BRANFORD — There’s a reason why the North Branford field hockey team finished the regular season unbeaten.
The Thunderbirds have a lot of speed, play great defense and can score with any team in the state.
North Branford improved to 15-0-1 Wednesday night with a dominating 4-0 non-league victory over Branford at the James L. MacVeigh Alumni Athletic Complex.
“These young ladies work very hard and make it look easy,” North Branford coach Babby Nuhn said afterwards. “Their work effort is impeccable.”
North Branford grabbed an early lead less than nine minutes into the contest. After a corner from the right side, there was a scramble in front of the Branford cage and Ava Galdenzi popped in the first of her two goals on the night to make it 1-0.
Less than five minutes later, Olivia Toto made it 2-0 when she whipped a shot from about 15 yards out past Branford goalie Gianna Messina.
The Thunderbirds controlled the ball for most of the first half, putting Branford on its heels.
“North Branford is a really good team and we knew that,” Branford coach Pete Frye said. “They came out, attacked us and we didn’t respond. The better team tonight won the game.”
The second half was much of the same with the Thunderbirds extending their lead in the first three minutes. With the area in front of the cage crowded, Messina came out a bit too far and Ali Barrett was able to get a shot off that rolled into the net.
Two minutes later, Galdenzi scored her second goal of the night thanks to a perfect play that North Branford executed. Barrett sent a long pass across the field from the 20-yard line as Galdenzi raced down the left side and put the ball past Messina into the right side of the cage.
“That’s one thing we like to work on, taking down the wing,” Galdenzi. “Our coach emphasizes quick shots.”
“We’ve connected on a lot of those,” Nuhn said. “Every day, we work on that.”
Branford finally had a few chances in the final minutes, but was unable to convert.
“Our game is to control the ball more,” Frye said. “We had trouble passing the ball and played too much one-on-one field hockey.”
The Hornets completed their regular season with a 10-4-2 record and have the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament that begins Friday along with state tournament play to come. And Frye knows they’ll have to play better,
“We have to play much more as a team pass the ball and work more as a unit,” Frye said. “Playing one-on-one field hockey like we did tonight is a recipe for disaster.”
Jaime Matthews stopped 15 shots in goal for North Branford, while Messina had 10 saves for Branford.