The two schools are separated by six miles.
The two schools played for the Southern Connecticut Conference championship two weeks ago.
Now the two schools will play for the state title in the final match of the season.
No. 3 seed Branford and No. 4 Guilford square off in Saturday’s Class L state championship game at West Haven High at2 p.m. It’s the first appearance for Branford (19-2-1) in the final.
“For a program that has been overlooked? It means the world,” Branford coach Jen Kohut said. “And for our former players and the people in the community, it’s huge for Branford.”
Said Branford midfielder Emma Pottenger: “We realize that the SCC (tournament) is in the past and this is more important. We are excited.”
On Oct. 30, Guilford (20-2) scored three second-half goals to beat Branford 3-1 and claim the SCC title from the defending champion.
Both teams received first-round byes in the Class L tournament, then won three games to reach the final.
“I have a lot of respect for them,” Guilford coach Scott McMahon said about Branford. “They’ve been playing games close. They generally need just one or two (goals) to win games. They are tournament-tested.”
Last season, Guilford suffered some key injuries to its senior starters. Others had to step in and fill those roles and the Indians finished 6-10-2.
That experience and subpar record fueled this year’s run to the SCC title and to the Class L final.
“We had to get over our frustrations and come together to get the results we wanted,” Guilford midfielder Tori Loukakes said.
Guilford has a dominant group of midfielders, led by Julia Carr (19 goals, five in the tournament), that has yet to be stopped. Branford’s Tanya Altrui has been unstoppable as well, scoring 24 goals this season, including the game-winner in all three tournament games.
“It’s a blessing to be able to watch her play, someone so talented who works really hard,” Pottenger said.
If Guilford wins, it would be the eighth state title in program history, and first in a decade (co-championship with Farmington in 2003).
“There’s a lot of pressure on us because we beat them and people will assume we will do it again,” Loukakes said. “But every game is a new game. Any team can take it on any night. We need to work together for 80 more minutes to finally get this state championship win.”
The Hornets also need a complete game to bring home their first state championship.
“It comes down to composure for sure, and playing our game,” Kohut said. “If we are firing on all cylinders, we will be OK. I told the kids after that game (SCC final) that we played 60 minutes. We didn’t play 80 minutes. We need to play an 80-minute soccer game.”
CLASS L STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 3 BRANFORD (19-2-1) vs. No. 4 GUILFORD (20-2)
- When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
- Where: West Haven High
- Broadcast: NFHS Network
- Championship game appearances: Guilford is 7-2, its last appearance coming in 2003. This is Branford’s first appearance.
- What to look for: It’s a rematch of the Southern Connecticut Conference championship game, won by Guilford 3-1. The Indians scored all three of their goals in the second half. The Indians have scored 69 goals, led by Julia Carr with 19, including five in the tournament. Branford counters with 58, led by Tanya Altrui with 24, including the deciding goal in all three state tournament wins. Both defenses have been strong too: Branford has allowed just one goal in the tournament, Guilford three. Both teams preach patience and keeping collective composure when the game gets in the late stages. The one that handles it best will be crowned champion.
- You should know: Guilford’s last Class L title in 2003 was shared with Farmington, which Guilford eliminated in the second round this season.