FALLS VILLAGE — Three penalty-kick saves by goalkeeper Samantha Gray propelled No. 8 Old Lyme to a 1-0 (7-5 PKs) Class S quarterfinal win over No. 1 Housatonic Saturday afternoon at Housatonic High School.

The final phase of a defensive struggle through regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods kept the Wildcats’ hopes alive for a fifth consecutive Class S state championship.

“Our success gets more kids interested in the program,” said Paul Gleason, in his eight year as the Wildcat coach with state titles in half of them. “Last year, we had a strong sophomore class. This year, they’re juniors.”

One of those sophomores was Gray, a basketball player who never stood in the net before the Wildcats recruited her a year ago.

“They didn’t have a goalie, so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it,’” said Gray.

Saturday, with a championship year already under her belt, Gray had a relatively easy day through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 more of overtime. The Wildcats out-shot Housatonic 19-3 while the Mountaineers rarely allowed the shooters inside the 20.

On the other end, Housatonic goalkeeper Maggie Bickford handled 16 of the Old Lyme shots with aplomb. The others sailed out of bounds.

“Their defense is great,” said Mountaineer coach Steve Dodge. “We didn’t get many opportunities, but our defense picked it up today.”

So, with the light fading on another frigid day, 10 girls on each side lined up for their chance to finally put it away, in groups of five until one side reached a point of no return within the groups.

Housatonic’s Alexis Galgano went first, slamming a shot to the bottom of the crossbar, straight down, then holding her breath while the referees ruled it good on the goal line.

Bickford made a stop on Old Lyme’s first shot, tilting the odds toward Housatonic.

“It made me a little nervous,” said Gray, “but I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll either make a stop or my teammates will put all their shots in.’”

Both things happened.

Wildcats Ellery Zrenda, Grace Lathrop, Lydia Tinnerello and Emily DeRoehn found corners of the net. So did Mountaineers Neve O’Connell and Sydney Segalla.

Gray got her stop on the next Housatonic shooter. Josie Marks’ goal tied it, 4-4.

The next five stepped up.

Continuing to alternate shots, Lindsey Drislane found her mark for Housatonic; so did Old Lyme’s Katherine Funaro.

The next Mountaineer missed; Abigail Manthous didn’t, but the win still depended on the best of five.

Gray batted her second save away. Melissa Mauro buried her shot.

One more Wildcat save or Mountaineer miss would leave Housatonic unable to come back no matter what they did.

Gray made her second save in a row.

“It’s been a heck of a great season,” said Coach Dodge for his Berkshire League champions.

The Wildcats make a familiar step to the semifinals, meeting No. 13 Northwest Catholic Tuesday or Wednesday at a time and place to be decided.

Connecticut Media Group