MADISON >> In one of the most exciting finishes in a Southern Connecticut Conference girls lacrosse matchup this season, Hand sophomore Taylor Scully decided to take matters into her own hands late in the game against rival Branford.
With the score tied at 9, Scully forced a turnover on the left wing about 40 yards away from the Hornets’ net. She scooped up the loose ball and bolted toward goalie Sydnie Smith. As Scully sped across the front of the net, she sent the ball into the upper left corner with 25 seconds left in regulation to give Hand to a 10-9 win over Branford at Strong Stadium.
Scully led the Tigers with four goals, while Dory Howard and Riley Kokoruda each added two goals. Caitlyn Harvey had six saves. Carolyn Caminear led the Hornets with four goals and Smith had seven saves.
“The time was winding down in regulation and I knew I had to do something,” Scully said. “I checked the girl with the ball and when I had the ball I went toward the net. I saw a huge shooting space and I had to go for it. I wasn’t sure it would go in but when it did it felt great. I’m really pumped.
“This was a huge game for us against a very good Branford team.”
The outcome will have an impact on seedings and yet-to-be-decided matchups in the upcoming SCC tournament that begins with semifinals on May 24. Both teams have key SCC games to play this week. Hand improved to 14-1, 6-0. Branford fell to 12-2, 5-1.
“We were lucky to get out of there with a win against a very good Branford team,” Hand coach Kevin Siedlecki said. “They made us pay for our mistakes. We made four mistakes in a row in the second half and they scored and made us pay. Branford was also quicker to the ball on the draws and that’s a credit to Autumn McHenry.
“Jackie (Ceccolini) has done a great coaching job with Branford and has them playing great lacrosse. Taylor is a great athlete and she came up big at the end for us. She’s a scorer and a playmaker and I knew she could hit that (game-winning) shot.”
Caminear scored with 21:36 to go in the second half to give Branford a 6-5 lead. Hand responded with three unanswered goals capped by a Kokoruda goal with 17:37 to go for an 8-6 lead. But Branford continued to win draws as Caminear scored with 16:36 left and Sabrina Torcellini with 11:29 to go to tie the game at 8.
Hand looked in good shape when Howard gave the Hornets a 9-8 lead with only 4:25 to go. But 12 seconds later, after Branford won another draw, Erin O’Brien tied the game at 9 with 4:13 left in regulation.
With time winding down, enter Scully and her game-winning shot on goal.
“We had a couple turnovers in the game we’d like to have back,” Ceccolini said. “This was a great game that could have gone either way. Only positives can come out of this game. We look forward to facing them again in the postseason.”
Hand 10, Branford 9
Branford 5 4 — 9
Hand 4 6 — 10
Goals: (BR) Carolyn Caminear 4; Autumn McHenry 1; Erin OBrien 1; Sabrina Torcellini 1; Ashlee Smestad 1; Sophie Spencer 1; (HD) Taylor Scully 4; Riley Kokoruda 2; Dory Howard 2; Glenna-Kate Gies 1; Cameron Ruberti 1; Assists: (BR) LanLe Crotty 1; Ashlee Smestad 1; Sophie Spencer 1; (HD) Amanda Gentile 1; Cameron Ruberti 1; Saves: (BR) Sydnie Smith 7; (HD) Catie Harvey 6; Shots—BR: 15; HD: 17;
Team records—Hand 14-1; Branford 12-2.