STRATFORD, Conn. —
This season was the first time in the 15-year history of Stonington girls lacrosse
that they were a fully funded program.
Stonington made sure the money was well spent. It came from behind in the final 10 minutes to beat Granby on Saturday, 13-10, to win the CIAC Class S championship at Bunnell High.
It was the program's first state title in its first championship game appearance.
"My first five years, I was a volunteer. I didn't get paid at all," said Stonington head coach Jeff Medeiros
, now in his 14th season with the program. "I had to fund-raise for my whole career for this program.
"It's neat how it's progressed. Here we are, finally, a fully funded program. I even got a stipend going into next year, so I guess it's fitting that we've given them a state title."
See complete photo gallery of the Stonington vs Granbuy girls lacrosse final here.
Top-seeded Stonington (21-1) never led until the game's final eight minutes. It trailed 7-4 with over nine minutes left in the first half. Olivia Johnson scored with 18 minutes, 54 seconds left in the game to give Granby a 10-8 advantage.
Stonington never let Granby score again.
"How long did we shut them down?" Stonington senior Emily Cassata
asked. "Oh, that's awesome. Our defense has always been the strongest point on our team. We've got Libby (Elizabeth Morrison)
. We've got Margot (Calmar)
. We've got Celeste (Courtney)
, who has grown so much as a player this season. They've really been our anchor for most of the season."
Stonington's defense allowed an average of only 5.9 goals per game and primarily stopped teams by playing a zone-and-one.
Medeiros switched tactics in the second half by switching to a zone-and-two. That way they could defend Johnson, Granby's best player, in addition to Kristal Iwanicki (three goals).
"We knew we were not going to stop (Johnson)," Medeiros said. "We wanted to slow her down. (Iwanicki), we were leaving her alone in the first half, and there was just too much going on and (Iwanicki) was a big part of it."
"We held one team to no shots this year, and this was a team that made the state tournament. The final score was 20-0 and they didn't shoot at my goalie. That I had never heard of. So, yes, 18 minutes is a big thing. Never having a shot on goal is also a big thing. We're kind of used to that."
Stonington senior Valerie Muller
tied the game at 10-10 with 9:46 remaining in the game after a penalty gave her free position. It was her first goal of the game.
Muller scored the go-ahead goal with 7:04 to play.
"We needed to come back because we never had any opportunity like this," Muller said. "I had to do my part."
Medeiros said, "Val, there was a look in her eye today that I hadn't seen all year. She stepped up. I don't want anyone else on the line. She's the one girl I want on the penalty line because she has the hardest shot on the team. When we get her on that line, it's almost a guarantee (she'll score). The goalie reacts after it's gone by her."
Cassata scored the final two goals. She scored three of her four goals in the final 11:15.
Senior Elizabeth Morrison
had four goals for Stonington and classmate Emily Grey
scored twice. Junior Jenny Sieczkiewicz
added a goal and sophomore goalie Lexi Bucko
had six saves.
It was the second state championship this season for juniors Margot Calmar and Casey Williams
, freshman Lauren Turner
, and Cassata, Courtney and Sieczkiewicz. They all played for Stonington’s CIAC Class S field hockey team
, which beat, of all teams, Granby for the state title last fall.
Stonington is also just the second Eastern Connecticut Conference team to win a CIAC state lacrosse title (East Lyme won the first in 2006). The sport has been ruled by lacrosse-rich Fairfield County, which accounts for 23 of the 26 state championships since the CIAC began sanctioning the sport in 2004.
"When we beat East Lyme in the beginning of the season, we realized just how powerful we were," Cassata said. "We were like, ‘alright, this year, something special is going to happen.
"This is really unreal. It's awesome. I wouldn't ask for anything else."Ned Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at
or follow him @MetalNED