CHESHIRE — The Guilford field hockey team has been one of the most dominant teams in the state the past two years.
On Tuesday, in a Class M semifinal game at Cheshire, the Indians showcased that dominance in every phase of the game in the first half. The dominance led to a 5-0 lead at halftime and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Ella Stanley finished with three goals and an assist and Maddie Epke added two goals and two assists to lead No. 1 Guilford to a 6-1 win over SCC rival and No. 5 Branford at Cheshire High.
“We wanted to come out strong today,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “We wanted to continue to do what we always do, especially against Branford. It’s important to get an early lead on a good team like Branford. It’s a good thing we scored early because they tested our defense in the second half.
“The thing with us is we have some outstanding forwards with Maddie Epke, Ella Stanley and Hannah Tillier. Games like this are very hard but we are blessed with some outstanding athletes. With those three forwards, you can stop two of them but you won’t stop all three. Mia Suchy had a great game on defense for us and our goalie Julia (McDonald) made a great save on their penalty kick.”
The defending Class M champion Indians (22-0) will face SCC rival and No. 7 Hand in the Class M final on Saturday at Wethersfield High (time to be announced). Hand beat Bethel 1-0 in overtime in the other semifinal.
Hannah Tillier scored 2 minutes, 59 seconds into the game to give Guilford a 1-0 lead. Stanley scored her first goal with 24:47 to go in the first half and added her second goal with 16:21 to go for a 3-0 lead.
Ava Bucci made it 4-0 with 11:53 to go and Stanley capped the first half scoring with a goal with 9:44 left in the half for a 5-0 lead.
“This was one of my better games today,” Stanley said. “It’s so exciting to get back to the final. It was important for us to score early in the first half because every day this game changes. Branford isn’t the same team we played in the regular season, teams get better and you need to prepare for that every day.
“We’re looking forward to playing Hand again. It’s always a fun game when we play.”
Branford’s best chance to score came with 20:25 left in the first half when Branford was awarded a penalty shot. Molly Zaffino took the shot but McDonald made a kick save to keep the Hornets off the board.
Branford became a little more aggressive on both sides of the ball in the second half.
After Epke scored with 11:05 to go in the game for a 6-0 lead, the Hornets would end the shutout. Zaffino scored off a scramble in front of the net with 5:09 to go to trim the Indians lead for the 6-1 final.
McDonald ended up with five saves and Gianna Messina had five saves for the Hornets.
Player of the game
Ella Stanley, Guilford: She had three goals and an assist to lead the Indians.
“It’s going to be fun playing Hand in the (Class M) final. Our games are always close.”
—Guilford coach Kitty Palmer
Guilford 6, Branford 1
Branford 0 1 — 1
Guilford 5 1 — 6
Scoring: First Half-G-Hannah Tiller 27:01; G-Ella Stanley (Cat Larrow) 24:47; G-Ella Stanley (Maddie Epke) 16:21; G-Ava Bucci 11:53; G-Ella Stanley 9:44. Second Half-G-Maddie Epke (Ella Stanley) 11:05; B-Molly Zaffino (Maggie Martin) 5:09. Saves-B-Gianna Messina 5; G-Julia McDonald 5. Records: Branford 13-7-0-1; Guilford 22-0.