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Article Published December 28, 2020

2020 Branford Sports Year in Review

By Chris Piccirillo/

There were a few championships to be had for Branford in 2020. The Branford dance team continued its winning tradition at states, while the boys’ ice hockey squad defended its conference crown during the winter. The fall season saw the Hornets’ girls’ soccer team advance to its divisional final. Let’s take a look back at the highlights of the year in Branford sports.


While several clubs had already finished their winter seasons, Branford’s dance and boys’ ice hockey teams were unable to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Branford dance squad took first place in the Small Varsity Hip-Hop Division and the Jazz Division at the State Championship, marking the sixth-straight season that the Hornets won a state title in both divisions. The Hornets were slated to compete at the New England Championship, but the meet was canceled.

Samantha Esposito, Johnna Palmese, and Belle Petrosino served as Branford’s captains. The Hornets’ co-head coaches were Jacqui Montano and Megan Palluzzi.

The Branford cheerleading team claimed its eighth conference title by finishing in first place at the SCC Championship. Branford went on to finish fifth at the Class M State Championship.

Bella Miranda, Jade Smith, Lila Beard, and Taylor Nichols were the four seniors who competed for the Hornets. Miranda, Smith, and Beard each earned All-SCC honors, while Smith also received the SCC Coaches Merit Award on behalf of Head Coach Melissa Mansi’s squad.

The Branford boys’ ice hockey team didn’t get a chance to defend its state title, but the Hornets still had an excellent campaign in which they claimed their second-straight division title and then won the SCC/SWC Division II Tournament for the second year in a row on their way to a record of 20-2-1.

Branford finished with a record of 17-2-1 during the regular season, including a mark of 9-0 in SCC/SWC action to claim the division crown. Then in the SCC/SWC Division II Tournament, Head Coach Jim DiNapoli’s squad earned a 7-0 win versus the East Haven co-op in the semifinals and a 1-0 victory over North Haven in the final.

Branford went on to post a 5-2 victory over South Windsor in the first round of the Division II Tournament before the tournament was canceled.

Senior captain Spencer Engstrom earned a spot on the All-SCC/SWC Division II Second Team and the All-State Second Team. Fellow seniors Jack Manware and Chris Donadio made All-SCC/SWC Division II First Team and the All-State First Team. Junior goalie Jared Yakimoff earned All-SCC/SWC Division II honors and was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC/SWC Division II Tournament.

The Branford-North Branford-East Haven girls’ ice hockey team finished with a record of 4-14-2. Goalkeeper Christina Meadows garnered All-SCC accolades for Head Coach Jack Norton’s club.

The Branford wrestling team enjoyed a phenomenal season that saw the Hornets notch a regular-season record of 26-1, finish third at the SCC Championship, and then place fourth at the Class M State Championship.

Senior captain Cody McHenry recorded a program-record 50 wins on his way to a program-best 144 career victories. McHenry, who wrestled in the 195-pound weight class, won the title at the SCC Championship, finished fifth in Class M, fourth at the State Open, and then won three bouts at the New England Championship.

Minsok Lee was also a senior captain for Branford. Lee placed second in the 285-pound division at both SCCs and states. Junior captain Justin Osler claimed first place in the 182-pound division at the SCC meet for the second-straight year and went on to take the title at the Class M meet. Junior captain AJ Robinson finished third in the 160-pound weight class at states.

Junior Brooke Kustra earned All-SCC accolades for the third year in a row when she represented Branford gymnastics at the SCC Championship. Kustra finished in third place for the all-around at the SCC meet, after which she competed on the bars event at the State Open.

The Hornets’ girls’ basketball squad went 7-14 and qualified for the Class MM State Tournament. Branford took a 47-35 defeat against Killingly in the first round of the state bracket. Point guard Karly King, guard Issy Mannle, and forward/center Mikayla Brown served as the senior captains for Head Coach Rob Manghnani’s team. King played her way to a spot on the All-SCC Second Team.

The Branford boys’ basketball squad posted a mark of 7-13. Senior Kevin Baxter earned All-SCC Second Team honors for the Hornets.

The Branford boys’ indoor track team finished in sixth place at the SCC West Sectional Championship, took 14th place at the SCC Championship, and then placed eighth at the Class M State Championship.

Junior Mekhi Barnette advanced to the State Open in the high jump after finishing fifth at the Class M State Championship. The Hornets’ head coach was Rich Biondi.

The Hornets’ girls’ indoor track squad posted a ninth-place finish at the SCC West Sectional Championship, finished 17th at the SCC Championship, and then sent several athletes to the Class M State Championship.

Branford’s 1,600 sprint medley relay of junior Noor Issa, sophomore Katie Laska, senior Rose Lockery, and sophomore Catherine Duffy finished second place at the sectional meet. The quartet went on to take fourth place at the SCC meet on behalf of Head Coach Kevin Connell’s squad.


All spring sports across Connecticut were canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Branford’s baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, outdoor track, and golf teams were unable to compete as a result.


Branford athletes had a chance to play lacrosse in the Dream League and baseball in the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association (CEBA) this summer.

The Branford Sting girls’ lacrosse team competed in the Dream League finished with a record of 4-4. The captains for Head Coach Billy Alessi’s team were midfielders Karly King and Brianna Shaw, attacker Isabel Mannle, and goalkeeper Brooke O’Leary.

The Branford U-19 baseball squad played 20 games in the CEBA. Branford posted an overall record of 7-13, including a victory in the CEBA’s Division II Tournament.

Head Coach Kyle Heins’s squad notched a record of 6-12 during regular-season play. Branford then entered the Division II Tournament and claimed a 9-3 victory versus New Haven. Branford took a 3-0 loss to Madison in the quarterfinal round.

The Branford U-17 baseball team finished with a record of 4-16 in the CEBA. Michael Krause was the head coach for the team.

Athletes Branford and North Branford teamed up to play for a team called Branford Legion in the Connecticut Baseball League. Head Coach Billy Mitchell’s club finished with a record of 11-8 and competed in the semifinals of the league’s tournament.


After all of the delays and with various restrictions in place, Branford hit the field to compete during the fall of 2020. Unfortunately, a few teams were unable to compete in the postseason as a result of COVID-19 guidelines, but the athletes on every team appreciated the moments that they spent together during the course of the campaign.

The Branford girls’ soccer team put together a great season in 2020. The Hornets advanced to the championship game of the SCC Division B Tournament on their way to an overall record of 6-4-2.

After going 5-3-2 in the regular season, Branford competed in the SCC Division B Tournament. The Hornets started off the draw by claiming a 1-0 win against Hand in a semifinal matchup. Then in the final, Branford squared off with Guilford and dropped a 1-0 overtime decision.

Junior captain defender Kendall Infantino garnered All-SCC Division B and All-State honors for Branford. Junior captain goalkeeper also earned All-SCC Division B honors on behalf of Head Coach Jen Kohut’s club. Sophomore midfielder Ava Ferrie secured a spot on the All-SCC Division B Team and also made All-State.

The Branford boys’ soccer squad finished with a record of 4-4-1. Paul Hunter completed another season as the Hornets’ head coach.

Striker Ralph Ciarleglio, goalkeeper Alec Aceves-Acosta, center back Matt Cordero, and center midfielder Din Durmic served as Branford’s senior captains. Aceves-Acosta and Ciarleglio garnered All-SCC Division B accolades.

The Branford field hockey team had a solid year in which it posted a record of 6-6 and earned a win in the SCC Division A Tournament.

After winning five games in the regular season, the Hornets entered the SCC Division A Tournament. Branford claimed a 2-0 win versus Mercy in a first-round game before taking a 3-1 loss against Cheshire in the semifinals.

Forward Andrea Amarante and defender Alisa Gueco served as Branford’s senior captains. Junior goalie Nina Shamas, junior forward Lenora Longway, sophomore forward Spencer Engstrom, and sophomore midfielder Lauren Kendrick earned All-SCC Division A honors for the Hornets, whose head coach was Pete Frye.

The Hornets’ girls’ volleyball squad finished with a mark of 4-10 in its first year with Head Coach Giovanni Meier. Branford competed in the SCC Division C Tournament, where the team claimed a first-round victory.

Branford started off the Division C tourney by earning a 3-1 win versus West Haven in the first round. The Hornets went on to take a 3-0 loss against Guilford in a semifinal match.

Junior Marzia Johnson and sophomore Alexandra Bietz garnered All-SCC Division C accolades for Branford.

The Branford girls’ cross country team finished with a regular-season record of 3-5 and then took part in the SCC’s postseason competition.

This year, the SCC held four divisional meets and merged the performances from those meet together to also tabulate the team standings for the conference. Branford finished in third place for SCC Division A Championship and came in 15th place for the overall SCC standings.

Junior Isla Lionetti turned in Branford’s top showing by finishing in 10th place in the Division A standings. Maddy Steinman and Steph Toste were the senior captains for Head Coach Kevin Connell’s team.

The Branford boys’ cross country squad hit the trails for another year with Head Coach Kevin Connell. The Hornets finished with a record of 2-6.

Patricio Banegas Orellana and Brennan Hynes served as Branford’s senior captains.

The Branford girls’ swimming and diving team competed in virtual meets during the 2020 season. Branford finished off its season by competing at the SCC Virtual Championship, where the team finished in 8th place for the Division II standing and 16th in the conference.

Junior Erika Barone took fifth place in the 200 individual medley and also finished fifth for the 100 backstroke in the Division II meet. Barone earned All-SCC Division II honors in both events.

Senior Melissa Juliano took sixth place in the 100 backstroke and also finished sixth in the 50 freestyle at the divisional meet, making the All-SCC Division II Team in each event. Junior Rory Jacobson earned All-SCC Division II accolades in the 100 butterfly by finishing in sixth place in the Division II meet.