WEST HAVEN – Old Lyme senior Caleigh O’Neil entered the last game of her high school career without a goal on the season. O’Neil picked a great time for her first and last of the campaign.
O’Neil’s goal off a direct kick just 2 minutes, 43 seconds into the second half of the Class S title game propelled the Wildcats to their first outright title in school history with a 1-0 decision over No. 13 Old Saybrook at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Saturday afternoon.
“That was my first goal of the season and also my last,” O’Neil said. “It was a real team effort. It is truly amazing.”
The win by the second-seeded Wildcats gives the team consecutive state titles as Old Lyme shared the championship last season with Notre Dame of Fairfield.
“Every year we graduate three or four kids,” Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said after his team finished the season 19-1-2. “They have a history behind them. The girls coming in want to be just as good or better.”
Old Lyme had a dominant effort in the title game, but had nothing to show for it after one half, thanks in part to the goalkeeping of Old Saybrook goalkeeper Kelsey True. The sophomore finished with 17 saves in the game, including six in the first half.
“They are tough competitors,” Old Saybrook coach Berkeley Checchini-bond said after her team finished the season 12-5-5. “They have blown past everyone in the tournament. Our game plan was to manage them as best we could. Our goalkeeper (True) played an outstanding game today. She made some great saves.”
The Wildcats scored the only goal they would need when O’Neil lined up for a direct kick less than three minutes into the second half from 30 yards out. O’Neil perfectly bent a shot under the crossbar and off the right post past True for a 1-0 advantage.
“We practice that a thousand times and it worked today,” Gleason said.
The goal by O’Neil, who was named the most valuable player of the game, proved to be more than enough as the Wildcats held an 18-1 shot advantage in the contest, with Old Saybrook’s best scoring opportunities coming in the first six minutes of the contest.
The Rams could not mount an attack after that as Old Lyme controlled play throughout.
True was the difference as she made several outstanding saves in the game, including three off Old Lyme senior Jenna Peduzzi in the second half. True made a great save by coming out and denying Peduzzi from 12 yards out with 20 minutes to go. After Keelin Hurtt hit the crossbar, Peduzzi was denied from in front with 10:45 remaining.
True saved her best for last as she denied Peduzzi on a breakaway with five minutes to go in the championship tilt.
“They are a powerhouse,” Checchini-bond said of Old Lyme. “(True) came up big today.”
Old Saybrook was looking for its first outright championship in school history, having shared the title with Portland in 2013.