WALLINGFORD — Whenever the Guilford and Hand field hockey teams meet, the games are usually dominated by defense and on Tuesday in the CIAC Class M semifinals that trend continued.
The Indians were able to take advantage of one of their few quality opportunities when Celia Mariconda scored off a rebound with 7:58 to go in the second half to give No. 3 Guilford a 1-0 win over SCC rival No. 7 Hand at Phil Ottochian Complex at Lyman Hall High.
Hannah Tillier took the initial shot on goal for the Indians and Hand’s Karen Newton made the save. But the ball rebounded to Mariconda, who was at the right post. She wristed a shot that rolled into the lower left corner for the game-winning score.
“Hannah took a shot and punched it toward the net,” Mariconda said. “The goalie stopped it but the ball came right back to me and I hit it. The goalie went down after she made the initial save and I knew after I hit the ball it was going in.
“It was an amazing feeling when I scored, but it’s more amazing to be in the final.”
— GHS Athletics (@GHS_athletics_) November 14, 2018
The Indians improve to 18-2-1 and make their ninth appearance in a state tournament final. They won one title in 1997 when they were co-champs with Simsbury. Guilford will face SCC rival Sacred Heart Academy in the Class M final on Saturday at Wethersfield High at a time to be determined. No. 8 Sacred Heart Academy defeated No.4 Avon 1-0 in three overtimes in the other semifinal.
In the regular season Hand and Guilford played to a 1-1 tie and in the SCC tournament semifinals, Guilford won 2-0.
“This was tough, it’s always tough when you face a team for a third time in the same season,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “We knew it would be a defensive struggle. Hand played well and for most of the game we just couldn’t get the ball into the circle. I’m happy for our girls and I’m happy for Celia. She worked hard in the game and she worked hard all season for this moment.”
In the first half, most of the play was between the 30 yard lines with no shots on goal the first 20 minutes of the game. But both teams had one quality shot by the time halftime arrived.
— Dan Nowak (@NHRDanNowak) November 14, 2018
During a Guilford penalty corner, Janie Danahar took a shot about 10 yards out on the left wing. But Newton came up with a kick save with 8:45 left in the first half.
Jacqui Sandor had Hand’s best chance to score off a scramble in front of the net. But Guilford’s Eve Young came up with a kick save and cleared the ball away with 2:20 to go.
It was more of the same in the second half with both teams struggling to get off a quality shot on goal.
But Guilord’s third penalty corner in the second half provided the opportunity the Indians needed. There was a scramble for the ball in front of the net that led to Tillier’s initial shot and Mariconda’s game-winning shot.
“We thought this would be a defensive struggle and it was,” Hand coach Sue Leckey said. “They (Guilford) are playing with a lot of passion and we had to bring our highest level of passion to keep up with them. I’m proud of our girls, they all worked hard to get to this point.”
One of Hand’s best chances to tie the game came with 5:05 left in the second half. The Tigers (13-6-2) had a penalty corner and Erickson Richard took a shot. But Young made the save to preserve the 1-0 final.
Newton ended up with seven saves and Young had 8.
GUILFORD 1, HAND 0
HAND 0 0 — 0
GUILFORD 0 1 — 1
Goals: Guilford: Celia Mariconda (Hannah Tillier) 7:58.
Saves: Hand-Karen Newton 7; Guilford-Eve Young 8.