BRANFORD – The race for the best regular season record in the Southern Connecticut Conference is still up for grabs with both Branford and Guilford trying to nudge a little bit closer to top dog Cheshire.
And those two teams showed off their defensive skills Thursday night with Branford finally squeaking out a 1-0 overtime victory at the James MacVeigh Alumni Athletic Complex.
Kiersten Bjork ended up being the hero for the Hornets with 3:13 remaining in the sudden death overtime. She took a pass from Karly King and whacked the ball past Guilford goalkeeper Cami Makula for the game-winner.
“Karly put it right across and I flipped it over her stick and it went in,” Bjork said.
“Karly King is a freshman and knew what she had to do,” Branford coach Cathy McGuirk said. “She kept her stick on the ball and she didn’t panic. And Kiersten, bound and determined to score, put it in.”
Less than a minute and a half before Bjork’s winning goal, Guilford had a great chance to win it. The Indians got the ball just inside the circle and Branford goalkeeper Kiera Integlia raced out from the cage to make a pair of spectacular saves. Olivia Clarke took a shot and Teddi Stanley had a chance to flip it into the net, but Integlia got a glove on the ball before Britney Bunbanlu cleared it away from the cage.
“It was a one-on-one situation and my defender was back,” Integlia said. “I had to make a decision either let it go in or go hard and get that ball out.”
Guilford coach Kitty Palmer was disappointed to come to Branford and fall just short.
“We came in with a good team and a good plan,” Palmer said. “The girls played great but we just couldn’t get that rebound in. It’s an overtime loss, but it’s just hard to come here and lose.”
In fact, Guilford had possession of the ball for most of the second half, but was unable to get the ball past Integlia and the Hornets’ defense.
“From the second half on, we had so many good chances,” Palmer said. “I thought we had the better of the play for a while.”
During regulation, each team had one good chance to score.
Bjork was stopped by Makula, who dove on the ball as the two made contact around the cage. That came with 2:50 left to play in the opening half.
With 12:30 to go in regulation, Integlia used her left leg pad to knock away a blast from Clarke.
Branford (12-1) outshot Guilford (10-0-2-1) by a two-shot margin, 11-9.
“I’m happy how everyone played today,” McGuirk said. “It was a huge win. Kitty and I have battled for years, and here we are, a one-goal overtime win.”