MERIDEN - The fourth seeded St. Paul girls soccer team was down 3-0 against No. 1 Old Lyme in the second half and the clock was winding down on the Falcons’ season with less than 20 minutes to play.
St. Paul senior Briana Senese took a chance from 25 yards out and delivered a strike that had just enough arch behind it to go over the head of Old Lyme keeper Emily Rivera.
The goal was the Falcons’ first of the game, with the clock reading 17:43 in the second half.
Just minutes later St. Paul’s Addison Davis found her sister Kendall Davis and led her with a perfect through pass to bring the game within one goal at 3-2.
The Wildcats’ Danielle McCarthy put in her second goal of the game at the 6:50 mark as the ball just slipped by St. Paul freshman keeper Nina Zwolinski, taking all of the momentum from the Falcons, leading to a 4-2 loss to Old Lyme in the Class S semifinals on Tuesday.
“That took a lot of air out of the sails,” the Falcons head coach Jim Husbands said. “But Nina has had a great year for us and we’re not here tonight playing without what she’s done all year. She’s been outstanding for us.”
Zwolinski also had a diving save with 14:38 left in the game to keep her team in it at 3-1.
St. Paul came out slow in the first half and that came out to hurt them as the Wildcats held a 2-0 lead just 5:14 into the game.
Old Lyme’s other goals in the game came from Mya Johnson and Maddie Ouellette.
The difference in play from the two defensive units played a big role throughout most of the game as the ball movement from Old Lyme set up strong shot opportunities for the Wildcats.
“They were bringing the ball down the wings and they were chipping it back into the middle,” coach Husbands said. “They were bigger than us physically that was a problem and they were just as athletic if not more athletic than us.”
For the Falcons offensively, Old Lyme was prepared to defend the through pass to [Kendall] Davis and had a defense set up in order to make sure that didn’t happen and it didn’t throughout the first half as Davis had just one scoring opportunity and it was denied by the Wildcats Caroline Wallace with keeper Rivera on the ground.
“We’re a fast breaking type of team,” Husbands said. “And if we don’t get the fast break we’re kind of in trouble. But you have to give them credit they were dropping that one defender back and she basically was responsible for the ball and as a result it led to either Kendall or Hannah [Rinehart] or [Briana Senese] being double teamed.”
The Falcons weren’t going to back down in the second half though and had experience playing from behind, something that Old Lyme didn’t. It showed as St. Paul got its offense going.
“We tried a lot harder in the second half,” the Falcons [Kendall] Davis said. “We worked much better as a team and our defense played a lot better.”
The same defense from the first half wasn’t there as the Falcons got more offensive opportunities.
“I didn’t get a lot of through balls in the first half,” St. Paul ‘s [Kendall] Davis said. “But in the second half they started to open up a little bit more and I think they relaxed and weren’t expecting anything.
Both teams finished the game with 17 shots. The Wildcats had seven corner kicks, while the Falcons had just two corner kicks.
Zwolinski had nine saves for St. Paul while Rivera made seven saves for Old Lyme.
With the loss, the Falcons finish up the best season in program history with a 15-4-3 record.
Old Lyme will enter the championship game with a 20-1 record and the chance to defend its titles from the past two years.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @OrencoleDan