Glastonbury #11 Christina Guanci celebrates her goal against New Canaan. Photo credit: CW Photography
Sometimes a loss doesn't tell the entire story.
The Glastonbury High School field hockey team was eliminated from the Class L tournament after falling to top-seed New Canaan 2-1 last Tuesday night (Nov. 16) at Pomperaug High School.
Yet the way the Guardians battled against the powerhouse Rams was more memorable than the loss.
Glastonbury, who came into the contest riding a seven-game winning streak and hadn’t lost since Oct. 2, was facing a daunting task against a team that had one of the most successful field hockey teams in the state’s history.
New Canaan was 18-0 and had outscored their opponents 96-3. MaxPreps.com ranked the Rams as the 14th best team in the entire country.
The Guardians nearly pulled the gigantic upset, trading blows with the Rams for 60 minutes of riveting action on a bitter cold night.
“We felt like if we played well we had a chance, and we did,” GHS head coach Maureen Perkins said. “We played some of the best field hockey that we played all season. I told them to be sad, but don’t be upset. I think there is a difference. I couldn’t have asked them to play any harder or do anything more than they did.”
New Canaan delivered the first strike with 5:59 to play in the first quarter when senior captain Zoey Bennett found Carolyn Baran in front of the goal to break a scoreless tie.
The Rams maintained their narrow lead until the Glastonbury’s senior captains worked their magic with 6:34 left in the third when Molly Harding fed Christina Guanci with a pass, which Guanci fired into the back of the box.
“They took advantage of the chance that they got,” Perkins said of her field generals, “[New Canaan’s] defense is so good and just to generate a chance is something that you hope to do. It was unbelievable, the goal was beautiful.”
With 1:01 left in the third, New Canaan regained the lead for good when Baran scored her second of the game with an assist from senior captain Molly Mitchell.
It was one of the few breakdowns that goaltender Kaitlyn Parent and the Guardians defensive unit had all night. Parent, who has committed to play field hockey at Southern Connecticut State University, finished with 10 saves, including a handful of spectacular stops in the second half when New Canaan had several short corner opportunities.
Senior defenders Kaitlyn Welsh and Hannah David, along with junior standouts Teagan Rooney and Mikayla Balatbat were instrumental in helping Parent protect the box against a Rams team that came in averaging over five goals per contest.
Perkins praised the defensive effort, “A lot of times it can be a little underappreciated because it’s not flashy, they are just solid and they work together. They are fundamentally sound in terms of making sure they are in the right spots and knowing what to do. I’m really proud of them. We knew we needed a really good defensive effort today and I can’t ask this team to do more than what they did. I wish it was a little different, but it wasn't in the cards.”
Perkins' squad had reached the semifinal round after a pair of impressive tournament wins over Conard and Cheshire.
The Guardians, who entered the tourney as the #5-seed, beat #12-seed Conard 1-0 at GHS in the opening round.
Guanci scored the game’s only goal late in the first quarter following a deflection from Conard goalie Lilly Grosem, who made 11 saves as Glastonbury held a 19-2 shot advantage. Conard's best scoring opportunity came late in the fourth quarter on a corner, but the Guardians’ defense rose to the occasion thanks to Harding, who rushed out of the cage to put pressure on the ball at the top of the circle before Welsh intercepted a pass.
In round two, the team defeated #4 Cheshire 1-0 at Cheshire High School behind a goal from Guanci. The teams battled to a scoreless tie through three quarters despite an 8-0 shot advantage by GHS. The Guardians broke the tie with less than ten minutes to play in regulation on their 15th penalty corner of the game. On the play, Harding inserted the ball near the top of the circle to freshman midfielder Addie Infante. Infante dragged the ball back towards Harding, who redirected the ball towards the left post where Guanci tipped it past goalie Virginia Curello. Parent had three key second-half saves to help preserve the team’s seventh shutout in a row.
Including postseason play, the Guardians finished 14-2-2-1, shutting out 13 opponents. Guanci led the team with 19 goals, including all three in the postseason. Harding added 14 more goals and dished out a team-high 19 assists. Welsh chipped in 12 goals and 10 assists, while Choquette also had a dozen goals and David added a half dozen assists.
After a long, successful season the loss to New Canaan wasn’t the ideal ending, but Perkins was proud of the way her team left it all on the field, “They gave me everything. We’re going to fight and claw and leave everything out there and we did that today.”
New Canaan advanced to the Class L title where they would beat #11 Wilton, 3-1, at Wethersfield High School on Saturday (Nov. 20), finishing the season a perfect 20-0 en route to their first state championship since 2015.
Glastonbury's Kaitlyn Welsh controls the ball as New Canaan's Carolyn Baran pursues. Photo credit- CW Photography
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin