By Justin Cait
HAMDEN, Oct. 28 -- The Hamden Hall varsity girls volleyball team lost its two-match win streak in a three-set sweep on Saturday afternoon against St. Luke’s at home.
A crowd of well over 100 filled the Beckerman Athletic Center in Hamden, not only for the volleyball game, but for Hamden Hall’s “Dig Pink” game in support of breast cancer awareness.
Pink balloons, breast cancer awareness logos and even a pink table for a raffle, adorned the gym, while fans wore pink clothing and players from both teams sported pink socks, headbands, hair ties and warm-up shirts.
The event wasn’t held just because of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but due to a close connection in the Hamden Hall volleyball community.
“Our JV coach was diagnosed with breast cancer, so we thought it would be a nice thing to raise money,” senior hitter Katherine Liseo said. “We set up something online with the Side-Out Foundation and our goal was to reach $1,000. We did a raffle and have been raising money with grandparents, parents and all sort of people from the volleyball team to get to our goal.”
In the game’s first set, St. Luke’s (9-3) quieted the crowd with a commanding 25-17 victory.
While Hamden Hall’s (6-7) defensive efforts kept the Hornets within arm’s reach of the Storm, it was not enough to earn a victory in the match.
As the game progressed, it seemed as though Hamden Hall was poised for a pushback.
Despite St. Luke’s senior Bridget Dalton earning the first kill of the second set, Hamden Hall played catch-up through the first 16 points of the match. The game temporarily shifted after Hornets senior hitter Cassi Smith tied the game at 8-8 with a kill, but from there on out it was all St. Luke’s.
The Storm’s back line was able to dig virtually every ball sent its way, while Dalton and senior hitter Courteney Newman added multiple kills to increase the lead to 19-10. Hamden Hall senior hitter Miangela Ramos finally stopped St. Luke’s run, but a subsequent errant serve gave possession back to the Storm.
In that possession, senior setter Maria Minuesa landed six consecutive serves to pave way for a 25-11 set victory.
“Where we got stuck was with a couple of servers and on serves received,” Hamden Hall head coach Nally Sahin said. “Just some miscommunication here and there.”
The Hornets’ strong defensive play was evident from the start of third set.
Highlighted by a huge block from freshman hitter Asha Parker, Hamden Hall went up 6-2 to begin the final frame before St. Luke’s clawed back.
Back-and-forth play ensued until Storm head coach Abby Bielski called a timeout when the score was 13-11 in favor of Hamden Hall.
After the huddle, multiple kills from Dalton and perfectly placed serves from Minuesa led to a 21-14 St. Luke’s lead and Hamden Hall’s eventual demise.
Sahin called a timeout of her own at that point, but it was too late.
A pair of errant plays from Parker allowed St. Luke’s to remain on top as it ultimately closed out the set, 25-14 and the match, 3-0.
“For the most part we were fighting in every game, so I thought it was a pretty good battle” Sahin added. “We’re going to keep adjusting that rotation so we can get that chemistry down pat.”
Next up, the Hornets travel to Waterbury to face Chase Collegiate on Nov. 1.
By Ryan Spitz
HAMDEN, Oct. 11 -- Green Farms Academy came dressed in all white road uniforms on a perfect autumn day at Hamden Hall Country Day's Beckerman Athletic Center. However, a more appropriate attire might have been all black, as the team attended a funeral for Hamden Hall’s hopes and dreams of a victory from the opening minutes.
When the last shovel of dirt had been emptied, the defending state champion Dragons left with a 5-2 win.
“Green Farms (6-3-1) is one of the more experienced teams in the league,” Hamden Hall coach Douglas Cunningham said. “We competed well today and fought back, but overall the score was 5-2 and it wasn’t enough.”
The Hornets (1-5) were outmanned and undersized compared to the well skilled and organized Dragons. This showed as early as the five minutes into the game as the Dragons' sophomore midfielder Charlie Benson came up with the ball off a deflected corner kick and lofted a pass over the middle of the box to sophomore striker Kyle Merzon, who stuck the ball into the back right corner of the net for the game’s first goal.
Continuing their dominant play, the Dragons came right back two minutes later and scored off a penalty kick from senior striker Ian Lee.
Lee, an experienced player and a part of the Dragons’ 2016 Connecticut Prep Class S Championship team, took advantage of poor positioning and inexperience from the Hornets’ freshman centerback Johar Varma to draw the penalty shot.
Varma’s and the team’s overall inexperience played a major role in the team’s poor first half performance.
“We are so inexperienced that we go into games tentative in the first half, and always look to counterpunch and against good teams we can’t do that,” Cunningham said.
Despite a possession battle in the midfield that consumed the rest of the first half, the Dragons tacked on one more goal on before halftime when a lofted pass in the open field beat Varma and landed perfectly on the toes of the Dragons’ senior striker Nick Attai, who knocked it past Hornets’ senior goalkeeper Trevor Baer.
With a dominant first half, the Dragons did not seem to take the pressure off as they added another goal three minutes in from Merzon again. Merzon received a through pass, from Benson, that found its way past the Hornets’ defensive line right onto Merzon’s foot, allowing him to tap it past Baer for a goal.
The exciting offensive performance early on was a good sign for the Dragons , who were looking for a break-out performance on that end of the pitch.
“We’ve been trying to get to this point, because the seniors we lost last year we basically our whole offense,” Green Farms Academy head coach Chris Mira said. “We’ve kept a solid defense and midfield and now the offense is finally there.”
However, with minimal time remaining, the pace of the game changed and the Hornets began to take over offensively.
The Hornets’ senior striker Donte Berberna scored two late goals and another off of a rebound allowed by Dragons senior goalie Henry Holzinger.
However, the Dragons tacked on a late goal making the final score 5-2 and complete the blowout.
“Our defense did not let Hamden Hall get into a rhythm and we controlled the midfield,” Mira said. “This allowed our offense to create chances, and I honestly thought we could have scored even more goals today.”
The Hornets look to rebound in their next game against Chase Collegiate on Friday, while the Dragons hope to continue their momentum Friday against The Masters School.
By Randy Del Valle
HAMDEN, Oct. 10 – Hamden High striker Emmanuel Yeboah scored three goals to lead the Green Dragons to a 4-1 win over Lyman Hall. After losing to the Trojans 5-2 in September, Hamden finally got revenge on Lyman on Tuesday in a non-league bout.
Hamden improved to 5-4-3 on the year, while Lyman Hall (6-4-1) lost its second game in a row.
Yeboah got his first goal in the final minute of the first half when he dribbled by defenders, crossing them up, before taking the shot that went in. It gave Hamden a 2-0 lead.
He scored two more times in the second half.
With 11 minutes to play, Yeboah completed the hat trick, scoring his third goal by getting by two defenders. He took the shot left of the net and the ball went under the legs of one defender going into the net.
“I feel really happy, because I wanted to help the team so that we could move forward and win trophies and win states,” Yeboah said after the game.
Hamden assistant coach Matt Gilmore said, “He’s a fantastic player, he’s just so composed. Today he got the goals, which is something that will be great for his confidence and he just played really well."
It was a physical first half as the teams combined for 12 fouls, including three yellow cards. The first yellow card happened in the 18th minute of the match when Lyman Hall defender Sabastian Gonzalez slid and tripped Yeboah inside the box on a breakaway.
Jordan Pattavina took the penalty shot. He ran and hit the ball, shooting it to the left aimed at the net. Goalkeeper Andrew Mastroianni dived to the left going for the save, but failed to make the save as the ball just got by Mastroianni for a goal. Hamden High took the lead 1-0 midway through the first half.
Hamden dominated Lyman Hall in the first half taking 13 shots with seven of the shots on goal.
The Trojans had no answer to the Green Dragons attack as Yeboah and Pattavina took repeated shots at Mastroianni.
Gilmore thought the team was much more prepared for Lyman Hall this time around.
“We came into this game with the mentality that we had to win it, I think we were a bit too complacent going into that early game and being prepared, wanting a little bit more in this game.” Gilmore said.
Lyman Hall head coach Arnie Jandreau thought his team’s injuries and shot selections were two key reasons why it struggled this time against Hamden High.
“We have three defenders hurt right now and it’s a huge difference right now. I had one of them that didn’t even play at all,” Jandreau said. “We tried to shoot the ball too far outside and the guys their heads were down on the ball, they weren’t just going through the space.”
Next up for Hamden High they face off against Notre Dame at 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 13, looking to extend its winning streak to three games. Lyman will play Foran on Friday.
By Tim Swinarton
HAMDEN, Oct. 11 -- Hamden Hall Country Day School senior captain Lexi Cornacchia bobbed, weaved and dribbled her way through every hole in The Westover School’s defense to lead her team to a 2-1 victory.
When she got the ball, one instinctively knew she was heading to the net.
Cornacchia, a center midfielder, led the charge for Hamden Hall’s shifty offense, scoring both of her team’s two goals. She opened up the scoring with 7:25 left in the first half the of game. After receiving a pass near the center circle she cut and dodged her way through numerous Westover players before rifling a shot just over the keeper’s head.
However, the game started out far slower with Hamden Hall (2-4-2) controlling the field. The Green Hornets fired 10 shots on the Westover keeper but were only able to convert one, all while holding Westover to just one shot on net. Their lone shot was swallowed up by senior goalkeeper Miranda Lannone.
Lannone, despite seeing minimal action in goal, was calm and cool on the field taking up a quarterback role from the net. When she wasn’t chasing down a loose ball or making a pass on a dime, she called out plays, helping her teammates find open holes in the defense -- all traits that most likely contributed to her committing to play for Cornell University next year.
After the half, Hamden Hall came out out stronger, dominating the offensive half of the field.
Hornets coach Chuck Savi said, “We were sloppy in the first half… we were playing to far out wide, there was a lot of room in the midfield and once we started connecting passes with our key three players we really got things going.”
The offensive changes led to a dominant 20 minutes of play with Hamden Hall outshooting Westover, 9-1.
Hamden Hall created more plays, got more balls to the middle and opened up high percentage scoring chances.
Hamden Hall’s second tally came late in the second half on a throw-in from its own defensive end.
Senior outside back Gia DiRubba threw the ball to Cornacchia up the sideline. Cornacchia then ran the ball through the entire Westover team before scoring her second goal of the night.
Like her coach, Cornacchia felt exposing the open space in the middle helped increase the team’s scoring chances.
She said, “We decided to stop trying to look wide because there was so much space in the center, we started playing the ball to our forwards feet and then getting it back to the center… which is why we won.”
Westover’s only goal came late in the second half on a crossing play to Junior midfielder Caroline Broude’.
Broude’ received a pass across the center and snuck it past the Hamden keeper Lannone? as she ran out out of net to attempt to stop the shot. However, the effort came too late with only 13 minutes left in regulation time.
The 2-1 win was a nice present for coach Savi who celebrated his 40th birthday on the sidelines.
“I tried to keep it from the girls. When they asked how old I was turning, I felt like saying 39,” he joked after the game.
Hamden Hall returns to action Saturday, Oct. 14 against the Williams School.
BSOC: Hamden High continues its push toward the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Sheehan
By Scott De Bell
HAMDEN, Oct. 5 -- The Hamden High Green Dragons (4-4-3) had many goals at the start of the season, but making the postseason was at the top of that list. With their 4-1 win over Sheehan, they are closer to that goal. Hamden defeated the Sheehan Titans 4-1 on Thursday afternoon. With the victory the Green Dragons are getting closer to earning a postseason bid.
Coming off a 3-0 loss to Hand in its previous game, Hamden (4-4-3) could not have asked for a better start to the game. Four minutes in, senior forward Emmanuel Yeboah used strong defensive pressure to find his own offense. He caused a turnover from the Sheehan defense and scored into the bottom left corner of the goal. This put the Green Dragons up 1-0 and they never looked back.
Hamden scored two more goals -- one by Yeboah, the other by senior midfielder Jordan Pattavina -- and found itself 3-0 up within the first 10 minutes of the game.
Even though the Green Dragons dominated the game early, head coach Ralph Romano complimented Sheehan (1-7-1) on its fight for the rest of the game.
“Anytime you get a goal in the first couple of minutes it changes the mentality of the other team, sometimes you can put your head down and go through the motions for the rest of the game, but I feel that they really didn’t do that,” said Romano.
Sheehan answered with good chances to score not just after the first 10 minutes, but also throughout the rest of the game. The team found success through set pieces, which set up a couple of solid chances to score.
“We had ample opportunities. We missed a penalty kick, and we missed two clear chances in the first half,” Sheehan head coach Lou Rodriguez said. “We stress free kicks a lot, we put at least 15-20 minutes over the course of a practice, so we do practice it a lot.”
Hamden senior goalkeeper Marcus Anthony Carrington attempted to defend those set pieces from Sheehan. He says that the way they set up for them is what makes them tough to defend.
“They had three or four players on me and it’s kind of tough because you can’t move, and we also had people marking them and that was even harder for me, but we were able to fight through it and keep a clean sheet in the first half,” Carrington said.
Hamden has an important stretch of games coming up in the next couple of weeks. Three games against three league teams can be the difference between receiving a bid to the postseason and not receiving one. Carrington said that if the Green Dragons play their game, they will be in a good position to reach their initial goal.
“We can beat any team but we just have to put our mind to it, play well, play our game,” Carrington said.
Hamden continues its push towards the postseason against Lyman Hall at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 10. Sheehan continues its season at 3:45 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Volleyball: Balanced attack leads Hamden High to victory, but Shugrue isn't satisfied
By Dan Bahl
HAMDEN, Oct. 5 -- On the scoreboard, the match may have been over early. But the deficit didn’t change how Hamden High coach Patricia Shugrue executed her game plan. And, if Shugrue is fully entrenched in the game, you can bet that her team is, too.
Hamden controlled play throughout the match Wednesday night, racking up 12 aces en route to a 3-0 win against West Haven, winning each set by scores of 25-14, 25-12 and 25-15, respectively.
Hamden moves to 11-1, and Shugrue recognizes that it takes an entire team to elevate a program to this level of success.
“The team chemistry is there for them,” said Shugrue. “That’s one thing I enjoy watching with them -- they stick together, the work together, they fight.”
Hamden got off to a strong start in the first set, taking leads of eight and nine points before ultimately winning the set 25-14. Senior Tyra Smith paced the Hamden offense throughout the set, accumulating two kills and three blocks.
“I think our teamwork and communication pushed us to do as (well) as we did today,” Smith said.
Hamden’s dominant play continued into the second and third sets as Smith finished the game with 10 kills. Senior setter Sophia Flanders added 26 sets.
Smith realizes the importance of every game and works with her fellow seniors to set the tone of each match.
“We try to pick them up and motivate them to keep talking, keep making their passes to the setter, keep hitting,” Smith said.
Shugrue echoed this statement and her sideline demeanor showed it.
From the first serve of the game until the final point, she was straight-faced, arms crossed, showing her team that this is no time to quit.
“Sometimes they need to be reminded (to stay focused),” Shugrue said. “Sometimes they need to just look over, (and see my) arms crossed and my face and they know that I’m not happy with them.”
With the loss, West Haven falls to 2-9.
Hamden’s constant offensive pressure dominated West Haven, as the Blue Devils lost a number of points on aces from the Green Dragon servers. They fell behind early and never mounted a comeback.
“We didn’t run enough offense and score enough points,” Kate Coldren said. “We played a lot of defense. We couldn’t be aggressive enough to score points.”
Senior setter Megan Patterson led the West Haven offense as she put up three assists and two aces. She scored seven of the Blue Devils’ total points. Having been with the program for four years, Patterson recognized what has been going wrong for her team.
“I think we can stay focused and talk better,” Patterson said, “We don’t shake off our mistakes right away and we need to start doing that.”
The Green Dragons head out on the road as they play Wilbur Cross in a nonleague match on Friday, while the Blue Devils travel to Mercy High School to play the Tigers on Friday.
Hamden looks to extend its winning streak to eight matches, while West Haven will try to break a four-match skid.
“We just need to carry our momentum,” Shugrue said. “The competition in the second half of the season is always more and we need to continue to stay focused and never take any team lightly.”
“They didn’t give up,” Coldren said of her West Haven team, “It was good to see the energy and them not getting down on themselves and working together as a team.”
By Dan Bahl
HAMDEN, Oct. 10 -- With the student section’s boisterous chants and the parents’ encouraging cheers raining down from the bleachers, and their rival from just down the street in the building, it seemed like the perfect storm for the Green Dragons to come away with an upset.
The Rams, however, had other things in mind.
Paced by a four-ace, three-kill performance from junior Elena Piran, Cheshire defeated Hamden Tuesday at Hamden High School in straight sets, 25-15, 25-16, 25-20.
The two teams jockeyed for the lead during the first set with Hamden evening the score at 11 apiece on a kill by junior outside hitter Maya Epps and an error by Cheshire’s Meagan Clyne. The Rams responded strongly, however, and the Green Dragons would manage just four more points in the set.
“Cheshire is pretty much one of the hardest teams that we face on our schedule,” said Hamden coach Patricia Shugrue. “(Cheshire) has a lot of strong hitters, and we’re not really used to that.”
Cheshire’s strong hitters picked up where they left off in the second set, tallying seven kills. That, in conjunction with a serving attack that racked up five aces, was too much for Hamden to handle as Cheshire took a 2-0 lead headed to the third set.
The third set followed a similar pattern, with Hamden taking a 13-12 lead on an ace from senior Faythe Johnson. Cheshire once again turned up the pressure, jumping out to a 24-16 lead, and needing just one point to win the match.
Unlike the first two sets, however, Hamden started to mount a comeback. The Green Dragons put up four straight points to close the deficit to 24-20, and the energy in the Hamden High School gym was palpable.
“They’re a really loud team,” Piran said. “We need to learn this from them.”
In the end, Cheshire was – once again – too much to handle, as a carry from Hamden’s Lauren Dooley sealed the victory for the Rams.
The difference between the two teams, although small, was clear. Cheshire handled the pressure that was put on them, while Hamden began to crack under it.
“We have to be able to get our serves in and get the right play over,” said Hamden senior Sophia Flanders.
With the win, Cheshire remains undefeated at 13-0, while Hamden drops to 12-2. The loss snaps an eight-match unbeaten streak for the Green Dragons.
The atmosphere in the gymnasium reminded both coaches of a state tournament match.
Considering that both teams are in Class LL in Connecticut, this may not be the last time that these two powerhouses meet.
“It’s something I told them right after the game,” Shugrue said. “These are the teams that we’re going to be playing in the state tournament.”
“We have our eye on a bigger prize farther down in the tournament,” said Cheshire head coach Sue Bavone said. “We just need to get better every day at something.”
Hamden looks to get back on track this Friday when it hosts Jonathan Law, while Cheshire tries to extend its perfect record to 14-0 when it hosts East Lyme on Wednesday.
Volleyball: Cheshire gets loud in 11th consecutive win - a straight-set affair over Shelton
By Sarah Russell
CHESHIRE, Oct. 4 -- As the volleyball flew over the net and hit the floor of the Shelton High Gaels’ side of the court, players and coaches of the Cheshire Rams volleyball team were on their feet and cheering loudly. This was not the play that ended the game, but happened in the first set.
The Rams focused on bringing the noise tonight.
Cheshire defeated Shelton decisively, 3-0, in a Housatonic League match. The Rams remained undefeated as they took each set 25-8, 25-19, 25-10.
Communication was key for the Cheshire volleyball team, now 11-0. The team started the night on an eight-point run, cheering louder for each other with each added point.
“One of the big things we’ve been stressing in practice is really talking and being loud on the court and I thought we did a really good job of that today,” Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. “The more we talk, the more fluid our game was.”
“Lately we’ve been working on talking a lot and today we were really determined to get out and show our coach how we can talk,” senior Brady McQuade said. “We were loud and energetic. The other team, they got loud at some points, but we maintained our game.”
McQuade was on the court most of the night tallying six kills, four digs, two aces and one block.
Senior captain Karly Pedbereznak showed how well she could communicate with her teammates through her play with 14 assists, along with three aces and two digs.
Cheshire was all over the ball all night. Libero, junior Nina Montagna, dove for every ball that was near her. She had 12 digs.
As junior Meagan Clyne jumped to block a ball that went just over her fingertips, Jenny Wang, another junior, was behind her, moving to hit the ball that was narrowly missed. These plays happened throughout the night, as the Rams communicated with each other more efficiently.
“When we’re communicating, we’re playing well,” Bavone said.
In the second set, Cheshire got quiet, giving Shelton the opportunity to step up, going on a seven-point run, bringing the score to 7-2. Shelton forced Bavone to call a time out, provoking cheers from the Gaels managerial staff.
“I told them, ‘(Shelton is) starting to pick up their intensity. They’re louder than us right now.’ I told them that we were doing things OK, but the thing that was slowing us down in the second game is that we stopped talking,” Bavone said. “I told them, ‘You’re doing a good job, but now what’s happening is you’ve got two people going for a ball, nobody’s talking, so we’re hesitating and we’re making dumb mistakes’.”
The Rams answered back with a seven-point run, taking back the lead for the rest of the game.
The 6-7 Gaels are a young team just overpowered by the Rams.
“Every game is a work in progress,” Shelton coach LeAnne Bianchine. “I have a lot of young kids. The future’s bright. We may get our butts kicked, but we don’t give up.”
By Cliff Nadel
NORTH HAVEN, Oct. 4 -- Under the lights at the North Haven Athletic Complex, North Haven High exploded out of the gates early and scored three quick goals in the first seven minutes of the game to beat another struggling side Amistad, 8-0.
At the start of the season, North Haven coach Reid Chieffo, replaced long-time coach Federico Fiondella, who coached the Indians for 16 years.
After a disappointing one-win effort in Fiondella's last season, Chieffo wanted to change the culture into one that saw a more attacking and exciting squad.
“We implemented a whole new system, different formation, a different style of play then what their used to, it’s a little bit more of an open offensive game,” Chieffo said, “so I think for players it’s a little bit more exciting to play as opposed to being very disciplined defensively.”
The Indians (2-6, 1-3 in league) struggled to get shots on goal and averaged only 3.7 shots on goal per game in their first seven games.
North Haven also averaged about 12.4 shots on goal allowed.
Since Chieffo has instituted a more attacking style of play, in the days leading up to their game against winless Amistad (0-7-1), the team worked on various attacking techniques while still also being conscious defensively.
North Haven played the exact opposite way one would expect a 1-6 team to play and dominated the possession game early on and throughout most of the game. The Indians looked energized in warmups and were excited to face a struggling Amistad squad.
Chieffo said after the game that his team was fired up to play against another struggling side.
“Since they're struggling I think the team gets a little bit more fired up, they're a little bit more aggressive and you want to see them come out like that against all teams,” he said.
North Haven started the game with constant offensive pressure and had a shot deflect off the post within the first minute of the game. Only a minute later the Indians set up a counter attack after intercepting an Amistad goal kick and sent several of their wide men and backs forward.
Freshman wide man Kasey Mongillo used his blistering pace to beat several Amistad defenders and received a cross, which left him one-on-one with the Amistad goalkeeper. Mongillo slightly hesitated and pulled the ball back for a second, before powering the ball with his right foot between the goalkeeper’s legs and into the bottom right corner of the goal.
A few minutes, North Haven continued its early offensive pressure and were given a direct set piece opportunity after they were fouled right outside the box. Sophomore striker Jose Rodriguez stepped confidently up to take the free kick and showed the crowd what hours and hours of free kick practice can yield.
“Everyone was distracted over there, so I just took the chance and just shot it,” Rodriguez said. He added that he practices his free kicks almost every day and shows up an hour early to practice so he can work on his technique.
Rodriguez struck the ball over the Amistad defense, scoring a goal into the top left corner of the goal.
Within a few minutes of Rodriguez’s free kick goal, North Haven again found itself deep in Amistad’s defensive half.
North Haven got several attackers in the box and peppered Amistad with shot after shot. After Amistad thought it cleared the ball, the team sent it right to Indians sophomore Kasper Skonieczny. Skonieczny controlled the attempted cleared ball right outside the box before striking the ball from outside the box into the top left corner of the goal.
The Indians got their fourth goal just before half time.
Skonieczny scored his second goal of the game in the second half along with three other goals.
North Haven looks to take their energy and momentum from this game and hopes to make a serious state playoffs push in the coming weeks, Cheiffo said.
North Haven’s next game is at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6 against Wilbur Cross.
BY HANNAH COTTER
NORTH HAVEN, Oct. 6 -- The brisk October air did not stop a crowd of super fans from supporting its home team at the North Haven Athletics Complex on Monday night, and its morale was high despite the North Haven High Indians suffering a 3-0 loss to the Branford Hornets in a non-conference matchup.
The Indians (5-2-2, 3-1 SCC) started off strong, applying pressure to the Hornets (3-4-2) early on. They kept the ball in the offensive zone in a back-and-forth first half.
The Indians had a close chance with seven minutes left in the half with an empty net, but Branford’s defense stepped in and remained strong throughout the remainder of the game.
“This is our first loss that’s been more than one goal,” North Haven head coach Rocco Christiana said, “and we’ve held in there with all the top teams and only lost by one. We still have a lot of the season left.”
With 2:09 left in the game, North Haven’s Camille Sahirul took a blow to her left knee and slowly collapsed as her team gathered around. Moments before, the junior striker had one of the team’s closest scoring opportunities. The crowd had erupted as she slipped past Branford defenders but shot wide.
Despite the injury, Christiana still feels confident in the team.
“We’ve had a good season. Last year we had quite a few injuries. Our star players last year -- there was always at least two or three of them on the bench,” he said.
“We’ve stayed healthy. We’ve got a deep bench. We’ve got a lot of good quality players and it has kept us in a lot of games.”
Earlier in the second half, Sahirul had another chance to schore but Branford’s goalkeeper, senior Nina Grabowiecki, made an impressive save. It wouldn’t be her last. Grabowiecki made three huge saves in the final minutes, securing her team’s success against a typically high scoring team.
An Alayna Boileau goal late in the first put Branford on the scoreboard to go into the half 1-0. The Hornets scored twice early in the second, but the Indians fought hard into the final seconds of regulation.
“It was a great game,” Christiana said. “I just think Branford did a really good job. They stepped up and they took advantage of our mistakes. That’s just soccer. Sometimes it falls our way and sometimes it falls their way.”
Even as the clock reached the final five seconds, in the sea of red, white and maroon in the bleachers, all eyes were on the field.
“With a great coach and a great staff,” Christiana added, “Branford came to play and they deserved to win.”
The last time the Indians and Hornets met, the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
North Haven sits in first place in the SCC Housatonic standings. Up next, the Indians travel to Wallingford to take on Lyman Hall for another non-conference game at 3:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6.
Students in Quinnipiac University's JRN361: Sports Reporting course cover local high school sports competitions. Their work is showcased here.
Banner photo courtesy
Dana Jensen/The Day (2003)