MIDDLETOWN >> Fourth-ranked Mercy survived — barely.
Ridgefield, ranked No. 13, unleashed a furious second half attack and peppered the Mercy goal with 16 second half shots, including six within a five-minute span in the second half, but the Tigers stopped all but one and won the Class LL second-round game 2-1 Wednesday afternoon at Tiger Field at Mercy High School.
Mercy advanced to the quarterfinal round against Central Connecticut Conference champion Northwest Catholic Friday at 2 p.m. in West Hartford.
Included in the five-shot flurry from the 14 minute to the eight minute mark, were two brilliant saves by Mercy keeper Alyssa Morrissey.
“Alyssa saved us,” said Mercy coach Marcus Harley. “They could easily have tied the game there. We dropped people back, but we couldn’t clear the ball. I have a young team and maybe the girls were nervous, but we had trouble clearing the ball.”
The first half was played on even terms. Ridgefield outshot Mercy 8-4, but neither Morrissey or her counterpart, Julia Middlebrook, was seriously challenged before intermission.
Ridgefield had a good shot at the 31 minute mark that went wide left, another at the 20-minute mark that sailed over the net and a third with five minutes left that was kicked right to Morrissey.
Mercy had two good opportunities, one that went wide at the 26-minute mark and another that went wide with a minute left in the half.
“We played well,” said Harley. “We finally figured out how to beat them in the second half. We got a goal off a free kick, then that second one was big.”
The match turned early in the second half. Mercy (15-3-1) took a 1-0 lead with 30 minutes, 30 seconds left in the match when Blakeslee scored off a free kick from Danielle Richardson.
Just 104 seconds later, the Tigers made it 2-0 when Olivia Ozycz scored off a pass from Palmer. The Tigers had a clean shot with 24 minutes left that sailed over the net and Ridgefield had the same thing happen to it a minute later.
Ridgefield (10-4-4) broke through with a goal with 19 minutes, 45 seconds remaining when Kathleen Jasminski cut the lead to 2-1. From that point until the end of the match, Ridgefield put enormous pressure on the Mercy goal.
“In the second half my girls gave everything,” said Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison. “We threw everything we had at Mercy. We missed the post by an inch and their keeper made some great saves. I give all the credit to my girls who gave did all they could.”
Harrison said the field was a Mercy advantage.
“We are a possession team and we play all our games on turf,” he said. “Playing on grass meant we had to play a little differently; we had to adjust.”
Harley felt the win was not only a win for his team, but also a win for the Southern Connecticut Conference, which has not played well in the postseason.
“Ridgefield probably came in here thinking they would beat us because we played crap in the SCC,” he said. “That’s what you hear from the FCIAC [Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference] all the time. Maybe they’ll [Ridgefield] go home and realize if we don’t make a mistake, they don’t get any goals.”
Final stats showed Ridgefield with 24 shots to Mercy’s 17. Mercy keeper Morrissey had seven saves while Middlebrook had five.