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Stonington senior Libby Morrison celebrates with her team after the Bears' 13-10 victory. | Grace White/The Westerly Sun

Morrison writes final chapter of historic career

STRATFORD, Conn. — Elizabeth Morrison went through two names, was one of the prominent players on two state title teams in the same school year, and has carved out one indelible Stonington High athletic legacy.

The “Artist formally known as Libby Morrison,” as lacrosse coach Jeff Medeiros takes credit for calling her, Elizabeth Morrison leaves Stonington as the 2013 Class S state champion field hockey team’s all-time leading scorer and the 2014 Class S state champion girls’ lacrosse team’s only two-time All-State first-team selection.

She possesses one of Stonington’s most decorated athletic portfolios when you consider only four times have the Bears won two state titles in the same academic year — boys’ basketball and boys’ track in 1956, boys’ soccer (fall of 1993) and girls’ basketball (winter of 1994) and softball and golf (1995). Obviously, the only chance the same athlete heavily contributed to both championships won in the same year could have been in 1956.

One can say Elizabeth Morrison — she has asked to be called by her given name this year after being known by her nickname “Libby,” has done it all. She excelled as an offensive player in field hockey and defensive player in lacrosse. Morrison combined both skills Saturday, scoring four goals, handling most faceoffs, passing and applying a relentless defensive presence in the Bears’ 13-10 win over Granby in the Class S final.

But Morrison, despite her statistics, at times has been reluctant to do it all and take over games, Medeiros said. At times, she gravitates to focusing on her preferred defensive role in lacrosse and doesn’t push it offensively. Even in field hockey, where she is the program’s all-time leading goal scorer (77) and assist leader (32), Morrison occasionally had quiet games such as the Class S final when she didn’t score and only produced a couple of shots in the Bears’ 1-0 victory.

Medeiros and Morrison made sure the “Artist formally known as Libby Morrison” would be a rock star Saturday.

“Libby, rather Elizabeth, is very modest,” Medeiros said. “Sometimes she thinks she is not that special and has to be told she’s the best player. Before the game I told her ‘You know what’s on the line here.’ I wanted her to dominate on both ends. That’s asking a lot but she can do it.”

In the first half, when Granby outplayed the Bears and held a pair of three-goal leads (6-3 and 7-4), Morrison kept Stonington in the game by attacking the goal from her midfield position, scoring all four of her goals to keep the Bears within one, 8-7, at the half.

Her last goal was an ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 Play of the Day candidate. She used her 6-foot frame to jump high to snare a bouncing ball off a faceoff. She charged down the middle of the field 40 yards, juked around two defenders and flung an underhand, rolling shot into the goal.

“I thought it was important that as a leader on the team I take more of an attacking role early,” Morrison said. “Granby was great offensively, but I wanted to show that their defense could be broken down. In the second half, I focused more on defense and our regular attackers took over down the stretch.”

Emily Cassata, Stonington’s leading scorer with 66 goals, scored to cut Granby’s lead to 10-9 with 11:15 left. Valerie Muller scored two goals to put Stonington up 11-10 with 5:49 left and Cassata added two insurance goals to seal it. While Stonington scored the game’s final five goals, Stonington’s defense pitched a shutout.

“Attacks win games, but defenses win championships,” Morrison said.

Morrison, who will attend the College of New Jersey and play lacrosse next year, lists lacrosse as her favorite sport by a wide margin. Staying in shape between field hockey and lacrosse, she did indoor track and set a school record in the 55-meter hurdles. She is one of seven Bears to have played on both field hockey and lacrosse state title teams. Muller, Cassata, Jenny Sieczkiewicz, Margot Calmar, Celeste Courtney, Lauren Turner and Casey Williams also played on both titlists.

“I love playing defense,” Morrison said. “Lacrosse has always been my best sport. I started playing field hockey as a Stonington freshman and (coach Jenna Tucchio) wanted me on offense so I did what she said. In lacrosse, I think you can make more of an impact defensively.”

Morrison excels at stealing passes and poke-checking, aggressively playing and some times committing fouls that cause opponent free possessions. But Medeiros says the fouls can be a positive.

“Her size sets a tone of intimidation,” Medeiros said. “She never fouls on purpose and isn’t dirty, but she plays so hard. The best defensive player is supposed to make the most fouls.”

With under a minute to play, Morrison made perhaps what is her signature move — a leaping interception to allow the Bears to control the final seconds and prevent a late Granby rally.

“Yes it was nice that it was the last significant play I had in high school,” Morrison said. “This was my last high school game and I wanted to leave everything on the field. I didn’t want to go out thinking I could have done better or thinking I could have run harder.”

You can call her Libby or call her Elizabeth. But you have to call her a winner — a rare Stonington two-time state champion.

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