CROMWELL >> The ball sailed over the head of Cromwell goalkeeper Alexa Beauchemin and bounced towards the open net. It was a shot from Lyme-Old Lyme freshman Abby Stone that seemed like it was going to even this Class S second round contest with just under six minutes left to play.
The ball, however, rolled and then lightly banged off the left goalpost where it was cleared by Panthers sweeper Paige Pendal.
“Once that happened you just kind of had the feeling that it was our day,” said Cromwell coach Marcelo Caetano.
Junior forward Paige Martin scored two goals and senior forward Carly Orlacchio netted the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute as the No. 8 Panthers advanced to the Class S quarterfinals with a thrilling 3-2 victory against No. 9 Old Lyme Wednesday at Cromwell High School.
Cromwell, which defeated Old Lyme, 1-0, on this same field back on Sept. 25, has gone 9-1-1 since a 2-4 start. The Wildcats (12-6-1) have had a similar season, starting 1-4-1 before winning 11 of their next 12, including a 1-0 victory against Portland in the Shoreline Conference championship game.
“We got lucky when we beat them the first time,” said Caetano. “(Old Lyme’s) a fantastic team. They’re a physical team, and very skillful. They won Shorelines deservedly. I think personally, for our team, I think that we can match up with anyone if we have the intensity.”
Martin, one of the leading scorers in the conference with 23 goals, gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute by drilling a perfect shot into the upper left portion of the net. Erin Glynn started the play with a short pass to Claire Newman, who threaded a pass to an open Martin just outside the penalty box.
Martin’s second goal came in the 54th minute. Glynn delivered a direct kick on goal that was dropped by Wildcats goalie Tori Sims (four saves) and Martin rushed in from the weak side and pounced on the rebound for a 2-0 advantage.
“We’ve had a hard match-up with this team,” said Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason. “They’ve got a lot of speed on us and they put in a couple of good shots. Sometimes the (Shoreline) tournament can be an albatross because the girls expend so much energy. We gave them the weekend off and still their legs were heavy.”
Three minutes after Martin’s second goal, Wildcats sophomore Silja Forstein fed a pass to Stone, who found some room up front, dribbled a few yards and slipped a shot past Beauchemin (five saves) inside the far post to make it 2-1.
Forstein followed with a direct kick goal less than a minute later and suddenly it was tied at 2.
That set the stage for Orlacchio, who sped up the left side and launched a left-footed, high shot just out of Sims’reach.
“I was practicing (that shot) yesterday,” said Orlacchio. “It’s what I was focusing on and I finally used it in a game. I just made sure that I had the right angle and turned my shoulders. It feels amazing. We’ve worked so hard the whole season for it. We all worked together.”
Cromwell (11-5-1) will host No. 16 Coventry (11-7) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 2:00 p.m. Coventry defeated No. 1 Parish Hill, 1-0, in the second round.
“It’s the state tournament and anything can happen,” said Caetano. “We’ve been working hard the last two years to get to this point. Now that we have it under our belt we want more. We know there’s a tough road ahead and the girls are ready for it. The girls deserve all the credit in the world. I’m so happy for them.”