Cheshire High School senior field hockey player Sophie Vagts vividly recalls her team’s trip to Guilford last year. Facing off against an unbeaten rival, she was excited to score the opening goal, but then in a momentum shift, Guilford closed the first half with six goals en route to a 6-1 win.
On Thursday, Vagts and her teammates found redemption in a big way. Vagts scored twice, including the eventual game-winner with 9:18 left in the third quarter, to help CHS (4-0) earn a 3-1 victory that snapped Guilford’s 33-game win streak. Guilford, who has won the last two Class M and Southern Connecticut Conference titles, last lost 1-0 at CHS on Oct. 19, 2018.
“This is an amazing feeling,” said Vagts. “This game proves how much we’ve improved since last year and how much character we have.”
“Yesterday, I said to the girls that Guilford has a really good returning team,” said Head Coach Eileen Wildermann. “I knew that it would be a tough task to beat them, but this is such a positive team. They came in today ready to execute the game plan.”
In a battle between elite programs, the game turned to Cheshire’s favor during a single sequence. After being shut out in the first half, Guilford tied the score, 1-1, on a goal by senior Hannah Tillier with 9:59 left in the third, but it took just 31 seconds for CHS to regain the lead.
Senior Raegan Bailey set up the go-ahead goal, breaking free down the right side and then sending a shot to the left corner. The Guilford defense deflected the ball into the middle where Vagts scored to put CHS up 2-1.
“When I see Raegan with the ball like that, I know that good things are going to happen,” stated Vagts.
“That (goal) showed our personality as a team,” added Wildermann. “It was so easy to get down, but the girls responded.”
Wildermann feels that Bailey’s transition game has been key to Cheshire’s success this fall.
“I looked at the coaches at one point (today) and said that she is a major part of any run we go on,” stated Wildermann. “She doesn’t play in the off-season, but she has such a high game IQ and that makes her killer on offense.”
While playing Guilford to a scoreless first quarter, the Rams felt that they got off to a great start. Coming into Thursday, Guilford had scored 16 goals in two games, but with a team effort, CHS limited them to one goal.
“The defense played amazing today,” said Bailey, a co-captain with senior Tarana Eldredge. “I’m so proud of them.”
Wildermann utilized a defensive formation, with seniors Megan Crowley, Danielle Floyd, and Taylor Warburton, and juniors Lauren Houle and Becca Prior playing key roles.
“We know that (Guilford junior Maddie) Epke and Tillier can control the game with their speed,” said Wildermann. “Lauren Houle played a defensive game at center back and we also had two sweepers in there.”
While CHS has a veteran defense, their goalies are new to the varsity level. Against Guilford, junior Hannah Jalowiec tallied a career-best seven saves and sophomore Elise Hurlburt had two saves in the second quarter.
“We knew that we were going to face a lot of pressure, but everyone played well on the team,” said Jalowiec.
Offensively, Cheshire struck first with 10:53 left in the second quarter. On a penalty corner, Warburton inserted the ball to Houle, who sent the ball into a crowd and Vagts tipped it into the cage.
“I can always trust Sophie or Raegan to come up with a tip for us,” said Houle.
Guilford appeared to have tied the game with 33 seconds left in the second quarter, but a goal was waved off for a shot being taken outside the circle.
“We had the lead at halftime, but I told the girls that we can’t take anything for granted,” said Warburton. “We had to finish the game.”
After the rivals traded goals in the third quarter, Cheshire stayed aggressive. Early in the fourth, Bailey crossed the ball to the left post, but Guilford goalie Julia McDonald saved a point-blank shot by junior Emily Curtis.
“I was annoyed, but that was an amazing save,” stated Curtis.
A mid-fielder who came to Cheshire from England this past summer, Curtis returned to score the final goal on a penalty corner with 11:17 left. After passes from Warburton and Houle, Curtis fired a shot into the cage.
“That goal shows that we don’t quit,” stated Curtis. “It feels amazing to be a part of this team. All of the girls are so skilled.”
“This game says a lot about us,” said Eldredge. “Guilford is one of the best teams in the state, so to get a win against them is a great feeling.”
For Guilford, McDonald and Eve Young made seven saves.
Next Thursday at 4 p.m., the Rams return to play at Lyman Hall.