Guilford Field Hockey Wins First Outright State Title
The Guilford field hockey team won its first outright state title after notching a 3-1 victory against Sacred Heart Academy in the Class M State Tournament final at Wethersfield High School on Nov. 18. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Ella Stanley celebrates after senior teammate Hannah Tillier scored a goal to give the Indians’ field hockey team a 1-0 lead over Sacred Heart Academy with 1:05 left in the first half of the Class M state final. Stanley went on to score a goal for the Indians to help them take the state crown with a 3-1 win on Nov. 18. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Celia Mariconda capped off her high-school field hockey career by scoring a goal in Guilford’s 3-1 win over Sacred Heart Academy in the championship game of the Class M State Tournament. The Indians claimed their first outright state title and second overall with the victory. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Throughout the 2018 season, the Guilford field hockey team was on a mission to claim some postseason gold. After winning the program’s first Southern Connecticut Conference title two weeks ago, the Indians accomplished the second part of their mission by capturing a state crown with a victory versus Sacred Heart Academy in the Class M State Tournament final.
The 3rd-seeded Indians battled a familiar foe in SCC rival Sacred Heart Academy (SHA) with the Class M title on the line at Wethersfield High School on Nov. 18. After shutting out SHA two times earlier in the year, Guilford earned a 3-1 win against the Sharks in the championship game of the Class M State Tournament to secure the first outright state title in program history. The Indians had previously shared a state title with Simsbury after the two teams played to a tie in the 1997 Class L state final.
Facing No. 8 seed SHA in this year’s title bout, the Indians built a 3-0 lead before the Sharks got on the board en route to their historic victory. Guilford finished the season with an overall record of 19-2-1, having won its final eight games of the campaign.
“You coach for years like this. A state title seems unreachable, but I’m not surprised this was the team that did it,” Head Coach Kitty Palmer said. “They were a determined group of girls, and they worked good together.”
Senior Celia Mariconda, junior Ella Stanley, and sophomore Hannah Tillier scored Guilford’s three goals in the win. Guilford outshot SHA by a wide margin of 33-7 and saw sophomore goalie Eve Young make six saves in the cage. Senior co-captain Emily Torre and fellow senior Janie Danaher both made the All-State Team and the Academic All-State Team for the Indians, who only allowed one goal in their three State Tournament victories.
“Our defense played well in all three games. These girls were just determined to make this their year,” said Coach Palmer. “We scored three today before they got one and, for this whole tournament, we were either ahead or tied, and we never trailed.”
Guilford and SHA were scoreless through the majority of the first half when they faced off in the Class M final. The Indians struck for the game’s first goal with 1:05 to play before halftime, when Tillier took a shot off a rebound and sent it into the Sharks’ net for a 1-0 lead.
Guilford hung on to its one-goal edge until Stanley scored an insurance goal to give the Indians a 2-0 advantage with 8:35 remaining in the contest. Just moments later, Mariconda netted a goal off a penalty corner to extend Guilford's lead to 3-0. SHA scored its lone goal of the game with 4:34 to play. A few minutes later, the clock ticked down to zeros, and Guilford walked off the field with its first outright state crown.
Coach Palmer had a feeling that SHA was going to give the Indians everything they could handle. In the end, though, there was nothing that could prevent Guilford from authoring a happy ending to its storybook season.
“Because we played Sacred Heart Academy twice already this year, we knew them so well. We knew their strengths,” Palmer said. “But they played well all season, so we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
To reach the Class M state final, the Indians earned a 1-0 win against No. 7 seed in the semifinals at Lyman Hall High School on Nov. 13. Mariconda netted the only goal of the contest with 7:58 remaining to send the Indians to the championship. Young made eight saves in the victory.
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 completed her 37th season as the Indians’ head coach. Palmer was assisted by JV Head Coach Kiernan Willis, freshman Head Coach Ben Willis, and volunteer coach Tara Slowik.
During the regular season, the Indians finished with a record of 13-2-1, earning wins against Lyman Hall (7-0), Mercy (7-0), Sacred Heart Academy (2-0), Lauralton Hall (2-0), Glastonbury (5-0), North Haven (5-0), Sheehan (6-2), Enfield (3-1), Amity (2-1), Hamden (6-0), Branford (3-0), Shelton (5-0), and Haddam-Killingworth (7-1). Guilford also played Hand to a 1-1 tie and took defeats against Stonington (4-3) and Cheshire (1-0).
In the SCC Tournament, Guilford claimed its first conference title by defeating Sacred Heart Academy 4-0 in the quarterfinals, Hand 2-0 in the semifinals, and Cheshire 3-1 in the championship game. For the Class M State Tournament, Guilford earned a first-round bye, then defeated No. 6 seed South Windsor 1-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 7 Hand by a 1-0 score in the semis, prior to facing Sacred Heart Academy the final.
In their previous state final appearances, the Indians took a 2-1 loss to Granby Memorial in 1973, lost a 1-0 contest against Farmington in the 1979 Class M final, dropped a 2-1 decision to Greenwich in the 1994 Class L final, shared the Class L crown with Simsbury in 1997 following a 1-1 draw in the championship, lost a 2-1 overtime game versus Cheshire in the 2001 Class L final, took a 1-0 loss to Pomperaug in the 2003 Class L final, lost a 3-0 decision against Wilton in the 2012 Class M final, and lost to New Canaan by a 3-1 score for Class M final in 2016.