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Stonington's Emily Grey carries the ball toward Mary Bolles (18) and Alston Rountree (24) during the semifinal win against Old Lyme. | Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun
Emily Cassata of Stonington is closely defended by Sloane Sweitzer of Old Lyme. | Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun Margot Calmar of the Bears looks for someone to pass to as Old Lyme's Julia Strycharz defends. | Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun

Stonington coach expecting another fight to the finish

STONINGTON — Elizabeth Morrison, Emily Cassata, Jenny Sieczkiewicz, Margot Calmar and four other Stonington High girls’ lacrosse players who also played on the Bears’ state champion field hockey team must wonder if the Granby Memorial Bears are stalking them.

Just when the Bears thought they had seen the last of Granby after escaping with a grinding 1-0 victory in the Class S field hockey final last November, they realized Tuesday that Granby ..... is back.

With eight girls who also played field hockey, Granby will be the last obstacle for Stonington as it vies for its first girls’ lacrosse title in the Class S final Saturday at 3 p.m. at Bunnell High in Stratford.

“This will definitely be a game with a lot of passion,” said Morrison, who has made All-State in field hockey and lacrosse. “Stonington versus Granby: It’s basically a state final rematch in a different sport.”

Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros would have preferred to play Bethel, which lost 13-12 to Granby in the semifinals. He believes No. 4 Granby (16-3) will use its recent history of frustration against Stonington — the Bears also beat Granby in the 2012 field hockey quarterfinals — as motivation.

“Part of me is worried that Granby will have a bug up their behinds to beat us,” Medeiros said. “I’m also afraid that some of our girls might take Granby lightly because Stonington has had their way with them. But on the other hand if we get an early lead, our success against them might break them mentally. It could work to our advantage.”

Medeiros, however, expects a tight game as second-seeded Stonington (20-1) has survived and advanced in scintillating fashion in the tournament.

After a 13-5 win over Northwest Catholic in the Class S opener, the Bears have trimmed Immaculate, 9-8 in the quarterfinals and nipped Old Lyme, 12-11 in the semifinals on Sieczkiewicz’s goal with 1.7 seconds left.

“We executed our game plan against Old Lyme beautifully, containing their 110-goal scorer (Sloane Sweitzer), and the game still came down to the last second,” Medeiros said. “Every game at this level is going to come down to the wire.”

But undoubtedly Stonington enters the final in a positive frame of mind. After a 7-5 loss to East Lyme in the ECC finals staggered its undefeated season, the Bears have regrouped and refocused.

“The loss to East Lyme still lingers,” said Cassata, who leads the team with 62 goals. “But we’ve used it as motivation to push us forward.”

Medeiros believes the loss served a purpose as well.

“The pressure of being undefeated was weighing on us,” Medeiros said. “You could see it in the second half of the East Lyme game when we scored one goal and were playing not to lose. One of the things that loss also did was keep our team theme alive of — we haven’t won anything yet. We’re still hungry to win something.”

Unlike Granby field hockey, which leads all Connecticut schools with 11 state titles, Granby girls’ lacrosse, like Stonington, is seeking its first state title. But the Bears of the North Central Connecticut Conference have title-game experience, having lost in the 2011 and 2012 ‘S’ finals. This will be Stonington’s first state final. Stonington’s previous best finish was reaching the Class S semifinals in 2009 — the eighth year of its varsity life.

Terri Ziemnicki took over as Granby’s coach in 2012 after coaching at Avon where she remains as field hockey coach for a successful Class M program.

“I wanted to retire as Avon lacrosse coach in 2011,” Ziemnicki said. “But I live in Granby and have kids in the school system. Granby needed a lacrosse coach and I got asked back into it.”

Now Ziemnicki coaches Avon field hockey and then coaches against many of those girls when Granby faces Avon in NCCC games. Avon beat Granby twice — 21-15 and 18-15 — in the regular season and again in the NCCC Tournament.

“Coaching against Avon was awkward at first because I really love both schools,” she said.

Ziemnicki said she knows little about Stonington other than the fact Avon plays the Bears regularly in field hockey.

“Like us, I’m sure they’re excited to be in the finals,” Ziemnicki said. “I expect them to be a high quality team and very respectable.”

Granby features one of the state’s high scorers in junior midfielder Olivia Johnson, who has scored 95 goals after totaling 73 as a sophomore. Classmate Krista Iwanicki is another goal scoring threat. Both were prominent field hockey players.

Granby has played in a number of high-scoring games and hasallowed 191 goals (10 a game). By comparison, Stonington goalkeeper Lexi Bucko has allowed just under six goals a game.

“There are good goal-scorers up here,” Ziemnicki said. “Many teams have players who know how to find the net.”

Stonington features a more balanced attack with seven players with 20 more more goals — Cassata (62), Sieczkiewicz (59), Morrison (44), Hannah Johnson (38), Valerie Muller (37), Emily Grey (26) and Heaven Datino (20). Johnson, Cassata, Sieczkiewicz and Morrison are ECC-Small first team All-Stars.

“It’s an advantage that our team doesn’t rely on one go-to scorer,” Mederios said. “Sweitzer of Old Lyme had over 100 goals and we held her way down. We’re a tough team to defend. We have a defensive midfielder like Morrison who has scored 44 goals. How do you defend a defender?”

Medeiros also likes his defenders: ECC-Small first team Celeste Courtney, ECC-Small honorable mention Margot Calmar, Megan Roberts and Lauren Turner.

Roberts held Immaculate high scorer Jaclyn Daily to no goals in the quarterfinals. Turner limited Old Lyme playmaker Allison Buckley to one goal and one assist.

“We have the defense that can take out a high scorer,” Medeiros said. “I thought Old Lyme was the best of the teams left in the final four.”

And Medeiros might be taking something else out of the picture if Stonington wins. He promised to shave off his goatee of many years. Plus, assistant coach Tina Canavan has promised to cut some of her long brunette locks and donate them to a charitable cause.

“Whatever it takes to help get the team motivated,” Medeiros said.

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