The Guilford boys’ soccer team has taken on some of the toughest competition in the SCC and given each squad a run for their money and its Oct. 20 home Senior Night matchup against unbeaten SCC Housatonic Division-champion Shelton at Bittner Park was no exception.
Joe Maher’s club entered the evening with a mark of 8-3-3 with Guilford’s only losses coming at the hands of SCC division winners Fairfield Prep, Hammonasset champion Hand, and those same Gaels by a one-goal margin back on Sept. 15. In the rematch, though Guilford didn’t come away with the same result, as the Indians tied Shelton 1-1 in a contest that saw sophomore Brendan Thompson head in a corner kick by junior Ben Rattet with 25:10 to play before the Gaels earned the equalizer 10 minutes later.
“I was originally going to go far post and look for the ball there, but I saw the ball didn’t get very high when Ben first kicked it,” said Thompson. “I knew it was going near-pole, so I just made a run right inside to the near post, went in there, and the ball just bounced off of my head.”
The Indians also made it a close battle in the shots department with the Gaels putting a dozen on net to Guilford’s 10. The Indians’ defense, which has allowed more than two scores in a single outing only once this fall, stood tall against the Gaels’ offensive storm with junior netminder Colin Brocksieper posting 10 saves.
“We knew in our last game versus them we took a kind of blowing defeat, 1-0, and we knew this game meant a lot for the SCC Tournament, so I was just trying to do everything I could to make sure we got it,” said Brocksieper. “We just try to take it one game at a time. A lot of these teams are top teams, so we always try to mix our formations around and find the best 11 players for whichever team, and every game is its own battle.”
Shelton (10-0-5) took the contest’s first shot 5:06 into it, but it sailed over the crossbar before Brocksieper made a catch save three minutes after that on a lob just outside the Guilford (8-3-4) box.
Midway through the opening half, junior Chris Barber came through with a cross-pass opportunity following a Gaels’ corner, yet he was turned aside by a Shelton defender. On the next Guilford sequence, another cross was created, although there was no one on the left side of the goal to receive it. With 16:20 to go before intermission, sophomore Sean Miller had a look at a 1-0 Indians’ lead, but the rebound opportunity off his shoulder was over the net.
“Our kids play hard, and we try to put them in the best position to be successful,” said Head Coach Joe Maher, who is assisted by Andy Raucci and Curtis Gullette. “We put ourselves in different formations versus different opponents and just want our kids to go out and play hard. We’ve only had one situation where we were totally dominated and that was the Prep game [a 3-0 loss on Oct. 2 following a 2-1 win over the Jesuits on Sept. 12], but other than that, we’ve been there in every game.”
Entering the final 13 minutes of the first, Shelton housed a series of shots inside its offensive zone, yet Guilford got out of it unscathed. The Gaels had a last-second kick, yet again it was scooped up by Brocksieper and remained a 0-0 score at the break.
“Colin has come a long way, and we’ve worked very hard with him. He started the year as an inexperienced keeper unaware of when to either stay or come out of the net,” said Maher on his goaltender’s efforts. “But he’s worked extremely hard on everything.”
The initial 15 minutes of the second period saw both sides exchange drives to the net, but with right around 25:30 remaining, Guilford hustled down the field and worked its way into a corner-kick scenario, and it was there that Rattet bent the ball just right to Thompson, who leapt up for the head-in and crucial first tally for the Indians.
Shelton responded immediately on its next possession with a blast to the top-right corner of the net that was reeled in by Brocksieper. The Gaels’ efforts finally came to fruition as 15:13 remained when sophomore Isajiah Robles maneuvered his way into the box and beat Brocksieper to his left to even the score.
For the final six minutes, each squad tried to break the deadlock, but to no avail. The final shot went to Guilford after it was awarded a free kick following a Shelton foul with three seconds left, yet it was no good.
Maher added that the Indians’ stacked August schedule paves the way to their preparation against stellar league foes come September and October.
“It all comes from the preseason, because we have a scrimmage schedule with teams like Glastonbury, Staples, and E.O. Smith,” said Maher. “So we play against some of those elite programs to help get us ready for the SCC teams in the regular season.”
Also recognized on Senior Night were seniors Chris Ciocca, co-captains Sawyer Geelan and Noah Rattet, Max Platia, Dan Mahoney, Patrick Koloseus, Ned Gresham, and Colin Beesley.
The Indians close out the regular season on Oct. 22 at Xavier at 3:45 p.m., and a win there would greatly increase Guilford’s chances of returning to the SCC Tournament, which has six teams set for the eight-squad field entering play for Oct. 21. Yet no matter what happens for Guilford with the conference draw, a performance like this versus a Class LL opponent is a positive sign heading into the Class L State Tournament.
“This game boosts our confidence crazy going into the postseason, because we knew coming in that they didn’t have a loss yet,” said Thompson. “Coming to Bittner, we don’t let teams trash us, and we just defend our field.”