Guilford boys soccer shuts out Masuk to reach Class L semifinals

GUILFORD — When it came to offense, it was all Sami AbuGhazaleh Saturday night.

The Guilford senior scored both goals as the 9th-seeded Grizzlies blanked 16th-seeded Masuk, 2-0, in the CIAC Class L boys’ soccer quarterfinals at Kavanaugh Field.

“It’s a big win,” AbuGhazaleh said. “It feels good after we missed out on playing in states (due to Covid-19) last year. It’s good to be back.”

Guilford (14-4-2) will play the winner of Sunday’s Notre Dame-West Haven/Wethersfield game in the Class L semifinals later this week. That game was postponed Saturday due to the storms that rolled through Connecticut in the mid-afternoon.

“It’s everything,” Guilford coach Curtis Gullette said. “Guilford has a long history of making it this far. This group is poised to take it a step further.”

The Grizzlies went on top 1-0 at the 13:39 mark of the first half. Masuk gave the ball away deep in its own end and Juan Salas-Romer fed AbuGhazaleh with a perfect pass in the middle. AbuGhazaleh then back-heeled the ball past Masuk goalkeeper Christos Simoulidis into the lower left corner of the net.

“I got lucky,” AbuGhazaleh said. “I got played a good ball.”

After that the first half was even until the final six minutes when the Panthers put a lot of pressure on the Grizzlies’ defense and goalkeeper Justin Hess (four saves).

“They did and I take some ownership of that,” Gullette said. “We switched formations to try and match up with more guys in the back. It didn’t work, but we got away with it for 10 minutes.”

“We hit the post and had a couple opportunities that didn’t bounce our way,” said Masuk assistant coach Jarrod Schulz, who led the team in the absence of head coach Brendan Cavanaugh, who was ill. “We also had a couple of blocked shots inside the box. Unfortunately, that was the difference in the game.”

AbuGhazaleh added his second goal of the night with 18:44 remaining in the game. That came when Will Rice sent a crossing pass to AbuGhazaleh that he headed off the crossbar before banging in the rebound with his right foot past Simoulidis into the net.

“It’s the first time I’ve done that,” AbuGhazaleh said.

Hess stopped all four Masuk shots.

“Hess is our rock in the back and the other four or five guys who play in front of him, we trust them,” Gullette said. “We know they are going to get the job done.”

Masuk finished its season with an 11-5-3 record.

“We’re a little disappointed considering how we’ve been playing over the last couple of weeks,” Schulz. “At the beginning of the season, if you told me that we would get to the state quarterfinals against a team like this, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. We showed ourselves proud.”