NEW BRITAIN — She dove to stop free kicks, took a shot off her face and hopped back up, because one important thought was on Holy Cross goalkeeper Tori Schaffner’s mind: She did not want overtime.
She did not have to deal with overtime. Devon Bushka’s goal 10 minutes into the second half held up in a 1-0 Crusaders win over Old Lyme in the CIAC Class S girls soccer final Saturday at Veterans Stadium.
Third-seeded Holy Cross (20-1-2) won its first championship in its fifth final appearance. The last was two years ago, Old Lyme’s third of four consecutive championships, which it won, yep, in overtime.
“They’re really skilled. Their free kicks were great, and they almost had one in the last few minutes,” Schaffner, a senior, said. “They’ve won four times. They’re in the state finals for a reason. I think we just did everything we could and pushed through as hard as we could.”
Crusaders coach Phil Mongelluzzo said he told his players he wanted them to be the answer to the trivia question of who stopped Old Lyme’s dynasty at four consecutive seasons.
Only one school has won five CIAC championships in a row since sanction began in 1980: Immaculate, 2008-12. Trumbull (1996-99) and Immaculate (2003-06) are the only others to win four in a row like the Wildcats did.
Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said, with the level of experience he had returning, he was happy just to be in the final again. The eighth-seeded Wildcats finished 14-4-4.
“My girls started crying. I said we had nothing to cry about. That medal, we don’t see very often, silver,” Gleason said. “We haven’t seen it in a long time. I told them there’d be 164 other teams that’d be loving having silver right now.
“They were kind of emotional about it because they had high expectations for finalizing this game. Didn’t come out. The beauty of soccer is the ball bounces one way, or it bounces another. There was a goal, the girl was there, put it in, put it away.”
The setup came from senior Sophia Vescera, who’d had a couple of golden chances in the first half and was left wondering if she’d get another.
“Anything could’ve happened,” she said.
But she won a ball and took it into the box. She said she thought she’d miss the net with a shot so sent a cross past Wildcats goalie Samantha Gray to Bushka, driving to the goal line, with 29:28 remaining.
“I just saw it right in front of me, so I figured, why not go and score the only goal?” Bushka said with a laugh.
“I happened to be there, and Sophia made a great pass.”
Tori Schaffner made eight saves, five in the second half, a couple of them huge, to earn a shutout.
“It’s tough as her coach, because I’ve seen her for three years, it’s so routine,” Mongelluzzo said. “I’d never expect her not to make those saves.”
Bushka, a sophomore, stepped up as an offensive threat in the absence of her older sister, Paydon, who tore an ACL early in the season after scoring 13 goals.
“It took (Devon) a couple of games to find her own, but she’s our second-leading goal scorer after her sister went down,” Mongelluzzo said.
“I’m glad she’s on our team and not anybody else’s.”
Mongelluzzo rattled off players who contributed: freshman Juliana Dane, on the field the whole morning; Jenna Debiase, underappreciated center midfielder; sophomore center back Maeve Perrone.
“The girls do the little things. They’re not concerned with scoring. They leave that up to Devon and Sophia and our forwards,” the coach said.
And they picked each other up, he said. In their second game, against Immaculate, Perrone allowed a goal.
“Mya Zaccagnini, her best friend, came over and hugged her and said ‘hey, keep your head up, we’re going to work on this together,’” Mongelluzzo said.
The Crusaders won that game 6-1, and the coach said he knew they had the potential for something special.
“I would’ve loved to have won it. But no one gave us a prayer in hell at the beginning of the season. I had other coaches tell me, ‘well, we’re not going to cry for you if you lose.’ ‘Well jeez, have a little sympathy!’ ” —Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason