Published November 16. 2013 4:00AM
It was 16 days ago, and the Waterford girls' soccer team was at perhaps its lowest ebb of the season.
The Lancers had lost both the lead and their Eastern Connecticut Conference semifinal to Woodstock Academy, their second loss to the Centaurs in less than a week.
Coach Rob Brule said at the time that it was the most disappointed he'd been in a long while.
Things have sure changed in just a short time.
This morning at 10:30, Waterford will try to win the program's first state championship when it plays Haddam-Killingworth for the CIAC Class M title at Middletown High School.
"I was disappointed more in myself for not having the kids ready," Brule said. "It was the first time in three years in the ECC tournament that we didn't get to the final, and I can't fault the kids for that. I took ownership of that. I changed some things and got refocused, and (16) days later, we're in a better place.
"I was disappointed, but at the end of the day, I always told the girls that there's a bigger prize down the line."
The third-seeded Lancers are 16-3-2. No. 5 H-K is 13-4-2.
One thing Brule has learned about his 2013 Lancers this season is that he has 22 tough-minded young women. It's been a characteristic that's served Waterford well during the state tournament.
"It's a trait that I have not had in a lot of my teams in 20 years," Brule said. "I've had talent. I've had athletes. I've had hard workers. But I've never been around such a group that's been so resilient. That they look adversity in the face and say, 'Okay, we're ready for you.' They take the good with the bad very well. They're very even-keeled.
"We get down 2-0 on the road at Montville, we come back and win (5-2, Oct. 17). We get down two goals at Stonington, we come back to win (4-3, Oct. 2). At the same time, they've been resilient in our losses. We were ahead of Woodstock 2-0 and 1-0, and we lost both of those games, so how resilient can you be, how quickly can you rebound, from tough losses as well."
The Lancers have been led by their three seniors - forward Melina Spanos (24 goals), center midfielder Genaya Loftis, and defender Hannah Swanson — as well as junior defender Sally Scarpa, sophomore midfielder Claire Hurley, and freshman goaltender Jordan Kovacs.
"Melina is obviously a player of the year candidate if not the player of the year," Brule said. "(Loftis) makes us go. She's our heartbeat. She's our energy. When we look back at this season, we're going to mention her name as much as Melina's.
"Hannah Swanson is another in the long line of Swansons in this town. This is the final Swanson. Greg Swanson, her dad, coached at Waterford High School and is like a mentor to me. … There's not better left back in the ECC than (Hannah)."
Haddam-Killingworth plays in the soccer-rich Shoreline Conference, and Brule said that Jennifer Martin, Angelina Cretella, Molly Madore, Halie Serbent and freshman keeper Tevi Ferguson are among their top players.
"We know we'll have a battle (today)," Brule said. "They're well aware of it. They'll have to play the best game of their careers."