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Stonington shuts down Granby in second half to win Class S championship

Stonington's Emily Cassara (4) plays tight defense on Granby's Kathy Kleis in Saturday's Class S championship game.

Stonington’s Emily Cassara (4) plays tight defense on Granby’s Kathy Kleis in Saturday’s Class S championship game.

STRATFORD – It seemed just like a matter of time. It looked like the Granby High girls lacrosse team would be bringing home that elusive state championship trophy.

Twice in the first half, Granby had built up three-goal leads only to see pesky Stonington High tie the game. But Granby responded each time to regain the lead. And the Bears scored just 11 seconds into the second half to extend its lead to two goals.

In fact, Granby had a two-goal lead with 18:54 remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Bears, it was the last goal they scored. No. 2 seed Stonington scored five goals in the final 11:15 of the game to pull away from Granby and capture its first-ever state championship with a 13-10 victory at Stratford High on Saturday.

Emily Cassala scoring three goals and Valerie Miller adding two for Stonington.

“We always talk about how we’re a second half team. So, we started winning draws and beating them to ground balls,” Stonington coach Jeff Mederios said. “A little wind was coming out of their sails and it was starting to show. We got a little momentum and started to use it. It’s a momentum game. Once you get a hold of it, you don’t want to let it go.”

Stonington's Jamie Hayes (24) keeps a close eye on Granby's Olivia Johnson.

Stonington’s Jamie Hayes (24) keeps a close eye on Granby’s Olivia Johnson.

Close games haven’t rattled Stonington (21-1). They captured their Class S quarterfinal contest with Immaculate-Danbury in overtime. A semifinal victory over Old Lyme came thanks to a goal with 1.7 seconds left in regulation.

Granby led 10-8 with 18:54 remaining in the game on Olivia Johnson’s fourth goal of the game on a nice feed from Abby Orosz (4 assists). But Stonington began to disrupt the Granby offense. Mederios already had a defender shadowing Johnson, who had 17 goals in Granby’s first three tournament games. He added another offensive player to shadow Krista Iwanicki, who had 10 goals.

Granby still was able to move the ball but they had a tough time getting good shots away. A few more balls and passes began to hit the turf.

“We’re really a defensive oriented team,” Mederios said.

Cassara drove to the net and scored to cut the lead to one with 11:15 remaining. A goal from Muller tied it at 10-10 with 9:46 to go. It was the fourth and final tie of the game.

Granby goalie Hala Van Nostrand made a nice stop on Libby Morrison about 30 seconds later and Granby had several opportunities to take the lead again. But they couldn’t. And they didn’t realize that their chances to take control of the game were slipping away.

Muller drove to the goal to give Stonington its first lead of the game, 11-10 with 7:04 remaining in the game. Two minutes later, Johnson drove through a crowd of Stonington defenders and scored what Granby thought was the go-ahead goal. But it was waved off on a charging call.

Cassata scored two sharp goals with 3:48 and 1:59 remaining, respectively, to give Stonington a three-goal lead, 13-10. And teammate Libby Morrison came up with two huge wins on draws after each Cassata goal to help prevent Granby from getting back into the game.

“I wasn’t going to lay down with knowing I did all I could to help this team,” Cassata said. “If my goals helped the team with a state championship, I was happy to do that.”

Granby (17-5) was a bit stunned. They seemingly had the game in their control for the first half. Johnson scored her third goal just 11 seconds into the second half. Iwanicki had three goals in the first half as Granby led 8-7 at halftime. They had leads of 3-1, 6-3 and 7-4.

Granby's Alison Ricci (22), Terri Ziemnicki and Molly Freedman (9)

Granby’s Alison Ricci (22), Terri Ziemnicki and Molly Freedman (9) with the Class S runnerup trophy.

“We just didn’t play our game in the second half,” Granby coach Terri Ziemnicki said. “We played great in the first half. I don’t know what it was (in the second half). We missed balls. We missed shots. We didn’t help ourselves at times.”

Granby was making its third trip to the Class S finals in four years. They lost by one to Weston in 2011 and lost by two to Northwest Catholic in 2012.

“It was a great season but that isn’t what the kids wanted to hear (afterward) and I know that,” Ziemnicki said. “I told them that I was proud of them.”

Many of the players on both sides played in the Class S field hockey championship last November – a game that Stonington also won.

“It’s disappointing,” Ziemnicki said. “They’re disappointed. If your heart isn’t hurting and breaking, then I think you probably didn’t care. My girls’ hearts are all broken. I know they cared. Today wasn’t our game to win.”

Stonington 13, Granby 10
At Stratford
Granby (17-5)       8   2  — 10
Stonington (21-1)  7   6  — 13
Goals: Valerie Miller (S) 2, Emily Grey (S) 2, Emily Cassala (S) 4, Jenny Sieczkiewicz (S), Elizabeth Morrison (S) 4; Molly Freedman (G), Katie Calnen (G), Krista Iwanicki (G) 3, Olivia Johnson (G) 4, Sam Bates (G); Assists: Abby Orosz (G) 4, Kathy Kleis (G); Saves: Hala Van Nostrand (G) 5, Lexi Bucko (S) 6

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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