In this case, getting there was half the battle.
The Woodstock Academy girls’ lacrosse team played in its first-ever Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament match May 22 and despite the result not being to their liking — a 9-7 loss to eventual champion and host, Stonington, in a semifinal match — the experience was more than worth it.
“Awesome,” said coach Kathleen Johnson.  “The girls were pumped. The coaches were pumped. It was a great accomplishment. I don’t think anyone realizes how difficult it is to make the ECC tourney in Girls Lacrosse. Four teams. That’s it. Most sports have an abundance of teams that make the ECC tourney. My multi-sport athletes as well as my athletes that I have had for three years understand the hard work it takes to make it.”
The Centaurs played well in the first half and led, 3-2.
But Johnson sensed there could be some trouble.
The Centaurs (13-4) were not as dominant on the draw as they were in the first matchup with the Bears (14-4) in the first meeting of the season.
That match produced the first-ever win for the Centaurs over the Bears, 10-5, on May 8.
But a second win was not to be as Stonington rallied in the second half behind junior Emma Sabbadini (6 goals) for the win.
Johnson was not disappointed with the outcome, in fact, quite the opposite.
“Extremely happy,” Johnson said about her team’s play, “At the end of the game, I was disappointed that we lost but not disappointed in any of my student-athletes. They played their hearts out and never gave up.”
Freshman Bridget Horst led the Centaurs with three goals, giving her 40 for the season.
Senior Madison Brennan added her 47th tally of the year while Arielle Johnson, Emma Ciquera and Ellie Jellison also found the net.
Ivy Gelhaus and Arielle Johnson also had assists for the Centaurs.
Freshman goalie Kileigh Gagnon made four saves in net for The Academy.
The Bears went on to win the ECC championship with an upset win over East Lyme in the title game.
“It makes us feel a little better. It proves that our success this year was the real deal and we’re hungry for next year,” Kathleen Johnson said of the Stonington win.
Brennan, the ECC girls Athlete of the Week for May 7-13, was named a first team ECC Division II All-Star.
Horst and Ciquera achieved honorable mention status and Katie Mason was given the team’s sportsmanship award.
The season isn’t over for the Centaurs.
They earned the No. 5 seed in the Class M state tournament and had a first-round game on Tuesday (the game ended too late for this edition), hosting No. 12 Mercy High School of Middletown.
“I’m not sure,” Kathleen Johnson said when asked in the ECC tournament experience would help in the state tournament match, “We haven’t had a lot of experience playing ‘big games’, but we will be ready to go.”
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director

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