WATERBURY >> In all three Class L state tournament games for the Branford girls’ soccer team, Tanya Altrui scored the go-ahead goal and the Hornets’ defense did the rest.
The defense posted its second straight shutout Monday night, this time over No. 2 seed Immaculate 1-0 at Municipal Stadium. That effort helped land No. 3 Branford (19-2-1) in its first state championship final.
“This means everything to us, all the hard work we put in from the summer until now,” said Altrui, who committed to play soccer at UConn. “As a team collectively, we are going for it.”
Said Branford goalkeeper: Becca Vitale” “This means everything.”
Awaiting Branford in Saturday’s L final is a familiar opponent — Guilford, the No. 4 seed. It will be a rematch of the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament final, won by Guilford 3-1.
“We are a blue-collar team. All we do is work hard,” Branford coach Jen Kohut said. “Every single day, they show up and have fun. They are so loose, such a great team.”
Said Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos: “I think they are very good. Tanya is very good, one of the better players I have seen. She is quick, fast.”
Saturday’s champion will also be the first for the SCC since Shelton captured Class LL in 2010.
While Branford was the higher-seeded team in tournament wins over Bristol Eastern and Wilton, Monday’s opponent knew plenty about state championships. Immaculate (17-2-2) won or shared the Class S title nine of the last 10 years.
The last time the Mustangs didn’t reach a final was in 2007.
“It’s an unfamiliar spot for us,” Mingachos said. “It’s been a great ride. We lost to a quality team. We had our chances. I thought in the second half we had chance after chance, but we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
The CIAC passed a rule in the off-season that any school that can draw from more than outside its own district and has been to the state quarterfinals the past three seasons must be moved up two divisions, hence Immaculate playing in Class L this season.
“Moving up two classes doesn’t help, but it is what it is. That’s their decision,” Mingachos said.
Cassidy McCarns played a nice through ball to the right side that Altrui beat Immaculate goalkeeper Ashley Houghton to. Altrui just dumped it into the empty net with 13:48 left before halftime.
“Cassidy played me a great ball,” Altrui said. “The keeper was out. She wasn’t even protecting the goal. I think she was going for the ball. I got there first.”
The Mustangs had some opportunities later in the half and in the second half as well. But defenders Jessica O’Connor, Alyssa Case and Hannah Milles, among others, were up to the task in front of Vitale.
Immaculate couldn’t make the equalizer on five shots and five corner kick opportunities in the second half. One of those corners came midway through the half when Natalia Diaz was taken down in the box area, but no penalty kick was awarded.
“She’s going in and she gets pushed to the side out of the way,” Mingachos said. “She was brought down, obviously it’s a PK. He’s not going to call it, so be it. But you know what? A penalty is a penalty. Make the call. Don’t change a game for something you don’t want to call. It’s in the rule book, make the call.”