Coming into the 2012 season, the Indians' girls' soccer team knew that they would be tested, but maybe a little more than they originally thought. Guilford entered the season with two senior captain losses in forward Caroline Massey (ACL tear) and goalkeeper Sydney Smith (back injury) while having a sophomore in Emily Stephens step in behind net. The squad also opened up with a rough pair of games against Cheshire and Shelton to start 0-2. But despite the losses, the girls turned it around to win three straight and further helped right the ship on Oct. 1 with a tough 1-0 home win versus Sacred Heart Academy before a loss to Hamden later in the week.
Guilford (4-4-0) ended the prior week with a hard 2-0 loss to division rival Hand Sept. 29 in a game which the Indians held the Tigers scoreless for the first 40 minutes. Learning from the loss, Head Coach Scott McMahon and his team hoped to further clear up early-season jitters and uncertainty in the SCC battle against the Pacers (4-3-0).
"The losses against Shelton and Cheshire were rough, considering they are top-10 programs," McMahon said before the Oct. 1 victory. "With our injuries, we had preseason uncertainties and it has been hard to find that team chemistry."
The Indians took the contest thanks to a first-half goal from junior midfielder Nikki Basilicato (junior forward Kyera Bryant got credit for the helper). While they converted only one of their 10 shots on goal, Stephens had four huge saves in the contest to help preserve the shutout. For McMahon, it wasn't about his netminder's quantity-it was more about her quality.
"She is such a quality keeper," McMahon said on Stephens. "She has such a feel for the game."
Stephens added after the shutout victory: "I just tried to stay on my toes and never have my mind wander. I just really worked on my reflexes. I feel like I am coming back to my game finally after being out last year with a concussion."
In the first half, Guilford wasted no time out of the gate trying to take the initial advantage of having multiple scoring chances while denying the Pacers on their chances. Both clubs misfired early for near goals with Sacred Heart shooting off the crossbar and Guilford shooting wide right at the 31:55 mark. The Indians' efforts came to fruition at 28:12 when Basilicato had an aggressive shot halfway into the Pacers' zone that their keeper could not handle for the lone tally of the day.
"I just kept moving the ball around out there with my teammates today," Basilicato said. "We just kept talking and moving up together, telling each other where to go. We are learning to work as a team; we just need to stay more compact with our forwards. Everyone is helping out on the field."
After grabbing the first goal, Guilford kept the aggression alive in looking for some insurance early, yet Sacred Heart fought back to earn some opportunities to tie. At 22:44, Stephens had to run out of net to defeat the surging Pacer with a grab to deny their chance to knot the score at 1. SHA had another drive at 17:41 mark, but junior defender Gabi Sejourne executed a nicely timed kick to send the ball the other way. Sacred Heart also had one of its four corners in the game bounce off the crossbar on the rebound at 11:21. Guilford had some chances of its own with nine minutes remaining, yet was denied on a catch save and was then denied on a rebound shot in front.
Coming out of the break, both clubs set out to keep the up-tempo tone of the game with both teams exchanging big drives in the first 22 minutes of the half. At about 18:10, Stephens made the first of a series of clutch stops to hold the Pacers off the board, beating a Pacer in a foot race for the ball. Three minutes later, Stephens was tested again, this time diving to her right to deflect the ball out. The Pacers had a great chance at 10:46, yet Stephens again cut the ball circulation on Sacred Heart with a well-planned jump and tip. With seven minutes left, Guilford had another good insurance chance, but the shot went high off the net. Despite the unrelenting Pacers' efforts, the Indians held with their defense and held them off for their fourth victory of the season.
On Oct. 3, the girls dropped a 2-0 contest to Hamden. After a scoreless first half, Guilford continued to dominate into the second half. Moments after Allie Stephens broke onto Hamden's goal and sent her shot wide left, Hamden's Rachel Ugolik broke free. She put ball to lower right corner, putting Hamden up 1-0. Six minutes later, Ugolik broke down Guilford's right side defenders and crossed to Avery Owers, who finished with 18 minutes left. Guilford upped the pressure, resulting in a penalty kick with 11 minutes left that Julia McMahon rattled off the post. Stephens had two saves in the loss; Guilford had 12 shots to Hamden's six and seven corners to one for the Green Dragons.
"Nikki has a heck of a shot and we certainly need more of those from her. She got some good, deserved play today." Coach McMahon said after the game against SHA. "This was a really good team win; we fell behind in second half versus Hand and our play didn't improve against them. It was also important that we stuck together as a team for 80 minutes with everyone looking for each other. It was good to see how we play as a team after a rough game. We saw how we react to failure and we reacted well today; it is something to build on."