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The North Branford girls’ lacrosse team kept the Shoreline Conference title in its clutches by posting a 9-6 win over Old Saybrook in the league championship game at the Indian River Complex in Clinton. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Jessie Kilburn had three goals and three assists to help the T-Birds defend their Shoreline crown with a 9-6 victory versus Old Lyme in the conference final on May 28. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior goalkeeper Carly Sorrentino came up huge by making 12 saves when North Branford beat Old Saybrook in the Shoreline Conference championship game last week. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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North Branford girls’ lacrosse Head Coach Lori Connelly has always emphasized the importance of team unity. On May 23, the Thunderbirds took the field and played as one on their way to winning their second-straight Shoreline Conference title. North Branford defended its crown by earning a 9-6 victory versus Old Saybrook in the championship game of the Shoreline Conference Tournament at the Indian River Complex in Clinton.
“They were all firing in all cylinders. The whole team was one team. Everybody had one of their best games,” Coach Connelly said. “My sideline was out of control cheering. Our fans were cheering. All 43 girls contributed to this title.”
North Branford had taken an 11-10 loss to Old Saybrook on the T-Birds’ Senior Night nine days before the Shoreline final. Coach Connelly said that her squad was determined to get revenge against the Rams with the conference title on the line.
“They were fired up. They wanted the Shoreline title so bad. Old Saybrook beat us on our Senior Night, so we had some vengeance. We were unbeaten in the conference until then,” said Connelly. “With the boys being in the final, there was huge crowd support, and we were ready to go. They wanted that title very badly, and it showed in their play.”
North Branford held a 4-0 advantage over Old Saybrook at halftime and then increased its lead to 8-0 in the second half, keeping the Rams off the scoreboard until the 11:46 mark of the frame. Old Saybrook started to mount a comeback, but sophomore Gabby Gibilisco’s late goal cemented the victory. Junior goalie Carly Sorrentino made 12 huge saves for the T-Birds.
“She was out of her mind. Carly was in great position to make key saves,” Coach Connelly said. “Old Saybrook has great shooters, and we were able to shut them down. I’ve never seen that happen where we were able to shut a team like that down for a whole half.”
Senior captain Jessie Kilburn and junior Ali Barrett both scored three goals and had three assists to lead North Branford’s offense. Junior captain Avonlea LeBeau had a goal with two assists, while senior Cayleen Defaranos and Gibilisco netted the T-Birds’ other goals. Senior captain Jordan Regan pitched in with an assist in the victory.
Coach Connelly was pleased to see North Branford communicating well, while playing with great tempo throughout the entire game.
“Jessie, [junior] Melanie [Norton], Avonlea, and Jessie all contributed on the draw. I told them if we keep possession, the other team can’t score. All four worked hard together, communicating, and it all started there,” said Connelly. “On attack, everyone was contributing, moving the ball around, cutting, catching. They worked as a unit. They were all playing together. There was no delayed reaction. They were all where they needed to be.
Last season, North Branford took the Shoreline crown by notching a 10-7 win over Old Lyme in the conference final. Coach Connelly said that defending the title was just as exciting as when the T-Birds won it last year.
“There is nothing guaranteed in sports. Every game, you have to go out and give it your all,” Connelly said. “It’s a different team with different players on the field. This is a new year, and it’s just as exciting with this group of girls.”
Following the Shoreline Conference Tournament, North Branford opened play in the Class S State Tournament as the No. 5 seed. The T-Birds hosted No. 12 Old Lyme on May 28 and dropped a 15-10 decision to finish the year with an overall record of 15-4. Kilburn scored five goals and had a pair of assists for North Branford. Barrett scored two goals and had two assists, Gibilisco posted a pair of goals, and LeBeau added a goal.
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