MADISON — Despite dominating possession for most of the first half, it took 31 minutes into the second half for Hand to get on the scoreboard.
And when the Tigers finally got on the board, the goals kept coming.
Hand scored three times in the third quarter to take control Monday night in a 3-1 victory over Branford in a Southern Connecticut Conference field hockey game.
The Tigers (2-0) had the two best chances of the first half, but Branford goalie Nina Shamas steered them both aside with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“We were a little nervous in the first half, but we had a little pep talk at halftime,” said Hand’s Grace Goddard, who had two goals. “We decided to make more passes since the ball moves faster than people.”
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Hand coach Sue Leckey had to keep reminding herself it was scoreless in the first half.
“I kept on looking at the scoreboard, but I think we’re just so happy to be out here playing,” Leckey said. “All that matters is having a great time and having things work. We’re happy to be here together and we’re learning.”
Hand finally got on the board just over a minute into the third quarter when Shea Docker fed Goddard with a pass in front of the net and she converted it into a 1-0 edge for the hosts.
But that lead didn’t last very long at all. A cross field pass from Lenora Longway to Andrea Amarante on the left doorstep of Hand goalie Megan Hart deadlocked things again at 1-1 with 12:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Hand went ahead for good three and a half minutes later when Grace Hartmann passed the ball across the field to Erin Patla, who banged the ball into the cage for a 2-1 Tiger lead.
“We started to shoot at the goal,” Leckey said. “We got a little more offensive but our defense got a little smarter to keep the ball up front.”
Hand got some insurance with 5:34 left in the third quarter when Patla fed Goddard in the middle in front of the cage for her second goal of the night.
“We thought this was going to be a doozy for us,” Goddard said. “Last year, we lost to Branford and we came into it so scared. But the whole team came together and I’m excited about that.”
Branford (0-2) had a couple of additional opportunities in the third quarter but couldn’t get the ball past Hart.
“We had a couple other chances, but then they threw in the two goals at the end to go up 3-1,” Branford coach Pete Frye said. “We don’t have much depth right now, but it’s coming. We played three freshmen and four sophomores in a big varsity game and we know there are things to fix.”
Hand outshot Branford 21-12.
Hart had eight saves for Hand, while Shamas stopped nine shots for the Hornets.