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Branford played three games in preparation for the Class M State Tournament that starts on Monday, Nov. 4. The Hornets first dropped a 4-0 home decision against Hand on Senior Night and came back to prevail at Lyman Hall 3-0. Cathy McGuirk's squad then beat Amity 1-0 in an SCC Tournament quarterfinal contest. The Hornets will now compete in the state tournament for the 36th year in a row.
"You work to get into the tournaments and it's always fun to play in the second season, as we call it," said Coach McGuirk, whose squad went 7-8 overall and 6-4 in the SCC for the regular season. "Sometimes you play a team that beat you and you get a chance to see what you can do against them the second time around. It's a challenge that you want your kids to accept as they strive to get better."
One team the Hornets may see for a third or fourth time is the Hand Tigers, who they played twice in the regular season and are also in the SCC and Class M brackets. Prior to last week's contest against Hand, Branford honored its 14 seniors in captains Jessie Severino (goalie), Jenna Royka (sweeper), Natalie Grimm (midfielder), and Michaela Hobbs (forward); along with forward Cassidy Murphy; defenders Shelby Antonino, Emma Barringham, Anna Broggi, Rachel Ingraham, Emily Johnson, Emma Nwagboli, and Morgan Reed; midfielder/defender Maxine Hernandez, and manager Caitlin Wolf.
Of course, there was a still a game to play and Branford put eight shots on goal while earning eight corners with Hand taking 19 shots and notching 13 corners. Severino made 12 saves in the cage with Royka making three and Reed one.
Branford then notched its shutout versus Lyman Hall on Oct. 23 in which it recorded 16 corners and took 19 shots on goal. Hobbs scored the first goal from Megan Shea and freshman Ashley Smestad when she buried the ball amidst a scramble with 13:15 left in the opening half. With 19:37 to play in the second half, Cassidy Murphy made it 2-0 by scoring on a corner play and then Caroline Murphy scored from Johnson for the final goal with 25 seconds remaining. The Hornets held Lyman Hall to just one corner and Severino stopped all three of its shots.
Against Amity, Hobbs scored Branford's goal, Severino made two saves, and Royka had one.
Boys' Cross Country
Branford ran to third place at the Class MM State Championship by scoring 128 points. Luke Arsenault placed 11th with a time of 17:23 and Pat Laske was right behind in 13th at 17:38. Also competing were Ryan Connell (24th, 18:02), Alec Janis (25th, 18:03), Nathan D'Amico (55th, 18:37), Jackson Mariotti (68th, 18:57), and Dan Jakubiak (82nd, 19:10).
"The boys had a great meet," Coach Kevin Connell said. "After losing our top two runners from last year, they should feel proud about getting third place. Luke and Pat Laske ran really well."
After capping their regular season at 11-4-1 by taking a 2-1 loss to Hand and then beating Cheshire 3-0, Branford earned a 5-2 victory versus Sheehan an SCC Tournament quarterfinal game that saw Max Condon score all five goals. Assists for the Hornets came from Joe Roca, Mike Caminear, Justin Waters, Jack Pottenger, and Hunter Duval.
"Max was his ever-dominating self and was clinical in all his finishes," Coach Paul Hunter said.
Against Hand, Condon scored for the Hornets, who led 1-0 before the Tigers scored two goals in the last 13 minutes to win it.
In the Cheshire game on Senior Night, Jack Pottenger scored two goals, Roca netted the other goal, and Liam Daley and Condon each supplied an assist.
Branford earned a 1-0 win against Amity on Oct. 21 and then beat Foran 5-1 two days later to finish the regular season with an outstanding record of 14-1-1. After that, the Hornets blanked Hand 2-0 in the SCC Tournament quarterfinals.
Jenna Vitale scored the lone goal against Amity for the Hornets, who Coach Jen Kohut said "played really well and controlled play of the game."
Against Foran, Tanya Altrui netted a hat trick, Vitale and Shyla Coughlin scored goals, and Cassidy McCarns and Coughlin had assists.
Versus Hand in SCCs, Altrui scored on a penalty kick and Jenna Vitale scored on an assist from Emma Pottenger. Becca Vitale had the shutout in goal.
Branford took a 3-2 (23-25, 27-25, 25-19, 16-25, 15-7) loss to Foran, earned a 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-12, 25-21) win against Foran, and then dropped a 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-16) contest to Cheshire to finish the regular season at 13-7 before beating West Haven 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-15) in the first round of the SCC Tournament.
Against Foran, Abby Atkinson had 10 kills with four digs, Hannah Zampano had nine kills and 11 digs, Anna Atkinson posted 12 kills with 13 digs, and Lauren Kuhn went 13-for-13 serving with 16 assists.
In the Shelton win, Anna Atkinson served 7-for-7 with 15 kills and seven digs, Zampano had 12 kills with two aces and four digs, Tara Dering went 32-for-32 serving with two aces and three kills, Alyssa Sachs dished out 25 assists, and Gillian Basilicato had eight digs.
Versus Cheshire, Zampano served 10-for-10 with 13 kills and 10 digs, Anna Atkinson recorded nine kills and 12 digs, Basilicatio had 12 digs, and Sachs had 29 assists.
In the West Haven match, Anna Atkinson had six kills with 10 digs, Dering notched seven kills with three aces and five digs, Zampano had five kills with six digs, and Lauren Kuhn contributed 13 assists with three digs and three kills.