WEST HAVEN —
If you give Grace Buchanan one chance, you’re in trouble. If you give her two, you’re beaten.
In what can only be described as a goal-scorer’s goal, Buchanan’s flick with the outside of her right foot in the game’s 87th minute slipped past Plainfield keeper Madison Pearson to lift Lewis Mills girls soccer to a 2-1 OT victory on Sunday at West Haven High’s Ken Strong Stadium.
For No. 1 Mills (20-0-0) the win completed an unbeaten season and earned the Spartans their first ever state title in girls soccer. No. 3 Plainfield, which played in its first state title match, finished at 21-3-0.
“It’s a little fuzzy, because it was so crazy in the moment,” said Buchanan, when asked about the goal. “It hit me (the ball) a couple of times, I think off my knee, and then off a defender. I just saw an opening and I took it.”
And that set off title time in Burlington for a second straight soccer season. The Mills boys won the M title in 2017, and now the girls followed up in 2018.
And Plainfield made it tough. The Panthers scored first, in the seventh minute, when Izzy Newbury volleyed home a cross from Hannah Dagenais. The lead lasted 19 minutes, until Jazzy Sztyler-Magee scored for Mills on a break off the right wing.
For the next 60 minutes this game stayed tied. The keepers were a big part of that. Pearson stopped 11, and Mia Bylykbashi five for Mills, but in that five there was one that saved the championship. In the 67th minute, on a Plainfield direct kick from 30 yards, Cassie Carelson picked her spot, far post, and she put it there. Bylykbashi dove and took it away.
“It was one bug blur for me,” Bylykbashi said. “It feels all in the moment. The adrenaline was rushing. I knew I had to do this for my team, to give back to them just a portion of what they’ve given to me.”
On to OT, the game always seemed in the grasp of the Spartans. Mills dominated possession, but possession stats don’t win championships. Buchanan, just a sophomore and named the game’s MVP, made sure Mills walked away from this final with the large trophy.
“This was a team effort,” Buchanan said. “We all wanted this so bad, and we made it happen.”
Mills made it happen, as captain Morgan Sokol said, for all Spartans, for all time, and it seemed like all of them made the trip to West Haven on Sunday.
The championship was “for all the alumni who have ever come through Lewis Mills,” Sokol said. “There’s a lot of people here that could have won this while they played at Mills, so its huge for them to support us, because we know we are not doing this just for us, but for everybody that’s ever come through Mills.”