North Branford Girls’ Soccer Clinches State Tournament Berth; Field Hockey Completes Unbeaten Regular Season
Senior captain Melanie Norton and the North Branford field hockey team capped off their undefeated regular season with a 4-0 victory versus Branford. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
The North Branford girls’ soccer team clinched its fourth-straight State Tournament berth by capping its regular season with a 3-1 victory over Lyman Hall on Oct. 28. The Thunderbirds, who finished the regular season with a record of 5-8-3, punched their ticket to states after winning five of their last seven games.
“We were putting together some good soccer in the beginning of the year and not getting results,” Head Coach Pat Kozloski said. “We wanted to keep doing some of the things we were doing, and we started putting things together in the last half.”
Against Lyman Hall, senior goalie Gianna Sullo earned the victory in net for North Branford. Senior captain Lexi Rosado got thing started offensively by scoring on a beautiful shot from just outside the 18-yard box. After the Trojans tied the score, Rosado made an attacking play and sent a pass to junior Ashlee Amendola, who buried the go-ahead goal. The T-Birds’ added another score on an own-goal by Lyman Hall.
North Branford is playing in the Class M State Tournament that begins on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The T-Birds wrapped up their regular season with a record of 15-0-1 by posting a 4-0 victory at Branford.
Senior captain Ava Galdenzi opened up the scoring by converting a corner from fellow senior captain Melanie Norton at the 20:05 mark of the game. Sophomore Olivia Toto scored later in the first half and then set up senior captain Ali Barrett for North Branford’s third marker of the game. A few minutes later, Barrett took the ball down field on the right flank and crossed it to Galdenzi, who buried her second goal of the day to finish the scoring for the T-Birds.
Although the Hornets put pressure on the North Branford, the Thunderbirds’ defense made several clutch plays to maintain the shutout. Senior netminder Jaime Matthews made 15 saves for North Branford, which received a solid defensive effort from junior Gabby Gibilisco. Head Coach Babby Nuhn said that junior Aly Kendrick and Norton played excellent games in the midfield.
North Branford earned the No. 1 seed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament and played No. 4 Valley Regional in the semifinals on Nov. 4 (after press time). If the T-Birds win that game, they will play the winner of No. 2 Westbrook and No. 3 Old Saybrook in the final at the Indian River Complex in Clinton on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.
The T-Birds have also secured the top seed in the upcoming Class S State Tournament. The first round will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
North Branford went on the road and defeated Ellington by a 13-7 score on Nov. 2. Junior quarterback Brandon Fratta tossed a pair of touchdowns for the T-Birds, who improved to 5-2 with the win.
North Branford got on the board when Fratta connected with senior Nate Raymond for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Junior Tyler DiNapoli booted home the extra point to give North Branford an early 7-0 lead. That score stood until Ellington’s Jason Lesile ran home a 13-yard TD to tie the game in the second quarter.
The game was tied at 7-7 at halftime, but North Branford broke through in the third quarter when Fratta found junior Alex Clinton for a 9-yard touchdown strike. The T-Birds’ defense held strong from there to solidify the victory.
For the game, Fratta finished 13-of-23 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns. North Branford rushed for 150 yards as a team with DiNapoli leading the charge by gaining 89 yards on 19 carries. Clinton hauled in seven receptions for 57 yards, senior Aiden Ferrucci caught two passes for 56 yards, and Raymond had a pair of catches for 22 yards.
On the defensive end, sophomore Ryan Vaspasiano led the T-Birds with 12 tackles, while senior Alex LeMere made 11 tackles. Senior Xavior Cognata and junior Jamison O’Brien recorded one sack apiece.
With its mark of 5-2, North Branford is in 11th place in the Class S State Playoff rankings, in which the top eight teams qualify. The Thunderbirds are currently on a bye week and will return to action on Friday, Nov. 15, when they will hit the road to play Pequot Conference Sassacus Division rival Morgan (1-5, 1-2) for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at the Peters Complex in Clinton. North Branford enters the contest with a record of 4-0 in the division.
The Thunderbirds finished their regular season by taking a 3-1 defeat at Hand on Oct. 30. North Branford posted an overall record of 5-15 for regular-season play this year.
North Branford lost its lone only of the week and is now 0-15 with one contest left on the schedule.
The T-Birds lost to Platt Tech by a score of 4-0 on Oct. 28. North Branford will finish its season with a home contest versus Amistad this week.