CLINTON — One plus one equals two held special meaning for the North Branford field hockey team on Thursday in the fourth annual Shoreline Conference tournament championship game at Indian River Complex.
Amy Raucci, who wears No. 1, scored to end the first half and added a goal with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left in sudden death overtime to lead No.1 North Branford to a 2-1 win over No. 2 Valley Regional for the Thunderbirds’ second Shoreline Conference tournament title.
Raucci scored the game-winning goal off a penalty corner. Zelda Galdenzi sent a pass to a wide open Raucci at about the 40-yard line. With no Valley Regional players near her, the speedy Raucci bolted toward the Warriors’ net all alone on a breakaway. Valley Regional goalie Mia Cost took a few steps out of the goal as Raucci approached her. Raucci wristed a shot in front of the left post . She slipped and fell to the ground as the ball flew past Cost and into the net.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Raucci said after the game. “When I hit the ball and fell, I couldn’t tell if it went into the net. But when I heard our players and coaches screaming, that’s when I knew it went in and we won.
“This title isn’t just another title for the team. It validates all the hard work we have all done to work as a team. It validates our unbeaten regular season.”
North Branford improved to 17-0-1. It was the third time the Thunderbirds beat the Warriors this season (2-0 win Sept. 27, 4-2 win Oct. 20). Valley Regional falls to 10-4-3.
In the first half, the Warrirors took advantage of one of their five penalty corners to take a 1-0 lead. Annie Cooper blasted a shot off an assist from Riley Millburne for the one-goal lead with 10:15 to go in the half.
North Branford responded and tied the game at 1 thanks to a wild finish that saw the Thunderbirds take four penalty corners with no time left on the clock. On the fourth corner, Amy Raucci wound up for a hard shot about 12 yards from the net and sent the ball into the right corner for the goal and tie at halftime.
Both teams played solid defense in the scoreless second half, setting the wild finish in overtime.
“Early in the first half we rushed everything, we were rushing our shots,” North Branford coach Babby Nuhn said. “When Valley Regional scored, we started to play with more intensity. We settled down and started working more as a team.
“Valley Regional played a phenomenal game. But our girls worked hard. This game reflects how much they believe in one another and how everyone supports one another. That’s why this title is so special.”