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Senior Amy Woods scored a goal for the Hand field hockey squad when the Tigers took a 3-2 loss to Guilford in the Class M State Tournament final at Wethersfield High School on Nov. 23. Visit Zip06.com to see more photos from this game. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior Maeve Connors the Tigers finished the year with a record of 14-8 after dropping a 3-2 decision against Guilford in the championship game of the Class M State Tournament. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand field hockey team saw its exciting postseason run come to a close when the Tigers took a 3-2 defeat versus Guilford in the championship game of the Class M State Tournament at Wethersfield High School on Nov. 23. The top-seeded Indians scored the first three goals of the contest and held off a spirited rally by the Tigers to claim their second-straight state title, while finishing the year with a record of 23-0. Hand, which was the No. 7 seed in the tournament, finished its season with an overall record of 14-8.
Junior Hannah Tillier, sophomore Maddie Epke, and senior Amy Bucci each scored a goal within the first 21 minutes of the game to give the Indians a 3-0 lead over 7th-seeded Hand in the state championship. The Tigers got on board when junior Grace Hartmann scored a goal to make it 3-1 at halftime.
Hand cut the deficit to 3-2 on a goal by senior Amy Woods with just 43 seconds left in the game, but Guilford’s defense held strong to solidify the Indians’ second outright state crown and their fourth overall.
The state final marked the third time that Guilford and Hand played each other this year. The Indians earned a 4-2 win versus Hand during the regular season and then defeated the Tigers by a 2-1 score in the SCC semifinals.
Guilford had reached the Class M championship game by posting a 6-1 victory against Branford in the semifinal round. Hand claimed a 1-0 overtime win versus Bethel in its state semifinal game.
“This is such a high-skilled sport, and you need to figure a team out quickly to win,” Hand Head Coach Sue Leckey said. “We knew going into this game that Guilford’s intensity and aggressive play was something we would need to address right away. But by the time we had figured some of it out, they had a 2-0 lead.
Tillier gave Guilford a 1-0 advantage when she scored off an assist from Epke 7:20 into the game. About eight minutes later, Epke was awarded a penalty stroke when Hand was called for an infraction in the circle. Epke lined up and drove her shot home to increase the lead to 2-0 with 15:05 to play in the first half. With 10:28 remaining in the half, Bucci tipped in a pass from Epke to give Guilford a 3-0 lead.
Although they were outshot by an 8-4 margin during the opening half, the Tigers started to get their offense in gear and broke through when Hartmann scored from senior Maeve Connors with 4:46 to go until halftime.
Hand continued to create more chances during the second half. Fifteen minutes in, Connors appeared to have scored a goal, but it was waved off, because the shot was too high.
“It was a good call. The ball has to hit the board in the back of the net,” Coach Leckey said. “We’ve gone with high shots before, because they usually work. This time we were off a bit.”
The Tigers weren’t done, though. With 43 seconds remaining, Woods scored on an assist by junior Shealyn Docker to get Hand within a goal at 3-2. While the Tigers had some momentum, they didn’t have much time, and Guilford was able to keep Hand out of the net the rest of the way to walk off the field with its second-consecutive state championship.
Both teams had 14 shots on goal in the game. Sophomore Julia McDonald made seven saves for Guilford. Sophomore Megan Hart had 10 saves for Hand.
Despite the defeat, Coach Leckey said she’s proud of her team for putting together “an unbelievable season.”
“They went through a great journey to reach the final,” said Leckey. “We had some tough losses, then we were able to bounce back. All of them grew through it. They were valiant today. We came close. I know in time they’ll look back on this and truly appreciate it.”
Hand made it to the Class M final by posting a 1-0 overtime victory against No. 14 seed Bethel in a semifinal contest at Cheshire High School on Nov. 19. Hartmann won it for the Tigers when she scored the lone goal of the game with 4:41 remaining in OT.
• The Hand field hockey team’s roster includes seniors Amy Woods, Jessica Murphy, Kennedy Richard, Maeve Connors, Tessie Sheehan, Hailey Funk, Jacqui Sandor, and Carly Barba; juniors Abby Cody, Maddy Kilduff, Mia Rice, Emma DeMartino, Erin Patla, Shealyn Docker, Ashley Wagner, Ashlee Wargo, Grace Goddard, and Grace Hartmann; and sophomores Natalia Nolan, Alanna Fay, Ally Gabrynowicz, Kelly Fay, Reilly Dolan, Charlotte Berger, Ella Bennett, Riley Kilbourn, Peytyn Gies, Berkley Porter, Ella Scarice, and Megan Hart.
• Hand posted a record of 10-6 in the regular season. The Tigers earned two wins versus Cheshire (1-0, 3-2) and win one victory apiece over North Haven (9-0), Lauralton Hall (3-0), Amity (1-0), Sacred Heart Academy (3-0), Shelton (7-1), Lyman Hall (8-0), Sheehan (2-0), and Mercy (2-0). Hand took losses to Glastonbury (2-1), Norwalk (4-1), Guilford (4-2), Darien (7-2), Hamden (2-1), and Branford (2-0).
• In the SCC Tournament, No. 4 seed Hand earned a 3-2 victory (6-4 on penalty strokes) against No. 5 Cheshire in the quarterfinals before taking a 2-1 loss to No. 1 Guilford in the semifinals.
• As the No. 7 seed in the Class L State Tournament, Hand notched wins versus No. 10 Sacred Heart Academy (2-1) in the first round, No. 2 Wethersfield (1-0) in the quarterfinals, and No. 14 Bethel (1-0 in OT) in the semis to advance to the final. The Tigers lost a 3-2 decision against top-seeded Guilford in the championship game to finish the year with an overall mark of 14-8.
• This was the seventh time that Hand played in a Class M state final. The Tigers won the title by defeating New Canaan (2-1) in 2017 and Wilton (2-1) in 2014. Hand lost to Darien (3-2) in 2010, Wilton (2-0) in 2006, Branford (1-0) in 2005, and Pomperaug (1-0) in 1998.
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