East Lyme wins ECC girls' lacrosse tourney title

May 23—WATERFORD — East Lyme faced its share of adversity this season.

The Vikings dealt with growing pains and injuries, including one that sidelined senior Lily Poletto for six games.

And yet there was a now healthy Poletto and her East Lyme girls' lacrosse teammates celebrating another Eastern Connecticut Conference championship on Thursday after beating Fitch, 11-6, in the finals at Waterford High School.

It's the program's 12th ECC tournament title in the last 14 years, according to coach Phil Schneider.

"This team worked hard all season," Schneider said. "We had to replace a ton of girls from last year. We had 10 starting seniors that left and we had two returning players. It took them all season to get this way and I'm glad they did because they earned it tonight."

Poletto fueled the attack with five goals and earned most outstanding player honors, much to her surprise.

"I'm honestly shocked," Poletto said. "I'm really honored. It was such a team effort. And we all put so much heart and work and love into this season. I was out for six games. I sprained my ankle and I was on crutches for three weeks. So having the team keep up that energy and keep up that heart, I'm so proud of all of them and I'm so thankful to be on this team."

East Lyme and Fitch split the two regular season meetings, each winning by two goals.

The third-seeded Vikings clearly had the edge on Thursday, bolting out to a quick lead by scoring four goals in a span of two minutes, 44 seconds in the first quarter.

Senior Penelope Lawlor scored an unassisted goal in East Lyme's first possession of the game.

Then the Vikings capitalized on a turnover, as sophomore Callan Keefe set up freshman Cassidy O'Brien's strike.

Sixteen seconds later, Poletto was on the scoreboard again, finishing off a pass from junior Jessica Knapp for a 3-0 lead.

Coming out of a Fitch timeout, Knapp pushed East Lyme's lead to 4-0 by scoring off a free position.

"We just wanted to win," said Poletto about the fast start. "We just had that drive."

The Falcons chased the game from there, trailing 4-2 at halftime and allowing four straight goals to open the second half to fall behind by six.

"I think their nerves got the best of them," Fitch coach Tatum Lakowsky said, "That's how our season has been, we haven't been a first quarter team."

Fourth-seeded Fitch showed its competitive spirit, cutting the deficit to 9-6 near the end of the third quarter on senior Gabby Dimock's goal. Dimock finished with three goals despite being well-marked by the East Lyme defense. Senior Estelle Connell, senior Brooke Bergendahl and sophomore Bethany Lovering had a goal apiece.

East Lyme goalie Brielle Rheaume helped prevent the Falcons from closing the gap, making two saves early in the fourth quarter, and finished with nine stops. Poletto took charge and scored the game's last two goals to ice the victory.

Senior Riddhi Venkatesh chipped in two goals and Lawlor had a goal and two assists while Keefe and Knapp added a goal and one assist apiece.

The Vikings made the necessary adjustments to reach this point.

"We've got girls playing out of position," Schneider said. "We got three attackers that should be midfielders. Girls are just stepping up. They want to be out there. They're playing for the team and they're doing what they can and it showed tonight.

"I'm proud of the way that they handled it tonight. They really did a nice job."

Fitch made tremendous strides this season under the direction of Lakowsky, going from two to 14 wins.

The Falcons were just off their game on Thursday.

"Just silly mistakes," Lakowsky said. "We got out-hustled to ground balls. We weren't winning the draws, which was definitely a game-changer as well. ... We didn't come out with a victory but they trusted each other and gave what they had to."

Both East Lyme (10-9) and Fitch (14-4) will open state tournament play next week.