SOUTHBURY — With the Pomperaug and Guilford girls soccer teams posting a combined 21 shutouts during the regular season and two more in states, goals were going to be at an absolute premium in their Class L quarterfinal matchup Saturday.
That played out in a mostly tight game and 80 minutes was not long enough to find a breakthrough.
Eighty two minutes was, though.
Guilford’s Lily Riccio rose to a corner kick from fellow senior Emma McSweet, and lofted a header into the back of the net just 1:40 into overtime to give the Indians a 1-0 win over Pomperaug. No. 6 Guilford will meet No. 2 Suffield next week for a spot in a first state final since winning it all in 2013.
“It felt pretty good,” Riccio said. “I haven’t scored on a header I don’t think this season, it was awesome and a great cross from Emma. The first half we were strong but the second half we struggled a bit.”
The SCC champions are used to playing great defense, and needed to as the Panthers piled on the pressure in the second half. The Indians got to overtime thanks in large part to goalie Claire Mackenzie, who made one save after another to frustrate the hosts.
“Claire is an excellent goalkeeper,” said Guilford’s Rick Geremia, who is serving as a co-interim coach after Scott McMahon resigned before the state tournament. “And I’ll put this defense up against anyone; and we keep telling them defense travels.”
Pomperaug (12-3-4) had its best chance come off a corner kick midway through the second half, but Mackenzie made a diving stop to deny a Pomperaug forward from a few yards out.
“We haven’t been able to find that goal in the big games,” said Panthers coach Jillian Cipriano. “We didn’t give up that many which led us to be No. 1 in (the SWC), but we also didn’t score in the big ones, we tied those in which we should have been able to put one away.”
Guilford took control with the goal to start overtime, and almost added a second immediately after. Pomperaug kept pressure on in the second session with the Indians defense refusing to give in.
“This probably was one of our best games of the tournament,” Geremia said. “This is the way we played in the SCCs, it’s good to see us picking up our game as we go deeper.”
Claire Mackenzie, Guilford, a pair of diving saves kept her team alive.
“I thought overall we dominated the game and we were the better team by far,” Cipriano said. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t put one away to keep moving on.”