MIDDLETOWN >> Twelfth-ranked Mercy hit No. 21 Manchester with a three-spot in the first half and coasted home with a 3-1 win in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL Girls Soccer tournament on Tiger Field Monday afternoon.
The win sets up a match with South West Conference champion New Milford (11-2-3) on the road Wednesday.
Despite dominating and scoring three goals in the first half, Mercy coach Marcus Harley wasn’t a happy man after the match.
“We were not good,” Harley said. “We scored three goals, but that was all we did. If we had played a Shelton or a Guilford we would have gotten hammered. We had none of the intensity that we had in the league tournament.”
Required intensity or not, the first half belonged to Mercy.
The Tigers ((10-5-4) took a 1-0 lead with 21:08 left in the half when Kate Richardson scored on a one-timer off a corner kick from Camille Gilarde. The kick came directly in front of the net and keeper Sara Neubauer had no chance.
The second goal came with 8:29 showing and this time Lexi Porter scored off a pass from Ryan Miela. The pass set up Porter to Newbauer’s right but again she had no chance as Porter’s rocket was past her diving attempt.
Late in the half, Miela stretched the Tigers’ lead to 3-0 with a long, high arching shot from at least 25 yards out that sailed over the leaping Neubauer, just under the crossbar, with 2:50 left in the half. Isabel Mesquite had the assist.
The second half was much different as Manchester (7-7-3) had the better of play throughout.
The visitors got on the board with 12:02 to play when Morgan Smith scored on a one-timer off a pretty pass from Nicole Kerr. Manchester had another chance with two minutes to go, but came up empty.
“We were better in the second half,” Manchester coach Jon Cohn said. “We challenged the kids at the half and they responded. It’s easy to make adjustments at halftime, but much harder to do that during play, especially in at the high school level.
“You just can’t take time off; you have to compete for the full 80 minutes. But we also knew we were going up against a very good team in Mercy. I wish them well.”
Except for the score — the only numbers that count — the statistics were even. Mercy had eight shots to Manchester’s seven, while Mercy keeper Alyssa Morrissey had two saves and Nuebauer had three.
There were very few shots in the second half as Mercy appeared to be in defensive mode. But Harley would have none of that.
“We didn’t just play defense in the second half,” Harley said. “It just looked that way. The older kids dropped back, so we put some younger kids in to get things going a little bit and they did a good job.
“It’s hard to have seven days off like we did and come out with the intensity you have when you’re used to playing two or three games a week. I don’t think girls have that mindset of being intense all the time that boys do. We had better bring that intensity to the New Milford game.”
Manchester had a good opportunity five minutes in, but the clear shot was right at Morrissey.
Mercy also had an early chance as the Tigers had a wide open left half of the net with 27 minutes left, but the ball was kicked away on a very good defensive play before Mercy could take the shot.
“I thought my team represented their school very well,” Cohn said. “Even though we lost, I’m proud of my kids.”
The Mercy versus No. 5 New Milford match is a 2 p.m. start.