WETHERSFIELD — The Guilford field hockey team has a long winning tradition under the guidance of veteran coach Kitty Palmer.
In 2018, the winning was taken to another level thanks to a perfect storm of talent — a combination of athleticism, speed, experience and depth at every position – that produced a special championship season.
On Sunday, Hannah Tillier, Ella Stanley and Celia Mariconda scored to lead No. 3 Guilford to a 3-1 win over SCC rival and No. 8 seed Sacred Heart Academy in the CIAC Class M championship game at Wethersfield High’s Cottone field.
It is the second state title for the Indians (19-2-1), but the first won outright. Guilford had been co-champs in Class L with Simsbury in 1997.
Guilford entered the M tournament after winning the SCC tournament title with a 3-1 win over Cheshire.
“It was a nail biter tonight,” Palmer said. “Sacred Heart Academy, they were very good on defense. When we got our first goal near the end of the first half, it helped a lot. It was great to get that one because it helped give us some momentum in the second half.
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“To win the SCC tournament and now to win this title outright in the same year, in my 38 years as coach I have to say this is a dream season. My three forwards (Tillier, Stanley and Mariconda) came through for us. But this was a special season for the entire team where we had good speed, athleticism and talent evenly spread out. The ability to do this was there.”
The Sharks’ tough defense, led by goalie Kyleen Crowe and her 20 saves, limited Guilford’s opportunities, despite the Indians dominating ball possession throughout the game. Coach Jackie DeFrancesco said the loss did not take away from the special season for the Sharks, who made their first appearance in a state final.
“Guilford was all over the place, but we stayed disciplined in the circle,” DeFrancesco said. “Going into the game, even though Guilford beat us in the regular season and SCC tournament, our girls had the confidence they could beat them. When it was 1-0 at the half, we knew it would be a fight to the end.
“Overall it was a great season for us and our players can say they were here in a state final. Our girls played their hearts out and I’m so proud of them,.”
Guilford dominated ball possession in the first half and the Sacred Heart Academy defense did its best to keep the game scoreless for nearly 29 minutes. But a rebound opportunity gave the Indians the opportunity they needed to score first.
Tillier got a rebound about five yards in front of Crowe. She one-timed a shot inside the left post to give Guilford a 1-0 lead with 1:05 left in the half.
“The game was tight at that point and scoring that goal really gave us some momentum to push forward,” Tillier said. “It’s been an incredible season. But more than that it’s the best feeling in the world because we did this for Kitty, we all love Kitty. She’s the best coach I ever had.”
In the second half, Guilford continued to pressure Crowe who continued to come up with impressive saves early on. But Stanley was able to get an insurance goal off a scramble for the ball with 8:35 to go and Mariconda added another off a penalty corner to make it 3-0.
The Sharks (12-8-1) finally got the quality shot they were yearning for when Jianna Cohrs scored off a scramble with 4:34 to go for the 3-1 final.
Eve Young had six saves for the Indians.