Tanya Altrui scored with 8 minutes, 52 seconds left in regulation to give No. 2 seed Branford a 1-0 home win over No. 3 Mercy Monday evening in the tournament semifinals.
Branford (16-1-1), the Oronoque Division champion, will try to successfully defend its SCC crown on Wednesday night when it faces top-seeded Guilford in the final at 8 p.m. at East Haven. The last team to successfully defend its SCC title outright was Cheshire in 2005.
“I don’t think we were a shoo-in to get back here,” Branford coach Jen Kohut said. “Our seniors told the rest of them, ‘This is the way it goes.’ They like how it feels. They wanted to get back.”
Altrui made the Tigers (14-3-1) pay for their defensive miscue. Branford’s initial shot attempt by Jenna Vitale was blocked, but the Tigers failed to clear the ball.
“The ball ricocheted off a defender and I stole it,” Altrui said. “Then it was just me and the goalkeeper (Alyssa Morrisey).”
Morrissey never had a chance.
“The clear went right off of our defender right to (Altrui). That’s all it takes in soccer, no matter what level,” Mercy coach Marcus Harley said. “We were on her. She really didn’t have any opportunities except for that one shot on goal, so give her credit, she worked hard.”
Branford never allowed another shot after Altrui’s goal. It was the first game Mercy did not score in this season.
“Give them credit, they played hard, they play with high intensity,” Harley said.
In fact, it’s the fourth straight SCC tournament game that Branford had held its opponent scoreless.
“I think our defense was tremendous,” Kohut said. “Hannah Milles, a senior all-league player, really earned it today and Abby Milroy did a nice job. We have the speed on the outside with Jesse O’Connor and Alyssa Case, who both played well.”
The Tigers had four shot attempts in each half, some of which were legitimate opportunities to take the lead. But Branford goalkeeper Becca Vitale was up to the task, making five saves.
Mercy has yet to win the SCC title outright, sharing it once with Cheshire in 2003.
No. 1 Guilford 2, No. 5 Amity 0 >> Nikki Basilicato had a goal and an assist for Guilford in a SCC tournament semifinal home win.
Gabi Sejourne also scored for the Indians (16-2). Zoie Reed made nine saves for the Spartans (11-4-3).
Branford 1, Mercy 0
Mercy 0 0 — 0
Branford 0 1 — 1
Second half—BR: Tanya Altrui 71:08;
Shots—ME: 8; BR: 7;
Saves—ME: Alyssa Morrissey 1; BR: Becca Vitale 5;
Records—Mercy 14-3-1; Branford 16-1-1
Guilford 2, Amity 0
Amity 0 0 — 0
Guilford 0 2 — 2
Second half—GU: Gabi Sejourne (Nikki Basilicato) 54:00; Nikki Basilicato (Maddie Weil) 76:00;
Shots—AM: 7; GU: 17;
Saves—AM: Zoie Reed 9; GU: Emily Stephens 3;
Records—Amity 11-4-3; Guilford 16-2