Starting out your season playing against your chief rival in the next town over is usually not the most ideal of situations. But the Guilford girls soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better result.
Guilford took it to Hand, winning 5-0 at home. Moira Kellaher scored twice and Gabby Sansone had a goal and an assist. It was the most decisive result for either side in this rivalry during Guilford girls soccer coach Scott McMahon’s tenure here.
“It’s not a bad way to start for sure,” said McMahon, now in his 15th season. “We knew we had good talent last year, but we didn’t get the goals when we needed it, we gave up a goal when we couldn’t afford it. We didn’t give up more than two goals in any game until the final tournament game (lost to Newington 3-1 in the first round of the Class L state tournament.
Despite the six ties, the most McMahon said he has had, the Indians managed to win their sixth consecutive SCC Hammonasset Division title. Now with eight starters returning, expectations are higher for a program that hasn’t won a league or state championship since 2013.
“We had a little bit of success to hang our hats on, but we could not get by the Mercys or the Sheltons,” McMahon said. Shelton defeated Mercy for the SCC tournament title. “Every player on the field is a well-rounded player who controls the ball well and moves it well. We are not hiding anyone anywhere.”
The Indians do have seniors with seasoned experience up top (forward Lily Riccio had five goals and three assists last season), in the midfield (co-captain Gabi Garcia-Perez and Maria Jennings) and in the back (co-captain Madison Gambardella, Emma McSweet and goalkeeper Claire Mackenzie)
Add in junior Lexie Greene in the midfield and fellow classmate Taylor Gambardella in the back, and Guilford has enough to be a threat all season long.
Another good sign that three days after the Hand win, Guilford was able to go on the road and shut out Cheshire 1-0.
“Cheshire is a tough place to play. They are as much of a rival really over the past eight years as anyone,” McMahon said. “To come out with a win was really almost as good as the Hand game. We controlled much of the game.”
Friday’s 2-0 win over North Haven gives Guilford three straight shutouts — and already, the lone remaining team in the SCC not to allow a goal.
With Mercy (twice) rematches with both Hand and Cheshire and non-conference games against East Lyme and four-time Class S state champion Old Lyme, Guilford will continue to be tested.
“We need to develop a resiliency and a consistent toughness. We have to keep our chemistry going and trust each other,” McMahon said. “We may not see losses as much as we did last year, but we have to be able to handle them. Last year, we sort of crumbled at times when it came to a big game.”
Ashley knew right away when her youngest sister Allyson scored Coginchaug’s final goal last Wednesday against Westbrook.
“My thoughts when Ally scored was ‘All three Woodwards scored!” Ashley said. Ashley, the senior, scored twice, once in each half, and Alyssa, the sophomore, scored right before Allyson, a freshman, did in the second half.
“I thought that it was great to see that both of our starting defenses can still score if they really want to,” said Ashley, a forward. “I definitely thought that it was possible for all three of us to score in one game because we all have the skill to score. It is really just the determination, whether they want to score or not.”
While having all three sisters score in one game is a rare occurrence, sister combinations on the Coginchaug roster aren’t. Goalkeeper Claire DeFlora’s younger sister Katie is a forward on the JV squad, according to head coach Megan Kavanaugh. Sara DePonte is a senior member of the Blue Devils’ defense and her sister Jenna is a freshman midfielder on the JV squad.
“All of our family pairs are competitive with each other, while also supportive to each other, which adds a lot to our team,” Kavanaugh said.
Interestingly, two more players with the same last name — Noelle Sorenson and Bethy Sorenson — are not related. But there are two cousins on the varsity squad: forward Isabel Milardo and midfielder Sam Paul.
That many sister combinations on a girls soccer team is not totally uncommon. Plainfield had four of them last season, including a trio, and they contributed to a 20-3 mark and a spot in the Class M state championship game.
Those sister bonds are tight, even at times when they don’t always get along.
“All together I think we are a unique trio because we have a special bond that other teams don’t have,” Ashley Woodward said. “Yes, I like playing with my sisters because we all have a good amount of skill. We normally would all get along, but yes we are sisters, we do fight.”
Measure of revenge
Pomperaug was able to shut out Newtown 2-0 last Thursday in a rematch of the SWC tournament final won by Newtown. The two teams played to a 1-1 tie in the season opener on Sept. 12.
“Since we lost to them in the SWC final last year, this group had a lot to prove,” Pomperaug coach Jillian Cipriano told GameTimeCT. “It’s early in the season, but getting this win is huge for everyone. It gives us some momentum going forward.”
Weston was able to beat Watertown 3-0 after Watertown, the reigning NVL tournament champion, won the non-conference game at home 3-2. Weston was ranked No. 1 in the first Class M-S state coaches poll of the season.
Both teams reached the CIAC state semifinals last season: Watertown in Class L, Weston in M.