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Senior captain defender Madison Gambardella and the Guilford girls’ soccer squad are off to a 3-0 start without having allowed a single goal so far this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain midfield Gabi Garcia-Perez and the Indians posted shutouts versus Cheshire (1-0) and North Haven (2-0) during last week’s matchups. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Claire Mackenzie (pictured) and fellow goalie Olivia Ste. Marie combined to make six saves when the Guilford girls’ soccer team blanked North Haven by a 2-0 score on Sept. 20. File hoto by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Guilford girls’ soccer team has posted a trio of shutouts through its first three games of the 2019 season. As a defensive-minded coach, that’s a satisfying feeling for Indians’ Head Coach Scott McMahon, who always likes to build from the back, while relying on solid play from his goalies and defenders. In last week’s action, Guilford posted a 1-0 victory at Cheshire on Sept. 17 and then earned a 2-0 home win over divisional opponent North Haven three days later to improve to 3-0 overall with a record of 1-0 in the SCC Quinnipiac Division.
Last year, the Indians didn’t allow more than two goals in a game until they took a 3-1 loss to Newington in the first round of the Class L State Tournament. While Guilford is continuing to play solid defense this season, the team is also finding the back of the net with regularity, having scored eight goals through its first three contests.
“We were stingy on defense last year,” said McMahon, whose team went 5-7-6 in 2018. “Unfortunately, we never scored enough goals to offset it.”
Senior Claire Mackenzie and junior Olivia Ste. Marie have been sharing the goaltending duties for Guilford this year. Mackenzie and Ste. Marine made three saves apiece when the Indians shut out North Haven last week.
“We’ll play one for one half of the game and then switch to the other,” McMahon said. “I’m comfortable with either one in net. Claire may give us a little bit more experience, because she’s a senior.”
On defense, Guilford features senior captain Madison Gambardella and her sister, junior Taylor Gambardella, on the inside. Senior Emma McSweet and junior Addie Kenney are playing the outside back position for the Indians. Sophomore Taylor Farace is also expected to contribute for Guilford on the back line this fall.
“All the girls there have a significant amount of playing time,” said McMahon. “And between the group, there’s lots of defensive ability.”
McMahon has never been adverse to switching formations on a game-by-game basis. The versatility of a player like senior captain Gabi Garcia-Perez in the midfield gives him that luxury. Garcia-Perez is in her third season as a starter for the Indians.
“We’ll drop her back a little so she can play the ball, move it around, or control play,” McMahon said. “Gabby’s a solid player. She has the knack for not only controlling the middle, but moving the ball around, as well.”
Senior Maria Jennings, junior Lexie Greene, and junior Moira Kellaher are also patrolling the midfield for Guilford this season.
“Moira has the most energy of anybody on the team,” said McMahon. “She’s not only fast, but she has great ball skills.”
Up top, senior Lily Riccio and junior Sophia Gabriel are starting at the forward position. Riccio led the team in scoring last year. Gabriel missed her entire sophomore season with a torn ACL, but is back in action this fall. In last week’s win against North Haven, Riccio and sophomore forward Gabby Sansone scored the Indians’ goals.
While there is still a long way to go, Coach McMahon likes what he’s seeing from his team thus far and feels confident that Guilford can be a factor in the playoff conversation.
“Having a winning season and getting into both the SCC playoffs and the states are all tangible for us. They’re all within our reach. Of course, we have to play well,” said McMahon. “I always thought that with my best teams, we could play against anyone. Our philosophy hasn’t changed over the years. It’s about being able to avoid the outside influences, stay within our system, and try and put an imprint on each and every game.”
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