Always a bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Both Guilford and Hand lacrosse teams know that feeling quite well over the last few years when it comes to the Southern Connecticut Conference championship tournaments.
On the boys’ side, Guilford has finished second to powerhouse Fairfield Prep in each of the last two seasons and hasn’t won the SCC championship since 2000. Meanwhile, the Hand girls’ team has been the runnerup to Cheshire in three of the last four springs after winning the title each year from 2007 to 2010.
Guilford finished 8-2 in the SCC and 11-9 overall before dropping an 8-5 decision to Fairfield Prep in the 2014 SCC final. It was a four-goal improvement over the year before when the Jesuits claimed a 13-6 victory.
“It’s been a combination of things,” said Guilford coach Brian White. “In 2013, Prep had six Division I kids. They were recovering from that a little from that last year, but they are the team to beat until someone proves otherwise.”
James Bright returns in goal for Guilford. He was the team’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore a year ago. He’ll get a lot of support on the offensive end from a trio of attackers who led the Indians in points in 2014. Junior Will Dacey had 41 goals last season, while senior co-captain Frank Ranfone added 40 goals.
Senior captain Charlie Molloy, along with junior defenseman and three-year starter Nate Tepley return. Also back to try and help Guilford to get to the top of the SCC are senior John Altieri, juniors Jack Jankura, Steven Page and Rob LoRicco and sophomore Shane Molloy.
“We had a lot of young kids last year, but they have to step up and do really well,” said White.
As for the state tournament, Guilford has reached the Class M quarterfinals in each of White’s 10 seasons at the helm, but the Indians have never been able to win that game to get to the semifinals.
In 2012, Guilford lost a classic four-overtime quarterfinal to Avon and to New Fairfield by a goal in 2013.
Last year, arch-rival Hand manhandled the Indians in the quarterfinals with a 16-4 win.
“We’ve been consistently there, but we’re trying to get over the hump,” said White. “It’s been a little bit of a curse.”
On the girls’ side, Hand finished 6-1 in the SCC and 14-6 overall before bowing to Cheshire. 13-7, in the league championship game. But Hand coach Kevin Siedlecki is hoping that the Tigers can get over that hurdle this spring.
“Cheshire has been a good team the last few years. Hopefully, this is the year we can finally knock them off, but it’s hard to say you’re the favorite when you haven’t won it in four years,” said Siedlecki. “Guilford is really strong and they return a lot. They aren’t where we were last year, but they gave us a couple good games last year. It’s a three-horse race between the three of us.”
Hand returns the two-headed monster of senior Lauren Cole and Erin Mammele. Cole has 190 career goals and as long as she stays healthy will become Tigers’ all-time leading goal scorer. Meanwhile, Mammele added 70 goals and Siedlecki said she is the best at the draw he’s had at Hand. Both are headed to Fairfield University to play lacrosse in college.
“Cole’s the finisher, but Mammele is invaluable all over the field,: said Siedlecki. “She sees the field well and is real all-around player.”
Lucy Edwards scored 30 goals as a sophomore, but missed the entire 2014 season with an ACL injury. She hurt her other knee, according to Siedlecki, hurt last Saturday and Siedlecki isn’t sure what the prognosis is. Also, goalie Emily Wargo returns with sophomore Katie Harvey a solid backup.
Besides the SCC, Hand could give the perennial powers such as New Canaan, Avon, Brookfield and New Fairfield in the Class M state tournament.
“New Canaan is our biggest hurdle,” said Siedlecki. “They’ve been head and shoulders above all the other programs. We gave them a real shot last year (an 11-7 loss in the quarterfinals). They return almost everything. and it depends on how our young kids develop. We’re inthe conversation and if we have a good day, we can give them a scare.”