PORTLAND >> It comes as no surprise that Old Lyme was attempting to win its fourth consecutive Shoreline Conference championship Friday night.
The surprise came from the opposition. North Branford took full advantage of league expansion of the playoffs. The Thunderbirds, seeded sixth, pulled two road upsets to reach the final.
The end result was the same as when the two teams battled during the regular season – 1-0 in favor of Old Lyme. But the Wildcats had a battle on their hands throughout at Portland High School.
“The fact that they have never been in an environment like this, the girls certainly brought it today,” North Branford coach Pat Kozloski said. “You don’t have to let the moment get bigger than what it is. No one would have thought it was a 1 (seed) versus a 6.”
Still, it was the fourth consecutive crown for the Wildcats (15-1-2). Sophomore Mya Johnson scored off of Jenna Peduzzi’s assist just 2 minutes into the second half. It ended up being Old Lyme’s 12th shutout of the season.
“I’ve never not experienced winning a Shoreline championship game and I hope this team never has to experience it either,” said Peduzzi, a senior. “I hope we get a five-peat, a six-peat, a seven-peat. I hope we just keep this legacy going.”
Before Tuesday’s semifinal-round tournament victory, Old Lyme hadn’t played a game since Oct. 13 – its regular-season finale. That left plenty of time to practice as the league tournament field unfolded.
“I’ve never had 16 games in five weeks ever,” Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 5, 2016
Said Peduzzi: “We conditioned hard and we ran hard. We only had one day off a week. Those practices had to make us better as players and make us stronger for the games. We knew we had to make those practices count.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Allie Augur was up to the task against Old Lyme’s plethora of offensive weapons. Augur made nine saves and broke up several other chances.
“Their keeper is very good,” Gleason said. “Not only that, they have strikers at the top who are very, very fast and when we play them at their field, their strikers took advantage of that and had us on our heels almost half the game.”
The Thunderbirds (10-3-6) did apply pressure on Old Lyme’s defense this time, too, and at some points of the second half had the better of the play. But they could never get the equalizer.
“We had 38 minutes to get a goal. If we continued to play compact and go with numbers, we were hoping we would get one,” Kozloski said.
Now Old Lyme attempts to win an outright Class S state championship after sharing the title with Notre Dame-Fairfield last season.
“Sharing it was really cool. Trying to win one outright is now the goal,” Gleason said.
Old Lyme 1, North Branford 0
North Branford 0 0 — 0
Old Lyme 0 1 — 1
Second half—LM: Mya Johnson (Jenna Peduzzi) 42:00; Shots—NoBfd: 5; OLM: 14; Saves—NoBfd: Allie Augur 9; OLM: Katherine Petterson 2; Records—North Branford 10-3-6; Old Lyme 15-1-2