GUILFORD — Defense was the name of the game in the Southern Connecticut Conference field hockey semifinal game between No. 1 Branford and No. 4 Guilford at Guilford High on Wednesday. While Guilford had its chances to score with 13 penalty corners, Branford was able to make one of its six penalty corners count.
Defender Sabrina Torcellini scored off a penalty corner opportunity with 15:03 to go in the first half and Erica Klarman had six saves as Branford hung on for a 1-0 win over Guilford.
Off the penalty corner restart there was a scramble for the ball in front of the Guilford net. LanLe Crotty got her stick on the ball and passed to Torcellini who sent the ball into the right side of the net for the score.
“When LanLe got the ball to me I kept my stick on the ball and just ripped it as hard as I could,” Torcellini said. “I saw the right side of the net was wide open so that that’s where I went with it.
“I never thought that goal would hold up against a very good team like Guilford. But to score the game-winning goal and to get to the final feels great.”
Branford advances to the final against No. 3 Hand on Saturday at Guilford High at 2 p.m. Hand defeated No. 2 Cheshire 3-1 in the other semifinal. The Hornets (15-2-0-1) advance to the final for the second straight year. Branford won its first SCC tournament title last season with a 2-1 win over Cheshire.
“That was a nailbiter,” Branford coach Cathy McGuirk said. “I was hoping, but I didn’t think that goal would hold up. Guilford is very fast, they are very well-coached and they have great players. But our kids played their hearts out tonight.
“There were a lot of great defensive plays, including from Sabrina Torcellini. But I’m not surprised she scored for us. She is the most intense person on the team. She is strong and determined. But the big key for us is we played as a team and all the players came through big time. It’s such a great feeling to get back to the final.”
The Indians (14-3-1) had their chances to tie the game with six penalty corners in the second half. Their best chance to tie came early on in the second half with 21:05 to go. Guilford’s Olivia Clarke had an open shot about five yards in front of the net. But Branford goalie Erica Klarman came up with the kick save to preserve the one-goal lead.
“I think when you get 13 penalty corners you have to score on one of them,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “Branford is very good at stopping the ball, but I didn’t think that one-goal lead would hold up. On the goal they scored, our goalie was screened and didn’t see the ball.”
Kathryn Donahey scored with 26:43 to go in the first half to give Hand a 1-0 lead and Sophie Schreck gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead with 28:49 to go in the second half.
“That second goal was huge because it gave us a bit of a cushion,” Hand coach Sue Leckey said.”But I was concerned the whole game because both our teams have speed and can score. It’s great to get to the final because it’s nice to have your players experience something like that, the joy of being in a championship.”
The Rams cut the lead in half when Megan Daly scored off a penalty corner to make it 2-1 with 25:15 to go.
“When we let in their first goal, it took a while to rebound from that early goal,” Cheshire coach Eileen Wildermann said. “But things can switch quickly in this game and we were able to cut their lead to 2-1. We had some momentum there but we just couldn’t get that next goal.”
Taylor Leckey, Sue Leckey’s daughter, added an insurance goal for the Tigers for the 3-1 final with 45 seconds left in the game.