Haddam-Killingworth girls soccer tops Old Lyme, defends Shoreline crown

Soccer balls lay on the field during a practice.

Soccer balls lay on the field during a practice.

Pete Paguaga, Hearst Connecticut Media

OLD LYME — Haddam-Killingworth didn’t have many chances to get shot attempts off against Old Lyme’s defense Monday afternoon, but the Cougars made them count.

On four shot attempts in the Shoreline Conference girls soccer championship game, Haddam-Killingworth connected on three of them. And the third-seeded Cougars needed every one of them to defeat top seed Old Lyme 3-2 on the road.

“This feeling is very enriching for everybody,” said senior Autumn Walton, who scored the game’s first goal. “We knew we could do it, it was just a matter of doing it. … I think going in (to the season), it was very stressful for all of us, but I think at the end of the day, we knew what we had to do. We knew we had the ability to do so.”

Haddam-Killingworth (9-2-1) successfully defended its league title. The Cougars defeated Valley Regional in 2019.

“I felt like we should have been here. It was our goal from day one of the season,” Haddam-Killingworth coach Mike Shea said. “To be here right now is great, sending these seniors off. They have two titles under their belts, which is nice.”

It was the first loss of the season for the Wildcats (10-1-1), who defeated Haddam-Killingworth 2-1 in the team’s regular-season meeting on Oct. 26.

“To be honest with you, I could care less about a Shoreline championship. To me, this season of COVID has been one of the most difficult season I’ve ever coached,” Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason said. “That the girls are on the field, able to participate in school, stay healthy, that to me is a bigger reward than finishing with an undefeated season. Eventually someone will beat you. That’s the beauty of this game.”

Shea was surprised his team was able to get through the season.

“I don’t know how many times I must have said to my wife during the season, ‘We made it through the week.’ I didn’t think I’d be standing here right now, I really didn’t,” Shea said. “The way things were happening in the world, I didn’t think we were going to be out here long. … I feel very fortunate we were able to have a full season.”

Walton had the only goal of the first half — a laser over the outstretched arms of Old Lyme goalkeeper Samantha Gray. That came with 12:54 left in the half.

”Usually, I like pulling it wide and going opposite 90,” Walton said.

Said Shea: “Autumn is a great player for us on the outside, she has been all season.”

Yumi Imai started the second-half scoring for H-K less than 6 minutes in. She came in unmarked up the right side.

Old Lyme got on the bard 8 minutes later. Emily DeRoehn’s kick off a restart bounced into the box past players on both sides before Abby Manthous came in and knocked it in.

Kedarjah Lewis increased the Cougars’ lead back to two with 13:05 left when she gained control in Old Lyme’s end of the field, dribbled up and shot past Gray, also from the right side.

“Once they go to the right foot and if they got you beat, they can score and that’s what they did,” Gleason said. “Their three goals came from the right side.”

Manthous made things interesting when she floated her corner kick over H-K goalkeeper Brianna Nugent’s head into the net with 2:27 left.

But Old Lyme couldn’t get another shot off in the remaining time left.

“That these kids can be student-athletes and soccer players and stay healthy in a COVID environment is unquestionably one of the high points of my career,” Gleason said.

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli