There must be something in that Long Island Sound water.
Three of the six finalists in the CIAC Class L, M and S championship games on Saturday at Wethersfield High are teams from schools in the New Haven area’s shoreline. No. 4 Guilford plays in its ninth state final against defending champion and No. 7 seed New Canaan at noon. Familiar Shoreline Conference foes Westbrook, the No. 1 seed, and No. 3 Haddam-Killingworth will meet in the Class S championship at 2 p.m.
Since a 4-1 loss to Lauralton Hall on Oct. 5, Guilford has gone 10-3 with a strong balance of scoring and defense. On Wednesday, in a rematch with the Crusaders in the Class M semifinals, the Indians’ defense showcased its talent, countering a dominant Lauralton Hall offense that outshot the Indians 12-3.
Guilford goalie Cami Makula made 12 saves and the on-field defense cleared four prime opportunities off penalty corners.
“Our team MVP has been our goalie Cami Makula, one of our hard-working co-captains,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “But the real team strength all season has been the amount of effort that each player puts into every play.
“We may not execute, but so far they never have disappointed me in how much they give to make the right play.”
Olivia Clarke, the team’s top scorer and one of the top playmakers with 21 goals and eight assists, made the right play to set up the game-winning goal in the semifinals. She took the ball near the 50 yard line, bolted down the right wing, weaving around three Lauralton Hall players. She spotted a wide open Celia Mariconda in front of the net, chipped the ball to her and Mariconda wristed a shot to lead Guilford to a 1-0 win.
The Indians have outscored opponents 70-19 this season. In addition to Clarke and Mariconda (11 goals, two assists), Julia Ellman (five goals, 11 assists), Bryce Makula (seven goals, five assists) and Teddi Stanley (five goals, six assists) are other top scorers for the Indians.
While Cami Makula leads the defense between the pipes, among the top on-field defensive players are defenders Mallory Peters, Kendra Luden, Mia Stebbins and Emily Torre and midfielders Ellman and Stanley.
“Along with Rhiannon Zergiebel, Marietta DeJulio, Meg Reynolds and Teddi’s sister Ella Stanley, we have a good group that has performed well,” Palmer said. “To beat New Canaan we have to block up the middle of the field well. Against Lauralton, we had to be aware of the wings.
“This game, the center is important, where we have great strength. We also need to limit defensive corners because New Canaan is very dangerous. We owe a lot to our SCC opponents, who have tested us all season. That has made us tougher, and hopefully we’ll bring it home for them and Guilford.”
Westbrook coach Janet Dickey said experience, team development and a deep bench is a reason the Knights (19-1-1) have gone from four wins last season to Class S finalists this season. They have one other state final appearance and won the Class M title in 1975.
“I am pleasantly surprised at our success and playing in the final,” Dickey said. “I had no doubt that we had the skills to pull off a great season but this one has been amazing. We need to stick to our game plan and execute as a team in order to put ourselves in a good place to win on Saturday.
“I think it’s great we have three shoreline teams in the final, our area is completely overlooked by the rest of the state,” Dickey said. “The powerhouse league of the FCIAC and the Class L schools have dominated most of the finals as well as the Coaches Poll for years. I have never doubted that we play in just as competitive an area.”
Haddam-Killingworth (16-3-1) makes its 10th state final appearance with three Class S titles.
The defense is led by goalie Abbie Bagnoli and the offense is led by Bella Cosenza, Celia Payfa and Brinley Anderson.