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The Guilford field hockey team knocked off previously unbeaten Cheshire by 3-1 score in the SCC Tournament final to capture its first conference title on its home turf on Nov. 3. (Photo courtesy of Al Carbone )
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The Guilford field hockey team knew that it was going up against a formidable adversary when the Indians faced undefeated Cheshire in the championship game of the SCC Tournament. However, Head Coach Kitty Palmer’s squad remained unfazed by the challenge of playing the Rams and emerged with a 3-1 victory to secure its first conference crown.
The 2nd-seeded Indians took on top-seeded Cheshire with the league title at stake at Guilford High School on Nov. 3. Coming into the game, the Rams boasted a perfect record of 18-0, were riding an 11-game shutout streak and, even more remarkably, had only allowed one goal all year long. However, Guilford put an end to all of those trends with its win against Cheshire in the SCC final.
The Indians struck first by scoring a goal midway through the first half, before Cheshire tied the game on a goal early in the second half. Guilford responded by netting two goals in the game’s final nine minutes, including the go-ahead score from freshman Maddie Epke, and then held off the Rams the rest of the way. The Indians improved to 16-2-1 on the season with the victory.
“I am so proud of my team for doing this. It’s monumental for our team and the town. The fact it was against Cheshire makes it such a memorable game and an important one for us as a team,” senior captain Emily Torre said. “I think it proves to not only other people, but also ourselves, how hard we have worked, and how much we’ve grown from our first game.”
Junior Ella Stanley, Epke, and sophomore Hannah Tillier scored the goals for the Indians, who outshot Cheshire by the lopsided margin of 25-3. Sophomore goalkeeper Eve Young came up with a pair of saves for Guilford, which earned 14 corners and held the Rams to just one corner on the afternoon.
Stanley was named the Most Valuable Player of the game on the heels of earning All-SCC Second Team honors alongside senior Celia Mariconda and Tillier. Torre and fellow senior Janie Danaher made the All-SCC First Team for the Indians this season.
“Winning the SCC title over Cheshire means so much to us, because Cheshire is tough and always has been,” said Danaher. “We work so hard in practice and play as a unified team in every game. This is huge for us, and there’s no other coach we’d rather do it for than Kitty.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the cage during the first 15 minutes of play, but then Stanley ended the scoreless stalemate by scoring a goal with 15:24 remaining before halftime. Stanley located the ball in the middle of a scrum and put it past the Cheshire keeper for a 1-0 lead, marking just the second goal that the Rams gave up this season.
“That goal was nice, because in [a 1-0 loss to Cheshire during the regular season], they had us on corners, 9-1, and they stopped the ball so well in that game,” Coach Palmer said. “We kept playing, because I think Cheshire thought they heard a whistle and, in a game where you have jitters, it was a big advantage to get that first goal.”
Guilford took its one-goal edge into intermission, although the Rams responded when Kayla Sansone netted the equalizer with 11:59 to play in the game.
However, just a shade more than three minutes later, the Indians regained the lead when Epke scored a goal with 8:39 left on the clock. Epke rifled a laser through a trio of Rams’ defenders to give Guilford a 2-1 advantage.
Tillier followed by scoring a crucial insurance goal on a breakaway, after which the Indians’ defense held firm during the final minutes to solidify the historic victory.
“Cheshire got a break in the second half, but there was still plenty of time, so I wasn’t too worried,” Coach Palmer said. “Maddie had a great shot on her goal. She’s gotten the confidence to shoot more. Hannah scored on a nice breakaway. She deserved that goal, because she’s around the ball a lot.”
Previously, Guilford earned a 2-0 home win over No. 3 seed Hand in the SCC semifinals on Oct. 30. Epke tallied both of the Indians’ goals in the win over their rival. In the quarterfinal round, Guilford posted a 4-0 shutout versus Sacred Heart Academy on Oct. 26.
Coach Palmer said that great veteran leadership and tremendous team synergy were two of the biggest factors behind Guilford winning the SCC Tournament for the first time this year.
“Our senior leadership has been great. Our kids just keep trying. They’re all effort. I’m proud of them all,” said Palmer. “I’m really happy this was the team to do it, because they’ve been determined to be a team. They pull for each other and cheer each other on. They’re a real team on and off the field.”
This week, the Indians are competing in the Class M State Tournament as the No. 3 seed. Guilford has earned a first-round bye and will host either No. 6 seed South Windsor or No. 11 Watertown in the quarterfinals on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m.
“In states, we will be playing teams we don’t normally play, but I’m glad we have the bye and time to settle down after this win,” Coach Palmer said. “With five SCC teams in Class M, I would be surprised if one or two don’t make it to the final.”
From the Sidelines
The Guilford field hockey team’s varsity roster includes senior captains Emily Torre and Mariah Cretella; fellow seniors Celia Mariconda, Renee Sanacora, Cassie Clayton, Mia Tilton, Julie Reynolds, Olivia Hay, Janie Danaher, Erin Norton, Jess Smith, and Kelsi Putnam; juniors Ella Stanley, Sarah Minuit, Nicole Auger, Jaime Neleber, Ava Bucci, Sadie Smith, Lexi Hitchcock, Lily Mackey, Mia Suchy, Megan Fernandes, Catherine Larrow, Caitlyn Cunneen, and Lauren Duffy; sophomores Hannah Tillier, Anabel Lota, Madden Cunningham, and Eve Young; and freshman Maddie Epke.
Head Coach Kitty Palmer, who recently earned her 400th career win, is assisted by JV Head Coach Kiernan Willis, freshman Head Coach Ben Willis, and volunteer coach Tara Slowik.
This marked Guilford’s third appearance in the SCC Tournament final. The Indians had previously reached the final in 2010, when they took a 3-0 loss to Hand; and in 2011, when they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision versus Cheshire.
The Indians have recorded 11 shutouts in 18 games thus far this year.
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