HARTFORD — The Shoreline area soccer teams had a very good day on the pitch Saturday afternoon.
First the Old Saybrook boys repeated in Class S in New Britain. Then the Hand boys completed a four-peat in Class L in overtime at Dillon Stadium.
Then it was time for the Guilford girls team to take center stage at Dillon in the Class L final. The Indians didn’t disappoint,
The sixth-seeded Indians defeated No. 13 East Lyme 2-1 to claim the Class L title, the program’s ninth overall and first since 2013.
“Personally, this is amazing. I’ve never, ever experienced something like this,” senior co-captain Gabi Garcia-Perez said. “We were tired obviously, but for us seniors, this would be the last time we ever played in high school, so we knew we had to give everything we had.”
Said senior Lily Riccio: “We’ve all known each other since we were really little. We spent years playing together. We had great chemistry.”
The sixth-seeded Indians (18-2-4) won the SCC tournament title on Nov. 6. In the state tournament, they had to endure two different games featuring penalty kicks, than another going to overtime, just to get to Saturday’s final.
“I remember at SCCs when we beat Shelton (in the final) how excited they were,” Guilford co-interim coach Rick Geremia said. I said to them ‘You’ll like this (the state championship) 5-10 times more than you experienced at SCCs.’ … It will be an exciting, noisy ride home.”
Geremia has been down this road before. He was previously the head boys coach at North Branford, which went to four straight finals. The Thunderbirds won back-to-back Class M titles in 2004 and 2005.
The 2004 title was played at Dillon Stadium. Geremia wore the shirt that the team members were awarded for winning that title. He showed off the ring from that title to the Guilford players prior to Saturday’s game.
“The stadium is a lot nicer than it was 16 years ago,” Geremia said. “This is so great for them. It wasn’t a smooth ride. My North Branford team was undefeated (one tie).”
East Lyme (13-5-4) was the Cinderella in this division, a four-win team a season ago. The Vikings knocked off two SCC teams — Mercy and Sheehan — in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively. Both were also lower seeds.
“Now, they got the taste in their mouths. Now they know what it’s like and they will want to come back,” East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. “We sill have a lot of stuff to work on to be the best and we will do that. Hopefully, we will be back next year and (maybe) it will be a better outcome for us.”
Riccio scored the deciding goal less than 2 minutes into the second half on a breakaway, beating East Lyme goalkeeper Avery Owen for the go-ahead score.
“It was a pass from Sophia Gabriel,” Riccio said. “She kind of lobbed it over. I was in the right place at the right time.”
East Lyme scored first less than 5 minutes into the contest, Meredith Healy from Ella Mazzulli. That spelled trouble for the other teams in the tournament - the Vikings had not allowed a goal in the tournament to that point.
Garcia-Perez got the equalizer for Guilford just past the midway point of the first half. Maggie Mandel assisted on the play.
“I like how we came back from that early goal. It didn’t faze us,” Geremia said. “We really didn’t have to say anything. They responded. It was very good to see we didn’t have a letdown after that.”
East Lyme had some opportunities late in the game, but Guilford was able to hang on for the championship.
“I think we really earned it. East Lyme came out strong, but we pulled through,” Riccio said.