MILFORD—The prize waiting for the St. Joseph High School girls lacrosse team on Saturday at Jonathan Law High School was the program’s first-ever state championship.
While opportunity was present, the result proved too elusive as No. 3 seed East Lyme High School defeated No. 13 St. Joseph, 10-6 in the 2019 Class M championship final.
“It simply wasn’t our day,” St. Joseph coach Leeland Gray said. “Hats off to East Lyme. We just didn’t play well. Too many unforced errors. And the East Lyme goalie (Maya Rose) played so well (12 saves). We had enough chances but we couldn’t finish.”
It was a contest where East Lyme (18-4 overall) implemented a game plan and followed it for the entire 50 minutes.
East Lyme senior tri-captain Julia Bates won eight of 11 faceoffs in the first half. That meant St. Joseph found itself on defense for about 85 percent of the first half.
St. Joseph senior goalie Erin Owens made five first-half saves to keep St. Joseph tied at 3-3 midway through the half.
East Lyme had been substituting liberally throughout. The benefit came in the final 5:19 of the half.
The Vikings scored four goals – all on free position situations – to build a 7-3 intermission edge.
“We were aggressive. Just as we have been all season. We knew we had to be that way after watching St. Joseph on film,” said East Lyme’s 10th-year coach Phil Schneider. “And Maya Rose was so great in net. We don’t want any opponent to be comfortable.”
St. Joseph (12-8 overall) regrouped at intermission.
Thanks to senior tri-captain Jettke Gray, the Cadets won six of seven faceoffs in the second half. They tried to attack aggressively before East Lyme could set up its swarming defense.
But after senior tri-captain Annie McNeill scored just 31 seconds into the second half for 7-4, St. Joseph either shot high, was stoned by goalie Rose or beaten to nearly every loose ball.
Over the next 13 minutes, only East Lyme’s Dylan Park and Abigail Mountain scored. That left the Vikings ahead by 9-4 with 9:41 left.
St. Joseph got to 9-5 but three great saves by Rose took the heart out of any comeback. For East Lyme, it was its first state title since winning the 2006 Division II crown.
“When St. Joseph scored its early goals in the first half, I got a live look at what their forwards do,” said Rose, who will play college lacrosse at Bentley College in the fall. “My mindset in the second half was ‘I want to stop all the shots.’ It was a great intense effort by our entire team.”
The good news is St. Joseph took an extra step in 2019 after reaching the Class S semifinals in 2017 and 2016.
The bad newes is the quest for a first state tournament title continues. St. Joseph graduates six seniors but has all their forwards returning.
“I’m so proud of the girls’ accomplishments this season. It is a great education playing regular season in the FCIAC,” St. Joseph coach Gray said. “I feel badly for the seniors. They gave us phenomenal leadership. This championship final was a learning experience. And they found out losing doesn’t taste good. They will have a chance to change that next year.”