GUILFORD — Up until last fall, Guilford had never won a Southern Connecticut Conference field hockey championship.
Now, the Indians have two.
With Hannah Tillier scoring the lone goal of the game in the first half, Guilford won its second consecutive SCC tournament title Thursday night with a 1-0 victory over upstart Amity in a steady rain at Kavanaugh Field.
“The group last year made these kids believe they could do it,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said. “Beating Cheshire last year (in the SCC final) has spilled over to this year and they have a quiet confidence.”
It was also the 27th consecutive victory for Guilford (19-0 this year), which last tasted defeat at Cheshire, 1-0, on Oct. 19, 2018. The Indians have won 35 of their last 36 games, including the CIAC Class M crown a year ago.
“Those numbers are insane,” Tillier said. “It’s great to do it for Kit since she’s a great coach.”
The rain, which got harder at times, made it more of a defensive battle as players were slipping on the turf.
“Everyone was sliding around,” Palmer said. “It was the same for both teams, but I thought Amity played a great game and their defense was outstanding.”
The Spartans controlled much of the play in the opening 15 minutes and kept Guilford goalie Eve Young on her toes.
“We knew we were giving them a run for their money,” Amity coach Sara Hale said. “Our kids were doing a good job of cutting to the ball and beating them to the ball.”
But in the final 15 minutes of the first half, Guilford took control and finally broke through on a corner. Cat Larrow sent the corner to Jaime Neleber who took a shot from the circle that went right to Tillier, who tipped it past the shoulder of Amity goalie Payton Rahn into the top corner of the net with 7:49 remaining until the break.
“All the credit goes to Jaime,” Tillier said. “She had a beautiful hit right to me. All I did was put my stick down and it went right over the goalie.”
Young had to make a diving save in the final minutes before halftime to keep the game at 1-0.
In the second half, Tillier had another great chance with 12 minutes to go, but Rahn stopped it. Rahn also stopped Ella Stanley and Lexi Hitchcock in the waning minutes with a diving save. She helped keep the Spartans in the game with 21 saves.
“Payton played a great game in the cage,” Hale said. “She had a great game and for our defense to keep to a one-goal game is pretty amazing.”
Amity, which made its first SCC championship game appearance, fell to 16-3 with the loss.
“Amity field hockey has been under the radar for a while,” Hale said. “We have been able to get to another level and we’re making our way.”