GUILFORD—Guilford field hockey coach Kitty Palmer has seen enough games in her day to get a sense of where momentum is swinging at any given moment.
On Tuesday against Southern Connecticut Conference rival Hand, early in the game Palmer could see the momentum swinging the Tigers’ way. They dominated on offense and Palmer wasn’t surprised when the Indians trailed 1-0. Despite the deficit, Palmer said falling behind was exactly what the Indians needed.
“That goal woke us up and got us going,” Palmer said.
The defending Class M champion Indians responded with four unanswered goals the remainder of the first half, including two by Ava Bucci, while Eve Young made 10 saves, including one on a penalty stroke, in a 4-2 win at Guilford High’s Kavanaugh turf field.
Although the Indians (6-0) have outscored opponents 35-3 this season, Palmer said the Indians need to work on their defense.
“After we scored the first two goals, things got back to normal for a while and you could see the momentum switch a little bit,” Palmer said. “But Hand outplayed us in the second half and we couldn’t score a goal. They had a lot of opportunities and that was because of our defense. We lost some key players on defense and it’s one area we need to work on.”
In the first half, with the Tigers putting constant pressure on Young, Carly-Anna Barba scored with 26 minutes, 33 seconds to go to give Hand a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take long before Bucci took advantage of the Indians’ first penalty corner of the game. She wristed a shot into the lower left corner of the net to tie the game at 1 with 22:31 to go in the half.
Bucci took advantage of a breakaway down the center of the field for the second goal. Hannah Tillier sent a pass to Bucci. Hand goalie Megan Hart came out of the net to make a kick save on the intial shot, but Bucci got the rebound and sent the ball into an open net for a 2-1 lead with 17:08 left in the half.
“Our momentum was off to start the game and we got a little nervous when they scored first,” Bucci said. “But after they scored we picked up our game and pushed hard on offense. Those two quick goals were the result of that. In the second half we didn’t execute and that gave Hand a lot of chances. Our goalie made some big saves for us.”
After assisting on the second goal, Tillier got a goal of her own to give the Indians a 3-1 lead with 7:03 to go. Guilford took advantage of another penalty corner when Maddie Epke hit a hard shot from about 10 feet in front of Hart. The ball went between Hart’s leg pad and the left post for a 4-1 lead with 1:04 left in the half.
After a strong pep talk at half time from coach Sue Leckey, the Tigers came out fired up and inspired in the second half. They had their chances with eight penalty corners and a penalty stroke.
With 1:05 gone in the second half, Hand was awarded a penalty stroke and Jacqui Sandor took the shot. Sandor blasted a shot that appeared headed for the upper left corner of the net. But Young stretched her right arm up as far as it could go and was able to swat the ball away.
Hand (5-3) was able to trim the Guilford lead to 4-2 when the Tigers were able to convert on one of their penalty corners. Amy Woods scored off a scramble when she chipped in a shot to make it 4-2 with 4:49 left in the game.
Hand typically uses two goalies in a game. Hart had three saves in the first half and Maddy Kilduff had three saves in the second half.
“We didn’t play tough enough defense today, especially in that first half,” Hand coach Sue Leckey said. “Guilford has speed and their players are skilled. They’re very talented. But we’ll learn from this. We have the pieces in place to have a very good season. We just need to work on some things and we need to do it quick because we have some tough games coming up.”
Hand hosts SCC rival Cheshire on Friday at 4 p.m. and on Saturday the Tgers host FCIAC power Darien at 3:30 p.m.