WEST HAVEN – A little less than three weeks ago in Middletown, the Mercy soccer team was unable to get going on offense in a shutout loss to West Haven. The Tigers had no such problem Wednesday evening.
Behind three goals from Olivia Ozycz, including two in the first half, Mercy cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Westies at Ken Strong Stadium. Mercy, which is undefeated in its last five games, improved to 6-2-2, while the Westies fell to 7-2-2.
“This is exciting,”Ozycz said. “We played together tonight. The defense, midfield and forwards all clicked this time.”
The Tigers wasted no time letting the Westies know the second time around would be much different as Mercy scored twice in the first 20 minutes of the game and never looked back.
“This was a game we needed to win,” Mercy coach Marcus Harley said. “We needed a win to stay in the division race.”
Ozycz got the Tigers going early as she took a rebound shot off the post and in for a 1-0 lead 10 minutes 31 seconds into the game.
Exactly nine minutes later, the Tigers were ahead by two goals. Taking a feed from Danielle Richardson, Ozycz raced down the right sideline, cut in, and ripped a rocket off the left post and in for a two-goal lead.
“The problem is the team’s focus was not on this game,” West Haven coach John Camara said. “We gave up two easy goals and it took a while before we regrouped.”
Richardson was at it again with 7:20 left in the first half as her cross in front found Katelyn Richardson for a 3-0 advantage.
“It felt awesome to be up two goals,” Ozycz said. “It was a great goal. We knew not to look back at that first game against them.”
Despite being down three goals at the half, the Westies had their opportunities. Gabi Prisco’s shot was stopped by Mercy goalkeeper Alyssa Morrisey from 20 yards out with 16 minutes left in the half, ,and a Prisco corner found Alexia Perez, but Perez sailed a shot over the goal.
Morrisey’s best saves came in the final seconds of the opening half. Prisco’s hooking shot was denied with a diving save by Morrisey with 14 seconds left in the half.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Camara said. “We are in second place and now have no room for error. We need a little help from our competitors.”
Prisco, who created majority of West Haven’s scoring chances in the game, had a golden opportunity 13 minutes into the second half, but her shot and rebound from 10 yards out sailed wide of an open goal.
Prisco was then robbed by a saving save from Morrisey two minutes later.
The Westies finally got on the scoreboard 17:08 into the second half.
With Prisco taking a corner kick, the shot found its way to Jolie Morrell who headed the ball to MacKenzie Holy. The freshman calmly beat Morrisey to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Westies stepped up the attack, but could not get closer. Marisa Pacapelli’s shot from 32 yards out was stopped with 6:10 remaining.
“We contained their speed,” Harley said. “Their number 20 (Prisco) is quick and we put our number seven (Victoria Fiore) on her. We worked well as a defensive unit tonight.”
West Haven’s Sam Furtak kept the deficit at two when she took the ball away from a breaking Kristen Dean, preventing a shot in close.
Mercy and Ozycz iced the contest in the final 7:45 as Haley Vanty’s shot was denied by West Haven’s Betsy Magana, but Ozycz knocked in the rebound.
Morrisey finished with nine saves in the win for Mercy. Magana, who replaced Janiene Tuinman in the first half, made five saves in the loss for the Westies.