Guilford Boys’ Soccer Enjoys Another Successful Season
Senior captain Aidan Buchanan helped the Guilford boys’ soccer squad have a successful season that saw the team notch a record of 7-3-1 and advance to the SCC Division B Tournament final. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior captain Anthony Ippolito recorded 11 goals with seven assists on his way to garnering All-SCC Division B accolades for the Guilford boys’ soccer team in 2020. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior Niall O’Brien was an All-SCC Division B honoree on behalf of the Guilford boys’ soccer squad this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Sophomore Justin Hess enjoyed a great debut campaign as Guilford’s starting goalie during the 2020 fall season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Entering the 2020 fall season, the Guilford boys’ soccer team had some major expectations on its shoulders, having won the Southern Connecticut Conference title the previous year. Guilford had graduated three of its four starting defenders and also its goalie, but that wasn’t going to stop Head Coach Curtis Gullette’s squad from seeing continued success.
Guilford wound up enjoying another successful year that saw the team finish with a record of 7-3-1. After starting off at 1-2 with a pair of losses against Daniel Hand, Guilford bounced back and didn’t lose another game for the rest of the regular season. In postseason play, Guilford earned a 9-0 win against East Haven in the semifinals of the SCC Division B Tournament before taking a 3-1 loss to Hand in the final.
Gullette, who finished his second season as Guilford’s head coach, said that those early losses to Hand lit a fire under his team that persisted throughout the rest of the campaign.
“We had fallen to a below .500 record, lost to our rival twice, and knew in our heart that we had more to offer than what we had shown,” said Gullette. “We also knew that the season could end at any moment, so the boys were determined to refocus and were ready to give all of the effort they could each day.”
After losing those games, Guilford rattled off victories against Career-Hillhouse (6-1), Branford (2-0), Hamden (2-0), Xavier (2-1), and East Haven (6-1) to finish the regular season. Guilford also played Cheshire to a 1-1 draw.
Guilford had several key wins during its regular season, but Coach Gullette’s favorite aspect of the year was seeing the greater appreciation that his athletes had for the game while they played through a pandemic, knowing that the season could end at any time.
“I loved seeing the boys have the chance to play soccer and enjoy their time on the pitch with teammates,” Gullette said. “There are so many things that we used to take for granted in life. The boys in the program have a new appreciation for the time they got to spend together on the Guilford High School soccer team.”
Guilford’s roster for the 2020 season included senior captains Anthony Ippolito and Aidan Buchanan; fellow seniors Aidan Medvecky, Michael Malatesta, Niall O’Brien, Camilo Carmona, Evan Lemon, and Nate Pizzuti; juniors Michael Van Keuren, Jacob Pinckney, Owen Campaigne, Tanner Lewis, Cal Stephens, Theo Freeman, Jerry Li, Ali Sabea, and Juana Salas-Romer; and sophomores Justin Hess, Will Rice, Mark Michna, Joshua Chen, and Luke Ste. Marie.
Buchanan, Ippolito, and O’Brien each made the All-SCC Division B Team for Guilford. Ippolito, a forward, led Guilford with 11 goals and seven assists on the season. Buchanan, who played defense, had two goals with five assists, while midfielder O’Brien posted three goals and one assist for the year.
Another top performer for Guilford was Carmona, who finished the season with five goals and two assists. Rice had four goals and an assist, Lemon had a goal with three assists, Pizzuti scored a goal and had an assist, and Malatesta contributed an assist. Sophomore goalkeeper Justin Hess finished the season with three shutouts for Coach Gullette’s club.
“Everyone, but especially these seniors, showed a lot of heart and perseverance throughout this unpredictable season,” Gullette said. “I am very proud of them for the way they handled themselves. We are going to miss them next year.”
Dealing with COVID-19 meant that players and coaches had to perform their respective duties under new safety precautions administered by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Some of those precautions included wearing masks, wiping down equipment, and keeping proper social distance.
Guilford did what it had to do throughout the season, but Gullette said that it was difficult to get used to.
“Wearing masks, sanitizing equipment, washing pinnies every night, playing without fans, screening everyone before each practice and game, and everything else that came along with playing during the COVID-19 pandemic never felt normal,” said Gullette. “Everyone kept sight of the fact we were following all of the protocols and precautions to hopefully be able to continue playing the next day. We always knew that the next day, everything could change.”
Gullette expressed gratitude to the groups of parents who were able to attend games from the outskirts of the stadiums. Still, he missed having the regulars in attendance.
“It was nice to have a small group of parents as fans part of the way into the season, but we really missed having all of the support of the students and larger Guilford community,” Gullette said. “We have a dedicated fan base, and we look forward to having them support us at games in the coming years, when we can return to a more normal fall season.”
In terms of that next fall season, even with a slew of talented athletes graduating from this year’s team, Coach Gullette likes what he has returning to his roster for the 2021 campaign.
“We have a good core of underclassmen returning for next season,” said Gullette. “With some growth in the offseason and, hopefully a more normal season next year, we expect to be able to compete night in and night out with any team in the SCC and state.”