WEST HAVEN >> Guilford coach Scott McMahon felt he didn’t have to change much from the last time the Indians faced Branford on Oct. 30.
In that game, Guilford scored three times in the second half to win the Southern Connecticut Conference championship. The stakes were much bigger on Saturday: a Class L state title was on the line.
The one thing McMahon wanted to make sure of was that Tanya Altrui, Branford’s top scorer, would not get any room to maneuver. His players followed the edict.
And thanks to a pair of goals from another McMahon — Scott’s daughter Julia — No. 4 seed Guilford beat No. 3 Branford 2-0 at West Haven High to win its first state title since 2003.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season from a better group of girls,” Julia McMahon said. “I had one goal all season. This is a special way to end it. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Said Scott McMahon: “My daughter is a senior on this team, so it gave me a personal connection to this group. I’ve known them since they were 5, 6 years old. Being a part of this, I know it will hit even harder later, but it is an amazing feeling for this group of girls.”
Altrui, who made a verbal commitment to play soccer at UConn, had the deciding goal in each of Branford’s three state tournament wins en route to Saturday’s final. She accomplished that — like many of the 24 she scored this season — while facing double- and triple-teams.
“We would always have another person with her, to stick with her whichever way she turned,” Julia McMahon said.
But Guilford (21-2) was up to the task on a defense led by Tori Loukakes. Altrui was not able to get anything going.
And no one else from the Hornets (19-3-1) was able to put one past Guilford goalkeeper Emily Stephens.
“The only adjustment we said was try not to let Tanya turn, be on her back so she couldn’t turn on us, and that wasn’t necessarily different than what we were doing in the SCC final,” Scott McMahon said. “I don’t think she had one shot on us. When you have a team that can dictate what they want to do defensively and offensively, this is what happens.”
Meanwhile, Guilford kept hitting posts and crossbars on shot attempts in the first half. Then exactly 5 minutes into the second half, the Indians broke the scoreless deadlock.
Julia Carr’s free kick banged off the crossbar to the turf. McMahon was in front of the net and knocked it past goalkeeper Becca Vitale.
Guilford easily could have added a few more goals if not for Vitale. She stopped a shot from point-blank range and had to jump to make some other saves, not to mention all of the runs she thwarted before they became scoring opportunities.
“My left-footed (free kick), I saw it going in, then at the last second, (Vitale) was there,” Carr said. “I was like, ‘Where did she come from?’ She was so good.”
Julia McMahon scored her second goal with just 27 seconds left.
It was the eighth state title for Guilford while it was Branford’s first appearance in a final.
“They had the best year ever in Branford girls soccer history,” Branford coach Jen Kohut said. “We were one of the last two teams standing. We didn’t come out on top, but you know, we worked hard to get here.”