MERIDEN >> The Mercy girls soccer team went through an up-and-down regular season, but managed to put together another solid state tournament run.
The Tigers advanced to their second straight semifinal, but that initial trip to a state championship game will have to wait at least another season.
Michaela Marcus scored both goals for No. 4 Avon, which defeated No. 8 Mercy 2-0 Wednesday night in the Class L state semifinals at Falcon Field.
“It was a rocky road,” Mercy coach Marcus Harley said. “We pulled it together toward the end of the season. We won four games in a row to finish off the season.”
This is Avon’s 10th trip to a final and fourth in the past five seasons. The Falcons will face No. 6 Immaculate on Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
“It never gets old,” said Avon coach Jim Murray, who won his 401st game at the school. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t like getting to the finals, I’ll tell you that much right now. It’s just a great feeling.”
Said Marcus: “We want this state championship really badly, and I think we might get it this year.”
The biggest blow for the Tigers (12-5-3) came before the match even started. As senior Olivia Ozycz jumped to high-five a teammate during introductions, she crumbled to the ground. The team’s leading scorer with 17 goals, Ozycz had to be carried to the bench and was replaced in the starting lineup by Danielle Richardson.
Harley said Ozycz originally hurt her right knee in the quarterfinal-round game against New Canaan on Saturday, but was OK to go against Avon.
“I don’t know what it was. I think it was just a bad step,” Harley said. “The mood changed. You can tell that in the first 5-10 minutes that they were all taken aback; they were a little bit scared. We didn’t have that threat at the top. That changed the entire dynamic.”
Without Ozycz up top, the Tigers were not able to generate much offense. Avon goalkeeper Emma Carlone didn’t make her first save until 8:13 remained in the game on a shot by Kendra Landy. The Tigers finished with just four shots.
Mercy stayed in the game thanks to its defense. The Tigers were able to thwart Avon’s opportunities before they turned into actual shot attempts.
Marcus’ first goal came on the game’s initial shot 9:52 into the match. She shot past Mercy goalkeeper Alyssa Morrisey into the right side of the net.
“That really brought our intensity level up further than it already was,” Marcus said. “We put their heads down early, which was a really big factor.”
Mercy recorded just one shot in the first half and neither goalie needed to record a save. In fact, Morrisey made the game’s first save with 16:27 remaining on a shot from Avon’s Kaleigh Sherman.
By then, Avon (16-1-2) had added the back-breaking goal with 11:58 remaining. It was Marcus again, this time with an assist from Sherman.
“Our girls really just focused and worked really hard and earned everything they got,” Murray said. “Our defense held solid and did the right things against (center-midfielder Kendra) Landy and their other players.”
Avon 2, Mercy 0
Mercy 0 0 — 0
Avon 1 1 — 2
First half—Avon: Michaela Marcus 9:52; Second half—Avon: Michaela Marcus (Kaleigh Sherman) 68:02;
Shots—ME: 4; Avon: 11;
Saves—ME: Alyssa Morrissey 3; Avon: Emma Carlone 2;
Records—Mercy 12-5-3; Avon 16-1-2