WETHERSFIELD — The theme for the North Branford field hockey team this season has been team effort and team unity. It has produced a tight-knit family atmosphere throughout the season.
On Saturday, the Thunderbirds season-long team effort produced the ultimate prize.
Amy Raucci tied the game at 1 early in the second half and Ava Galdenzi scored the game-winning goal with 17 minutes, 2 seconds left in the second half to lead No. 1 North Branford to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over No. 2 Granby in the Class S championship game at Wetherfield High’s Cottone Field.
Defense was another plus for the Thunderbirds, who outshot the Bears 8-2. Defender Emmy Norton made two blocks off wide-open shots in front of the net and Jordan Regan needed only one save for the T-Birds.
For the Thunderbirds (21-0-1), who ended the season outscoring opponents 75-16, it was their fourth state title. They also won S titles in 2006 and 1981 and a Class M title in 1980.
“This is so sweet,” North Branford coach Babby Nuhn said. “We knew Granby would be tough, they are a phenomenal team and this was a battle. But we’re a family and because of that team unity we won as a family. In the end we played our game with selfless determination, with our speed and with a strong work ethic.
“When they took a 1-0 lead, that rallied us. When Amy Raucci scored that was a key moment for us because at that point the momentum went our way.”
North Branford dominated possession for most of the first half, but the Bears (17-2-1) came away with a one-goal lead at halftime.
Gabrielle Sturgeon sent a a ball toward Regan who made a save. But Cheryl Latona was there for the rebound and poked the ball into the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead with 9:16 left in the first half.
Ali Barrett had a pair of shots for the Thunderbirds in the first half. But Granby goalie Marita Conroy made a kick save each time.
In the second half, North Branford wasted no time tying the score and taking the lead.
Raucci scored with 20:32 to go in the second half to tie the game at 1. North Branford took a 2-1 lead almost three minutes later. Barrett took a high shot about 12 yards in front of the net. While the ball was in the air Galdenzi tapped the ball into the left corner with 17:02 to give the Thunderbirds the lead and the eventual win.
“I wasn’t sure it was going in when I hit the ball, but it was a great feeling when it did,” Galdenzi said. “When they took a lead, we weren’t too concerned. Our team is one big family and we trust each other on the field.
“We worked so hard for this title, it’s been our goal. When Amy scored our first goal to tie the game it was the turning point for us.”
Granby had three penalty corners the last 14 minutes of the game. Kari Marks had an open shot off one of the corners with 13:50 to go but Norton was there for the block and the clear.
Marita Conroy had six saves for the Bears.