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The Hand girls’ soccer team shut out Law 3-0 in the SCC Tournament final at West Haven High School on Nov. 2 to capture its first conference tourney crown since 2009. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand girls’ soccer team entered its SCC Tournament championship game against Law as an experienced squad that was making its second straight appearance in the league final, while the Eagles were playing in the title bout for the first time. The top-seeded Tigers used their playoff savvy to post a 3-0 win over Law at West Haven High School on Nov. 2, sealing Hand’s fourth outright SCC tourney title and its fifth overall. Hand’s last conference crown came in 2009, when it shared the title with Cheshire. The Tigers last won it outright in 2008.
“Hand hasn’t won the SCC title in almost 10 years, so winning it is a huge accomplishment,” said senior forward Taylor Scully, who captains the Tigers with senior midfielders Gabby Egidio and Riley Kokoruda. “During the preseason, we all came together, and I knew this team was something special. Every single person was determined to win and to not stop working hard until we met our goals.”
Senior forward Sophie Cohen, sophomore midfielder Kayla Howard, and Scully scored the goals for the Tigers, who improved to 17-1-1 with the victory. Hand outshot Law 12-6 with junior Morgan Lipford making four saves in net for the shutout. Kokoruda and Scully earned All-SCC First Team honors, while Howard made the Second Team for the Tigers and was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the Conference Tournament.
“Many teams rarely make it to the SCC Tournament, and even fewer make it to the championship game. Hand has been lucky to make it two years in a row, and it’s something I’m trying to not take for granted,” said Howard, who finished with three goals and an assist for the tournament. “We came up a little short last year, and it was disappointing, but it gave us the experience. This year, I think we are an even better team with great leadership. We have seven senior starters on the team, and we’ll miss them next year, but I’m so happy we were able to win this and get them this championship.”
Hand and Law were scoreless until there were 15 minutes left in the first half, when Cohen buried a shot to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Hand held the Eagles (13-3-3) to just shot on goal during the opening stanza.
In the second half, Howard netted a goal 10 minutes in by converting a breakaway. Later in the frame, Scully raced down the pitch and sent one in to the back of the net to make it 3-0 with 9:38 to play, and Head Coach David Dikranian’s club was on its way to the championship.
“What benefited us was getting to the SCC final last year and playing Cheshire even and losing on penalty kicks, because it really motivated us to get back to the finals,” said Dikranian, whose squad is undefeated in its last 18 games since dropping its first contest of the season. “Losing to Guilford on Opening Night also motivated us. We have a good core of players that want to win and be successful. We don’t have one superstar player. We have contributions from different players every game. Having versatile players has helped us. Camaraderie of the team is important, and everyone is supportive of each other.”
In the semifinal round, the Tigers outlasted No. 4 seed Shelton 3-2 in a double-overtime thriller on Oct. 30. At the 29:36 mark of the opening half, sophomore defender Sam Riordan tied the scored at 1-1 by scoring a goal on a feed from senior defender Viv Mazzarella. Shelton grabbed a 2-1 halftime advantage, but the Tigers evened the game by scoring on their only shot of the second period, as Riordan notched her second of the night on assists by Scully and Mazzarella with 10:42 left in regulation. The game eventually went to a second OT, where Howard scored the golden goal with 54 seconds left on a Mazzarella assist off a corner kick. Lipford made eight saves for Hand, which was outshot 15-12.
“It was a fast-paced game from start to finish...We took a chance in the last 15 minutes of the game by pushing one of our four back players into midfield and one of our midfielders to forward. Sam Riordan scored a beautiful goal to tie the game for us off a beautiful give and go sequence with Viv Mazzarella,” Dikranian said. “Sam Riordan was one of our best players in this game. She has been one of our best players all season. It wasn’t our best soccer, but we worked really hard and never quit.”
No. 2 seed Hand will next host No. 31 Fitch in the first round of the Class L State Tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5 p.m.
“Now, we have states to look forward to,” said Scully. “Win or lose, this team is the best that has come through Hand.”
From the Sidelines
Heather Baughan, Viv Mazzarella, Kayla Howard, Taylor Scully, and Riley Kokoruda made the All-SCC Quinnipiac Division team for Tigers this season.
Hand claimed its second straight Quinnipiac Division title with a perfect divisional mark of 6-0.
Law had defeated No. 2 seed Sheehan 3-0 in the other SCC semifinal to reach its first championship game.
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