

    Bruno answered, converting her free position shot for an 11-8 edge. It was the first of three straight goals for the Vikings, who held off the Falcons' comeback attempt.

    The Vikings reestablished a comfortable lead, going up 16-9.

    Late goals by Fitch's Sophia Clang (two goals, one assist) and Bridget O'Leary (four goals) created the final margin. Nora Casey also scored for the Falcons (8-6, 4-2).

    "You've got to play clean against a team like East Lyme," Fitch coach Michael Luethy said. "They're going to take advantage of turnovers and loose balls. They hustle so you've got to keep hustling the whole game. You can't let up at all."

    Fitch gave East Lyme a tough battle in the first meeting in early April before losing 17-15.

    "The lacrosse in this conference has improved," Schneider said. "There's some quality teams, whether it's Fitch or Stonington or Waterford or some of the small schools. So we can't just show up and play — not that we ever did. But we just can't have that mindset. We know it's going to be a battle and we have to work hard and we have to work hard in practice."

    East Lyme and Fitch share at least one thing: Both teams have improved significantly since the first game.

    "It was definitely a closer game when we played them earlier in the season," Bruno said. "We grew as a team. We strengthened our offense and our defense. It definitely paid off in this game."

    The Falcons have benefitted from playing a tough schedule, according to Luethy.

    "We had a super hard schedule this year, the hardest we ever had," Luethy said. "We took on teams like New Fairfield, Weston and Guilford. The whole point was to build some strength and some show progress and be able to compete.

    "To get a game that's pretty close with East Lyme is the goal and to be able to do well in the state tournament is a goal. I've seen a lot of growth and progress this season with the girls. They keep battling and showing character. I couldn't ask for more than that."


    East Lyme's Dani Bruno, left, attempts a shot past Fitch's Kara Moriarty during a girls' lacrosse game Tuesday at Groton Middle School. Bruno finished with four goals and an assist, including the 100th goal of her career, in East Lyme's 16-11 victory. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme teammates celebrate a goal during Tuesday's high school girls' lacrosse game against Fitch. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme's Meredith Healy (7) and Alanna Benoit (9) fight Fitch's Bridget O'Leary for a ball during Tuesday's high school girls' lacrosse game. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme's Bella Chambers, left. and Fitch's Rita Sefransky chase after a ball during Tuesday's high school girls' lacrosse game. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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