Fairfield - With the curtain closing on a memorable season, coach Phil Schneider called timeout on Wednesday night.
Schneider had one last message for his East Lyme girls' lacrosse team.
"Take a look around at your teammates," Schneider told them. "Kind of cherish the moment type of thing. It was a chance to have them get a feeling of how special it was."
The Vikings let out a hearty cheer, then went out and played the final one minute, 14 seconds, of the Class M semifinals in their usual trademark style - with all out effort and enthusiasm.
On this night, it wasn't enough for them to beat powerful Wilton, which posted a convincing 18-5 victory at Fairfield Warde High School.
Second-seeded East Lyme allowed the first 10 goals and never recovered. No. 3 Wilton moves on to the Class M championship game, facing top-seeded New Canaan on Saturday at Bunnell High School.
The Vikings (18-3) faltered in the semifinals for the second straight season.
The final deficit would have been larger if not for the strong play of junior goalie Jane Bartlett who made 14 saves.
"Honestly, they're just a great team and have a great program," senior Erin Fritz said. "We had a great game. We did the best we could do. … We never gave up."
Fritz, one of East Lyme's six seniors, led the attack, chipping in two goals and one assist. Senior Erin DeLucca, junior Caroline Regan and junior Kiki Ryan also scored.
The high-powered Warriors, who scored 15 or more goals 12 times this season, ran a precision passing game, controlled possession and dominated draw controls. They looked nearly unstoppable early on, as they built a 10-0 lead just over 16 minutes into the game.
All-American Casey Pearsall (five goals) and junior Katherine Vincent (three goals) each found the net twice for a 4-0 lead, prompting East Lyme to call a timeout.
The superior level of play caught the Vikings a bit off-guard.
"The pace and their ability to catch and throw in the midfield and attack the cage, that's hard for us to see that in our conference and to see that level of play," Schneider said.
Wilton's scoring frenzy was just getting started. Junior Tegan Helms (four goals) and freshman Sara Dickinson fired in goals 27 seconds apart.
Trailing 10-0, East Lyme broke into the scoring column. Fritz scored off a nifty move in front and DeLucca maneuvered through a crowd of defenders to score. The Vikings trailed 12-2 at intermission.
Wilton's quick strike offense scored just 32 seconds into the second half on Helms' close range shot. East Lyme provided a stiffer challenge in the second half, generating several quality scoring opportunities and playing a more physical brand of lacrosse.
As time ran down, Schneider gathered his Vikings for one last pep talk.
"We knew it was going to be the end," Fritz said. "He just wanted us to have a good time.
The Vikings left the turf smiling.
"This is how far we got last year," Fritz said. "We were hoping we would go further. I'm just happy we could match last year. … Our team really stepped it up from losing a bunch of seniors last year."
Schneider is optimistic about the program's future, as he should be. The Vikings are losing Fritz, DeLucca, Madison Cohen, Michelle Galindo, Olivia DeLea and Madeline McDermott.
"This is where we wanted to be," Schneider said. "We knew this was the next step, to play a quality team like Wilton and see how we stacked up. … Hopefully, we learn from this and we get better and we understand this is what it takes.
"We look forward to doing the same thing next year, hopefully."