|Holy Cross stands on the field during pregame introductions. The Crusaders battled top-seeded|
Old Lyme for all 110 minutes of their overtime match, which the Wildcats won 2-1.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
It just wasn't enough to win the Class S state title on Saturday against top-seeded Old Lyme. The Crusaders fell to the Wildcats 2-1 in overtime at Middletown High School's Rosek-Skubel Stadium.
"Sometimes the bounces just don't go your way," senior Erin Goggin said.
One extra bounce went Old Lyme's way, and it came off of the head of junior star Mya Johnson. Her header off of Danielle McCarthy's sweet corner kick put the Wildcats (21-1) ahead 2-1 with under five minutes left in the first 15-minute overtime period. The Crusaders (16-4-3) never had a good opportunity to get an equalizer, and the top seed celebrated its second consecutive Class S state title outright and the third overall (Old Lyme shared the 2015 crown).
Old Lyme was expected to be in the state championship game. After a 1-2-1 start, Holy Cross was considered anything but a contender.
"It's definitely a great accomplishment that we got here," Goggin said.
The Crusaders picked up the pace after the slow start, and they wound up as the No. 3 seed in the NVL Tournament, No. 2 in Class S.
"I definitely think we grew as a team," senior Kiley Harnish said.
Holy Cross reached the NVL final, where it lost to St. Paul. The Crusaders had a first round bye in Class S, then snuck past No. 18 Somers 1-0 in a second round game where they missed cashing in on several opportunities.
The quarterfinal against No. 7 Tourtellotte was much, much different. Holy Cross rolled to an 8-0 victory and went on to play No. 11 East Hampton in the semifinal round. The Crusaders jumped ahead 2-0 and only a goal with 21 seconds to play made the final 2-1.
It was on to the final, and Holy Cross had its biggest task of the season in front of it. Old Lyme beat Holy Cross 4-0 in the 2015 semifinals, then tied Notre Dame-Fairfield 2-2 to earn a co-championship. The Wildcats beat Old Saybrook 1-0 in the 2016 final, then outscored opponents 67-3 in an undefeated 2017 regular season.
Entering the 2017 Class S final, Old Lyme's only blemish was a 2-1 loss to North Branford in the Shoreline Conference championship game.
It was a tall order for Holy Cross, but it held its own through much of a scoreless first half, then took the lead on Adalisse Padilla's penalty kick 8:13 into the second half.
The Crusaders felt like some of the Wildcats were shook by the Padilla goal. A deficit was not something Old Lyme has faced in recent seasons. Wildcat assistant coach Ally Gleason said after the game that the players needed to be encouraged after falling behind.
The Holy Cross lead lasted a little less than seven minutes. Old Lyme's Madeline Ouellette put some loose change in front of the goal into the net to tie the match at 1-1 with 24:58 to go in regulation.
The Wildcats had the vast majority of chances in the rest of regulation, but the Crusader defense and keeper Tori Schaffner kept them out.
Overtime was next, along with the possibility of co-champions. Of course, an outright title could be be claimed by one team.
Old Lyme took a 2-1 lead with 4:47 left in the first 15-minute overtime on Johnson's header. The championship game MVP scored 33 goals on the season, and her last one was by far the biggest.
"Mya's extremely talented, she's extremely skilled," Crusader head coach Phil Mongelluzzo said.
Holy Cross never got a real chance to tie the match, and Old Lyme picked up another title game victory. Mongelluzzo told his Crusaders not to hang their heads afterward.
"I couldn't be more proud of what we did, what we accomplished [Saturday]," Mongelluzzo said.
Goggin, Harnish, Madison Smith and Nicole Rohlman all are seniors. The scary part for the NVL and Class S is that Holy Cross is a young team. Goal scorer Padilla is a junior, keeper Schaffner a sophomore. Two players who took part in the championship game, Alyssa Hebb and Paydon Bushka, are freshmen.
Old Lyme head coach Paul Gleason believes Holy Cross is far from done on the state stage.
"Holy Cross, they're young, they're going to be here next year," Gleason said.
Next year holds plenty of promise, but the foundation was set by what was accomplished in 2017.
NOTES: Gleason had nothing but good things to say about his counterpart Mongelluzzo.
"So well-coached," Gleason said of Holy Cross. "This man is such a gentleman."
Gleason and Mongelluzzo talked together before the game for a good 15 minutes, and the topics ranged from soccer to families.
"We both didn't try to hide from each other," Gleason said.
Gleason said that the goal in a championship game is to play a team that will push your team. Holy Cross pushed Old Lyme for all 110 minutes, and Gleason did nothing but compliment the Crusaders afterward. Both coaching staffs were all class, and the same goes for Goggin and Harnish, who were gracious in their interviews after such a difficult loss.
PHOTOS: Click here to see images from Saturday's championship game.