MIDDLETOWN >> McKenzie Reimondo’s cross sailed to Jacqueline Otake, who headed the ball toward the goal as the final seconds of regulation ticked off the clock.
But Old Saybrook goalie Mia Neas was there _ as she had been all game _ to dive and make the save.
“I saw the girl open,” Neas said.” I knew she was going to cross it. I knew I had to get there. I was ready for it and let myself go. Luckily, it was to the left of me and not the other corner. “
That stop highlighted a brilliant performance by the Rams senior, putting the finishing touches on an impressive high school career. Diving, leaping, rolling the dice and coming out of the box, Neas turned back shot after shot and finished with 15 saves.
Neas and the No. 11 Rams and No. 5 Portland played to a 0-0 double-overtime tie Saturday in the Class S girls’ soccer final. After 110 minutes of scoreless play, Old Saybrook (12-5-3) and Portland (16-5-1) were declared co-state champions, the first time that’s happened since 2009.
“Of course you want to win outright, but coming out of the Shoreline and playing one of our sister schools, to share with them isn’t a problem,” Highlanders coach Norman Booth said. “Usually in life someone has to win or lose, but in soccer sometimes you get a tie and you get to share.”
Portland goalkeeper Marisa DiMare finished with five saves.
The Highlanders had a handful of opportunities to break the tie, but Neas refused to let it happen.
“She’s been phenomenal,” Booth said. “She plays like three players back there. What can you say? She’s athletic. She knows her position. She’s one of the top goalies in the state if not the northeast. She’s carried Old Saybrook on her back.”
Portland beat the Rams in both meetings during the regular season, 3-0 in the season opener and 1-0 in October. Both teams were looking for their first state championship. The Highlanders lost in the state final last season to Immaculate.
The Highlanders held Old Saybrook to just five shots. The Rams best opportunity came late in the second half. Gabby Rose had a free kick attempt, which floated right into the hands of DiMare. Portland controlled the ball for the majority of the contest.
Despite the pressure, Neas rose to the challenge.
“She’s been doing that all year,” Old Saybrook coach Larry Bright said. “She’s carried this team the whole season, with her leadership and absolutely unbelievable performance in goal. It’s been a great ride.”
Even without an outright title at the end.
“It’s been great,” Neas said. “It’s still a great way to end the season, rather than going home losing.”