GUILFORD — The young members of Guilford’s boys soccer team have gained plenty of experience since dropping two of its first three games.
It doesn’t hurt having a pair of mainstays in senior co-captains Anthony Ippolito and Aidan Buchanan still leading the way.
Ippolito scored a pair of goals and Buchanan led the defensive charge to help Guilford edge Xavier 2-1 at Kavanaugh Field Tuesday afternoon.
“I love seeing the young kids out there. I love seeing them work hard,” Ippolito said. “Regardless of age, we are all ready to fight for each other.”
Said Guilford coach Curtis Gullette: “The biggest thing we have noticed is it’s less selfish on the field. We had a lot of guys early in the season who wanted to win the game themselves. It was them versus the world. … It’s going to take a team effort.”
Guilford is now 4-0-1 in its last five games after a 1-2 start. Both of those losses came against Hand, which has won the last four Class L state championships and is currently undefeated.
Guilford was supposed to face Hand for a third time Tuesday, but for a myriad of reasons, including programs having games postponed due to COVID-19, the Southern Connecticut Conference has switched several games recently, going outside of the regions the teams currently reside in.
So rather than face Hand a third time, Guilford got a chance instead to play Xavier, in addition to Cheshire and Hamden the previous two games.
“Listen, we’re Guilford. They’re Hand. We would love to play them every game of the year because that rivalry is so strong. The intensity that everyone plays with is immense,” Gullette said. “But it is nice in this shortened season to play some different opponents, to play some other quality opponents.”
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Xavier (4-3) gave Hand its best game so far, owning a 1-0 lead at the Surf Club before the Tigers rallied back for a 2-1 win. The Falcons had plenty of chances Tuesday, especially late in the second half.
But many of those opportunities were off the mark, including a couple of the five corner-kick attempts. Xavier outshot Guilford 15-7.
“The Hand game intensity level was a lot higher. Here, it seemed like (Xavier) was going through the motions, the intensity level wasn’t nearly as high,” Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said. “I think if they play with a little more intensity, a little more urgency, I think some of those balls get played into someone there and we’re capitalizing on it.”
As for Ippolito, he made the most of his opportunities. He scored less than 5 minutes into the game, beating Xavier keeper Dillon Luke to the left side. Xavier answered 6 minutes later, John Milardo with the goal, Ryan Gerry with the assist.
Ippolito scored on a Guilford counter-attack nearly 15 minutes into the second half. Buchanan assisted on the deciding goal. Ippolito now has eight goals.
“We wanted to start fast. The ball fell to me in the box. There were a lot of bodies around me. Really, I toe-poked it towards goal and it found its way in,” Ippolito said about the first goal. “(The second one) I took it down from outside the box and I put it bottom corner, bottom right.”
Said Fitzgerald: “Give Guilford credit, when they had their opportunities, they made the most of them. They countered very well.”
Mainly a defender throughout his stellar career, Buchanan has the freedom to impact the game in any way Guilford needs it. And he certainly did that on Tuesday.
“I trust him to make those determinations,” Gullette said. “We are asking a lot of him. We made this adjustment after the second Hand game. … Aidan is technically in our defense, but he has that freedom offensively to move forward and to hold off coming back if he knows we can handle it (on defense).”
The Falcons have now lost three of their last four and will try to turn things around quickly.
“Guys have to play every game like its their last because you don’t know. You have to leave it all on the field because tomorrow, the season could be canceled,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope that’s the one thing that resonates with these guys going forward.”
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