Sacred Heart Academy tops Guilford

GUILFORD — It has been quite some time since the soccer team at Sacred Heart Academy has been mentioned among the elite. A change may be in store.

Off to the best start in recent memory, the Sharks are winning in a variety of ways. Monday afternoon at Bittner Park in Guilford was no different.

Behind the goalkeeping of senior Ava King, a pair of assists from fellow senior Ella Guth, and a solid all-around defensive contest, the Sharks posted a 3-1 victory over Guilford in a SCC interdivisional battle.

“I think we are all ready to work hard,” King said. “We have put in so much work. We want to impress our new coach. The seniors want to go out with a bang. Some of us will go on to play at college and some won’t. We want to keep pushing and remain undefeated all the way through. We are excited to play and want to carry this into the postseason.”

With an all-in mentality on defensive, the Sharks will be a tough team to beat. Sacred Heart (10-0-3) has held opponents to just nine goals in 13 contests, while scoring 42 times. Those numbers speak to success.

“The goalkeepers will get all the credit, but it is everyone,” Sacred Heart coach Everson Maciel said. “The whole team is in. It is the defense, the midfielders and all the way up. The girls have an idea of where to push teams, either outside or in. Everyone is helping out.”

Maciel had to like what he saw against the Grizzlies.

King made nine saves in the contest despite the Grizzlies having 17 shots in the game. The defensive effort limited Guilford’s opportunities to the outside or forcing shots wide. When Guilford had its counter attacks, King was there for the save.

The turning point of the game for the Sharks came with 10 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the contest. Just 4:54 after Guilford’s Gabby Sansone took advantage of a deflected ball to shoot into an open net, the Sharks responded.

Taking a perfect feed from Luth, Adrina Tuozzoli took an angled shot which found the opposite corner from 10-yards out and a 3-1 Sacred Heart Academy lead.

“There are times which separate whether you are a good or great team,” Maciel said. “A good team may have put its head down after they got within a goal. The third goal showed we are ready to play and can respond. It shows we are not lucky to win a road game. We came right back.”

The goal by Tuozzoli thwarted what would have been a stirring comeback by Guilford. Trailing by a pair of goals, the Grizzlies put on the pressure in the second half with 10 shots. Sansone’s tally got the Grizzlies on the board, but they could not get closer.

“We were inconsistent,” Guilford coach Regina Sullivan said after her team fell to 6-4-3. “We need to show up for 80 solid minutes. The talent and ability are there. We need to work hard all 80 minutes.”

The Sharks set the tone of the contest from the start, taking a 2-0 lead in the opening half. With the way the team plays defense, it was enough for the Sacred Heart’s 10th victory of the year.

Guth helped start the scoring when she sent a perfect lead to Juliana Criscola, who ripped a laser to the top right corner past Guilford goalkeeper Ava Lepro for a 1-0 lead 4:30 into the game.

Jillian Sansone had a pair of chances to increase the Sharks’ lead, but could not convert. The Sharks did convert with 10:38 remaining in the opening half.

After Guilford failed to capitalize on four first half corner kicks, the Sharks scored off their only corner of the opening 40 minutes.

Positioned in front, Kyla King headed in a perfect set up from Mia O’Connor to give the Sharks a 2-0 advantage.

“We work on corners a lot in practice,” Ava King said of her team denying Guilford’s opportunities. “I have been working on getting off the line. We have figured out how we want to defend in those situations. As a team, we are ready for that.”

The Grizzlies had a pair of golden opportunities to get on the board in the second half, but came up empty. Kat Baseggio fired over the net from 15-yards out just three minutes in, and Gabby Sansone was denied in front by Ava King less than two minutes later.

Lepro finished with seven saves in the loss for Guilford.

Player of the Game

Ava King, Sacred Heart. The Sharks’ goalkeeper made nine saves in the victory. The senior was at her best in the second half, turning aside four Guilford shots when the Grizzlies were looking to steal the momentum of the contest.

Quotable

“We had a lot of opportunities. That is the unfortunate part of the game. We just could not get them to go in the back of the net. They did.” — Guilford coach Regina Sullivan

SACRED HEART ACADEMY 3, GUILFORD 1

SACRED HEART 2 1 — 3

GUILFOPD 0 1 — 1

Scoring: S — Juliana Criscola (Ella Guth) 4:30; S — Kyla King (Mia O’Connor) 29:22; G — Gabby Sansone 64:49; S — Adrina Tuozzoli (Ella Guth) 69:43.

Shots: SHA — 12; G — 17. Saves: Ava King (S) — 9; Ava Lepro (G) — 7

Records: SHA 10-0-3; G 6-4-3