WALLINGFORD — Sydney Cuticelli and Amy Casorla scored second-half goals to lift the No. 8 Sheehan girls soccer team to a CIAC Class L first-round win over No. 25 Branford at a frigid John J. Riccitelli Field on Tuesday afternoon.
Facing a 1-0 halftime deficit, the Titans rallied to defeat the Hornets 2-1 and move on to host either No. 9 Killingly or No. 25 Sacred Heart Academy in the second round on Thursday.
“This is a good group and they don’t want to lose,” Sheehan coach Rob Huelsman said. “They don’t want to go home yet. They aren’t done. They want to move on. We talked at halftime that we didn’t want to make this our last game. They went out and proved they didn’t want to.”
With Tuesday’s victory, Sheehan (11-4-3) defeated Branford (5-8-4) for the third time this season. The two teams are division rivals in the SCC Hammonasset and the Titans downed the Hornets 4-2 and 4-1 in the regular season.
The third go-round was not so one-sided. It was the Hornets who took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute as senior Nicole Evans scored off a rebound.
Despite going into the wind, Sheehan out-shot the Hornets 5-2 through the first 40 minutes. Both Branford shots were on the goal-scoring sequence.
Sheehan also had three corners in the first half to Branford’s one.
Sheehan had a golden chance in the 23rd minute when Madison Yasgar had the ball right in front, but Branford keeper Macey Girard (8 saves) pounced on it.
Olivia Dubuc also had a pair of shots on goal in the first half and Casorla had a shot in the 37th minute.
“We looked at the wind and I decided to take the wind in the second half,” Huelsman said. “I thought we would come out hot in the second half. I didn’t think we would give up a goal in the first half. I thought it would be a tight game.
“The wind was a factor and we had a lot of chances in the second half. You come away with a win and we have another home game now.”
The Titans had the wind at their back in the second half and played well with it. It was all Sheehan in the first 10 minutes. The Titans were building for goals and they finally came.
Cuticelli, a freshman, scored in the 50th minute. Sam Barone was credited with the assist on the play. The sophomore set up Cuticelli in the middle from 35 yards and the first-year player blasted it in.
Seven minutes later, Sheehan went on top. Dubuc sped down the left sideline from midfield. She worked her way toward the box, drawing defenders. Eventually, she fed Casorla right in front of the goal.
“It was great to see Amy finish and I’m just so proud of my team,” Dubuc said. “We were shaky in the first half and it was great to see us come around in the second half.”
Casorla’s goal was her fifth of the season.
“It was good to have the winning goal because it helped with the team going on to the next round,” Casorla said. “Olivia had a great ball and it was great timing that I was there and able to score. I was really happy we won because we were down and came back in the second half.”
Defensively, Sheehan allowed Branford very little following the first-half goal.
“We just had to play hard because Branford was a very good team,” senior midfielder/defender Marley Esch said. “It means a lot that we won because if we lost it would have been our last game and we didn’t want our season to end. This is a big part of our lives right now.”
Senior Anna Medici played in goal for the first half and Beth Arnold played the second half. They combined for five saves.