Waterford - Susannah Lucey and Sarah Giblin have been friends for so long, all it took was a nod of the head from Lucey late in the game Wednesday night to set Fitch's moment of the season in motion.
Lucey, awarded a free position in front of the Norwich Free Academy goal with 15.9 seconds remaining in a tense Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' lacrosse tournament semifinal, zipped a pass to Giblin on the left side of the goal instead of shooting.
"My mind was just blank; I knew I had to catch it and shoot," said Giblin, a senior, who scored three goals for the Falcons. "We didn't want to lose. We've never made it to the ECCs in any of our four years."
Giblin's shot and goal, executed without a hitch, gave second-seeded Fitch a 9-8, come-from-behind victory over No. 3 NFA, earning the Falcons a berth in Friday's ECC championship game beginning at 5:30 p.m. at East Lyme.
Fitch (11-5-1) will play No. 1 East Lyme (14-3) in the final, with East Lyme looking for its seventh straight title. The Vikings won the first game 12-6 over No. 4 Stonington (10-7), getting a 13-save performance from goalie Jane Bartlett.
NFA's Maya Bell gave her team an 8-7 lead with 2:36 remaining before Fitch's Daria McKenna made it 8-8 with 35.8 seconds to play. It was Fitch's Jackie Kokomoor who came up with the ensuing draw, setting the winning goal in motion.
McKenna and Chloe Taylor each scored twice and Caity Noel made 12 saves for Fitch, which last played in the ECC tournament in 2006. Bell and Megan Gada each scored twice for NFA (8-6-1), which led 3-2 at halftime.
The teams played twice during the regular season with a 14-4 tie on April 15. Fitch topped NFA 13-11 on May 9.
This time, Giblin exited the field with a mixture of sweat and tears covering her face following a Fitch celebration.
"Sarah's my third man and I can only describe her as selfless," Fitch coach Tricia Semancik said.
"She makes sure we don't go offside, things like that. Just a selfless player."
In the first game, Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros, his team playing some of its best games of the season recently, tried to will his team to score with time growing short.
But then there was Bartlett, who is 5-foot-2, but commands a presence, nonetheless, as the Vikings' gatekeeper.
Bartlett, headed to play next season at Limestone College (S.C.), saved two shots in the final 29 seconds of the first half and allowed the Bears to score only once in the second half.
"It's nice not to have to worry about it," East Lyme coach Phil Schneider said. "East Lyme has had a long tradition of those kind of goalies, 12 years or so. … Jane can see what's happening right when the offense is getting started. That gives her the opportunity to come out of the goal, maybe intercept it."
Stonington tied the game 4-4 at the 7:46 mark of the first half, getting three goals from Jenny Sieczkiewicz.
Jill Bartlett scored four times and Caroline Gonsalves twice for East Lyme, which led 8-5 at halftime.
Stonington's Emily Cassata scored to make it 8-6, but the Vikings scored the final four goals.
With 9:10 remaining, Sieczkiewicz passed the ball to Maya DePasquale right in front of the East Lyme net. DePasquale tried to slam dunk one past Bartlett, but Bartlett managed the save. A minute and a half later, Sieczkiewicz tried a free position shot, again saved by Bartlett.
"They were a very physical team. We weren't expecting the strong offense they had after the last time we played them (a 16-3 East Lyme win)," Bartlett said.
"The first half, I wasn't stopping the shots, I wasn't stopping the ball."
Stonington has had an added dimension since the return of Margot Calmar on defense, allowing the Bears more freedom to track opposing star offensive players.
Medeiros shared a quote with his players before the game: "The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well."
"I told them knowing you can beat East Lyme is the important thing. To beat East Lyme, they had to believe," Medeiros said.
"We were able to get a few in the first half, but in the second half, it seemed like every time (Bartlett) made a save and took the momentum away from us."