Eagles are goal driven

Nov. 19—It's rare to see a freshman serve as the offensive catalyst for a championship-caliber team. But that's exactly the role first-year forward Anya Tansil plays for East Catholic High.

Tansil has scored a team-leading 23 goals and added seven assists to guide the No. 2 seed Eagles to the state Class M girls soccer championship game Sunday against top-seeded Lyman Memorial at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford. Game time is 1:30 p.m.

"It's amazing to score these goals for the team," Tansil said. "It couldn't have happened without my teammates making amazing passes to put me in position to score. It's amazing to be here and help the team get to this point."

East Catholic (17-1-1) will be seeking its second state title in as many appearances. The Eagles topped Weston 1-0 in the Class M championship game in 2014.

East Catholic has struggled to find success since its last postseason berth in 2017. From 2018-2021, the Eagles have posted a 17-34-8 record. The team finished 4-10-2 a year ago, including going 0-6-2 in CCC East play.

Lyman Memorial (19-1-1) will be making its first title game appearance. The Bulldogs previously played in the Class S semifinals in 2006.

Tansil has been a one-woman wrecking crew for East Catholic in the postseason, scoring the Eagles' lone goal in their 1-0 victory over Old Lyme in the second round, netting one goal in their 2-1 win over St. Bernard in the quarterfinal round, and producing both goals in their 2-1 victory over Thomaston in the semifinals.

"(Tansil's) insane for a freshman," senior Sydney Ledoux said. "She's scored a lot of our goals and a lot of them have been on headers. She's an amazing player."

Ledoux has 10 goals and 11 assists for the Eagles, who are unbeaten in their last 18 games following a season-opening loss to Tolland. Sophomore Avery Prewo has provided 10 goals and eight assists, senior Kaitlyn Nyberg has contributed nine goals and seven assists, and junior Shea Boyle has added eight goals and nine assists.

"Sydney Ledoux's speed and leadership up top really creates opportunities for Anya," East Catholic coach Scott Raiola said. "If Anya was the only player up there, I think she'd be struggling a little bit to find those opportunities. So Sydney gives us that balance. Shea Boyle is so talented, we've struggled to find the best position for her because she can play all over the field. She's played center back, center forward, center mid, she's truly a talented, versatile player."

Lyman Memorial, the ECC Division II tournament champions, hammered Terryville 4-0 in the second round before edging Bolton 2-1 (3-1 PKs) in the quarterfinals and rallying from a 1-0 halftime deficit to top Portland in double overtime in the semifinals.

Emily McKelvey hit the back of the net with 7:51 remaining to send the Bulldogs' game against Portland into overtime tied at one. Lyman Memorial took the lead on a goal from sophomore Avery Volle with 6:49 to play in the first overtime session and extended its lead to two on a goal from senior Magda Carpenter just over three minutes later.

"They have a lot of really good players," Raiola said. "(Leah Comeroski) is a speedy, really talented forward that looks really good on the ball. They have a lot of speed in their attack and they're well-coached and well-rounded. They don't have a lot of glaring weaknesses, so it's going to be a challenge for us."

East Catholic's defense — anchored by Sophia Roy and Grace Veltri on the back line and Marina Juan in goal — has notched eight shutouts this season. Juan has made 115 saves and has posted an 89.84 save percentage.

"It's not only our starters, we have so much depth on defense this year," Raiola said. "If you look at our bench, I've been telling the girls that the difference between our second-best defender and our eighth-best defender is really tiny. But we've figured out who our main back four are and they're playing really well right now. Sophia Roy is our fastest player at wing back, Grace Veltri on the outside is a really talented, well-rounded player who is intelligent with the ball other feet. Our defense is really the unsung hero of this team. And then we have a great goalkeeper in Marina. She wasn't the starter for us in the first game of the season, but she's really stepped up and done a great job."

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