New London - Carley Phillips has always been a whiz kid scholastically. She skipped the first and fifth grades.
She started keeping the scorebook for the St. Bernard School girls' lacrosse team when she was 10 years old and her sister Chelsea played.
Now, Phillips, a 14-year-old sophomore, is pretty accomplished athletically, as well.
Her latest feat came Tuesday when she scored nine goals to lead St. Bernard past Fitch 14-12 in a game that decided which of the teams earned a berth in today's Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament and which was left home.
"Yesterday, I thought that was exciting," Phillips said of Monday's 13-10 victory over Waterford, costing Waterford a share of the ECC Small Division title. "Compared to today, it wasn't even."
"Huge," St. Bernard coach Jon Zielinski said of the latest win. "This is the time of the year you want to have close, exciting games."
St. Bernard (10-6) will play in the ECC semifinals at 5 p.m. today at top-seeded East Lyme. The Saints also have a Class S state tournament berth on the horizon.
As for Phillips, a midfielder who will leave next year to play in prep school at Loomis Chaffee, she began playing lacrosse when she was 7, sometimes just passing the ball around the yard with her sisters, including Chelsea (St. Bernard's all-time leading scorer with 272 goals who is now competing for Emerson College).
Phillips was named to the Connecticut Select Under-13 team when she was an Under-11 player. She made the varsity team as a freshman last year at St. Bernard and was a first team All-ECC Small Division honoree.
On Monday, she scored six goals against Waterford, including the 100th of her career. On Tuesday, she scored the first four goals for St. Bernard and even converted with the Saints down a player to give them a 9-8 lead with 12 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
Phillips is 5-foot-4, up from 4-10 a year ago.
"For soccer I was on varsity already (last year), so I was used to it a little bit," Phillips said of playing against bigger players when she should have been by all rights a seventh-grader. "Everyone's a lot bigger, but I try not to focus on that."
Maria Theiler and Annie Foley added two goals each for St. Bernard, including Foley's with 10:06 to go which gave the Saints the lead for good at 11-10, and Meagan Allen scored on a free position at the 5:27 mark to make it 13-11, giving the team a bit of a cushion.
Fitch's Chloe Taylor had four goals, including one to make it 13-12 with 3:31 remaining. The Falcons (9-7) got the ball back one final time after St. Bernard turned the ball over trying to kill the clock, but their last shot attempt was thwarted by Saints goalie Emily Savino.
Savino, a junior in her first season playing lacrosse, made 11 saves. With time running down, the 4-11 goalie scrambled with the ball outside the goal area and played keep-away while she looked for an opponent to pass it to.
"I think she saved it for us in the end," Phillips said of Savino.
Phillips then scored at the buzzer for the final margin.
"We really try to be patient on offense, wait for the other team to make a mistake," said Zielinski, in his first season as head coach after assisting former coach Tonya Acosta for three years.
Liz Nolan and Susannah Lucey scored two goals each for Fitch, which was playing without leading scorer Kelsey Armstrong. Armstrong received a red card in Monday's loss to Old Lyme, necessitating she sit out for one game.
Fitch will next play in the Class M state tournament.