Vikes en­joy­ing the jour­ney

No. 20 East Lyme will try to knock off top-seeded RHAM in Class L semis

The Day - - LOCAL SPORTS - By VICKIE FULK­ER­SON

East Lyme — Last time her team was in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion — penalty kicks in the Class L girls' soc­cer state tour­na­ment — East Lyme coach Rachel Redding as­signed the play­ers which kicked in the penalty phase. It was a strat­egy which didn't work out so well in an East Lyme loss.

So, last week, de­ter­mined not to re­peat what she felt like was a mis­take from 2012, Redding in­stead asked who felt con­fi­dent enough to take a penalty kick with this year's Class L first-round game at Nau­gatuck on the line.

Se­nior Emma Lock­lear was con­fi­dent. Lock­lear hadn't played a minute of the 80-minute game or 20 min­utes of over­time.

What hap­pened next is the mo­ment Redding and her play­ers have re­peat­edly re­ferred to since then as what brought the 20th-seeded Vik­ings (11-6-4) to­gether, pro­pel­ling them all the way into to­day's semi­fi­nal against No. 1 RHAM (6:30 p.m., Fal­con Field in Meri­den).

Lock­lear not only scored in the sec­ond of four rounds of penalty kicks, she scored the de­cid­ing kick in the final round, the one that sent East Lyme home in ju­bi­la­tion with a 16-14 edge in PKs af­ter what was a 3-3 tie to that junc­ture.

“It will be a mo­ment I will re­mem­ber the rest of my life,” Redding said. “A fist pump. The whole place erupted. It was a huge mo­ment for the whole team. I'm get­ting chills just think­ing about it.”

That ap­pears to be the snap­shot in time that East Lyme went from be­ing the team which was re­build­ing fol­low­ing the loss of three Di­vi­sion I play­ers last year — in­clud­ing East­ern Con­necti­cut Con­fer­ence sin­gle-sea­son scor­ing leader Stephanie deLafor­cade (42 goals) — to a team which forged its own iden­tity.

It also cre­ated a per­fect illustration of team­work and the adage that every player on the team is just as im­por­tant as the next.

“I think, def­i­nitely, we knew we still had a ton of tal­ent,” East Lyme se­nior Geor­gia Par­sons said of this sea­son's jour­ney. “It was just about work­ing as a team. It's not about in­di­vid­ual tal­ent, it's about how it comes to­gether. It's ex­cit­ing. It's re­ally ex­cit­ing. In past years we haven't made it as far as we hoped for.

“Es­pe­cially for us se­niors, we had a great four years, we want to make (this one) the best. … I'm so proud of how far we came.”

East Lyme fin­ished 8-6-2 in the reg­u­lar sea­son, then lost in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the ECC tour­na­ment in penalty kicks to Nor­wich Free Academy.

There were def­i­nitely mo­ments of frus­tra­tion, Redding ad­mits.

“I went to prac­tice and I never low­ered my stan­dards,” the coach said. “I might have taught it a dif­fer­ent way, but I kept on them. Make sure they're trap­ping the right way. Make sure they're pass­ing the right way. Over time, they got it. They had to work a lit­tle bit harder. They had to work to­gether.

“In the past there were peo­ple that carry the team. They all had to carry the team.”

Kayla Markovitz, Is­abelle Riker, Kar­lie Rowe, Phoebe Provencher, Grace Wargo, Par­sons and Alivia Catan­zaro all com­bined with Lock­lear to con­nect on one or more penalty kicks against Nau­gatuck. The Vik­ings were 5-for-5 in the third round.

East Lyme then had a pair of home wins, 1-0 over Fo­ran and 5-2 over E.O. Smith, to reach the semis. The Vik­ings scored four times in the sec­ond half against E.O. Smith, with Rowe and Catan­zaro fin­ish­ing with two goals each.

Said Redding: “It still is a good sea­son. A lot of peo­ple looked at it as a down year. … It kept click­ing a lit­tle bit more each day.” v.fulk­er­son@the­day.com

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