GUILFORD >> Just 12 days earlier, it took two overtimes for a single goal to be scored before Guilford beat Hand in the Southern Connecticut Conference field hockey tournament.
That certainly wasn’t the case Thursday night.
Guilford and Hand exploded for seven goals and the fourth-seeded Indians staved off their archrivals with a 4-3 CIAC Class M quarterfinal field hockey contest at Kavanaugh Field.
Guilford (16-3-0-1) will meet another SCC rival in eighth-seeded Lauralton Hall in the Class M semifinals either Tuesday or Wednesday (Nov. 15-16) at a site and time to be determined.
It’s the farthest Guilford has gotten since the Indians were beaten by Wilton, 3-0, in the 2012 Class M championship game.
“We don’t want to stop with this team,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “This is a quality team throughout the ranks.”
But Palmer and her Indians had some anxious moments down the stretch. After Olivia Clarke scored an insurance goal with 2:28 left to play, Hand put a ton of pressure on the Guilford defense.
It paid dividends with 50 seconds remaining when Jacqueline Sandor pulled Hand within a goal. The Tigers had a couple more chances, but Guilford finally cleared the ball out of its end and ran out the clock.
“It was exciting,” Palmer said. “I was just hoping at the end we could get it to our offense and take it down the field.”
Hand struck the first blow just over 5 minutes into the game when Taylor Leckey put the Tigers ahead with a shot from the left side that went past Guilford goalie Cami Makula.
That lead lasted all of 93 seconds. Off a corner, the ball went into the scramble in front of the net, where Clarke got her stick on it and put the ball into the lower right part of the cage past Hand goalie Kylie Gargiulo.
Five minutes later, Emily Torre got her stick on a rebound and put it in the cage to give Guilford the lead for good. Another 5 minutes later, Clarke dribbled up the right side and flicked a shot into the middle. The ball went to Celia Mariconda, who passed to a wide open Bryce Makula on the left side of the cage. Makula put the ball into the cage with 12:53 left in the first half to give Guilford a 3-1 lead the Indians took into the break,
At halftime, Hand coach Sue Leckey told her Tigers to just play their game.
“I told them we had a whole half to go and put the ball in the net,” Leckey said. “I felt we could come back. We scored two goals in the second half, but they scored the fourth.”
Hand did just that, putting enormous pressure on the Guilford defense throughout the second half. The Tigers cashed in when Erickson Richard put a shot past Makula to make it 3-2 with 27:31 to go in the game.
It remained that way until there was 2:28 to go. On the corner, the ball got loose behind Hand’s defense and Clarke found herself with the ball at the Guilford 40-yard line with four teammates on a 5-on-none breakaway. She raced down the field and put the ball in the cage for what ended up being a key insurance goal.
“They are a strong team and they have an excellent player in Olivia,” Leckey said. “It seems funny that we played them twice, but it took us a while to figure them out.”
“I never had a breakaway before from the 40-yard line to the goal,” Clarke said. “I was by myself until the goalie punched my legs out. My stick and hand were already out, hitting the ball.”
“The offside wasn’t covered, but when you keep trying to keep track of Olivia, it takes you out of your game,” Sue Leckey said. “Good players like her do that to teams.”
It was the third time in 19 days that Guilford had beaten Hand. Guilford took a 3-0 victory on Oct. 22, before the 1-0 double overtime SCC thriller on Oct. 29.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Clarke said. “We weren’t cocky, but we knew we had to come out and play like we never played them before.”
Hand finished its season at 9-8-2.