West Haven - Oftentimes Vicki (Bartolucci) Malone will be on the phone with her dad, Duke, back in Waterford, and Duke will bring up the accomplishments of the town's high school softball team.
"Every time they win and stuff I'm psyched," Malone said Tuesday afternoon. "My dad will call and tell me, 'Waterford won.'"
Malone, a former shortstop, is arguably the best player in Waterford history. She was a member of the Lancers' first state championship team in 1983 under then-coach Joe Carey and went on to have an All-America career at UConn.
Now, however, Malone is in her fourth season as the coach at Granby Memorial. Which means that Tuesday afternoon it was her team which unseated Waterford in the semifinals of the Class M state tournament, sending Granby to its first championship game since 1986. Granby beat Waterford 6-2.
Malone is a mother of three whose daughter Morgan is the Bears' second baseman and a member of Granby's state championship field hockey team. Her son Dominick received a scholarship to wrestle next year at Northwestern and her youngest, Jake, is a 12-year-old guitarist and skateboard aficionado.
"This is really cool for me right now," Malone said of reaching the championship game against Rocky Hill. "At first coaching was so frustrating at times. I wanted to be out there. But eventually it's even more satisfying. You have to teach kids to do it. You have to create it."
Granby plays in the unheralded North Central Connecticut Conference.
"No one really comes out of there and does well," Malone said, explaining her strategy in the state tournament. "I've been telling the kids to ignore who they're playing. 'Nameless and faceless. Nameless and faceless.' For me today, I had to take my own advice.
"Everyone I went to school with, I just saw them all. My whole age group was waving to me. Their kid is the (Waterford) third baseman. Their kid is the catcher. … I think we had something to do with (the outcome) today. Our pitcher (Neve Stearns), her spins are phenomenal. I think once we scored, Waterford was like, 'Oh, my God. We're in a game.' And our kids believed. It happened at once.
"I think Mr. Carey would be proud of me but he would be sorry it was against Waterford."