Pictured: Mercy will face Amity for the conference championship on Thursday at West Haven High School.
By Paul Augeri
Mercy’s soccer team is headed back to the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament final after scoring two goals in the final two minutes to beat top-seeded Sacred Heart Academy 2-1 in Tuesday’s semifinal round.
Freshman Laney Smith — on her birthday — converted a lead pass from Megan Menard with 2:13 to go to put the Tigers in front.
“She showed composure in the box,” said Mercy coach Marcus Harley, who noted that Smith’s success came at the expense of Sacred Heart’s Everson Maciel, her club coach. “She took the pass and placed it to the inside post. You don’t see that from a freshman, or from a lot of premier players or national players.”
Just 61 seconds later, junior Meghan Gallagher, with defenders on her back, got away from a potential tackle by Sharks keeper Kyla King (six saves) from about 30 yards out and put it away.
Mercy (14-2-2) needed Gallagher’s score because Ava King scored for the Sharks (14-1-3), who lost for the first time in 18 matches, with 1 second on the clock.
The Tigers, seeded fourth, will meet No. 2 Amity on Thursday (5:30pm) for the title at West Haven High School. Mercy, which lost to Shelton on penalty kicks in the 2018 SCC final, seeks its first championship since sharing the 2003 crown with Cheshire.
Mercy lost 2-1 to Amity at home in September and tied the Spartans in Woodbridge in October.
“The girls are excited,” Harley said. “Again, our goal was to get to the finals and prove to the rest of the league that what we did in quadrant play last year was not a fluke. Now we have to do it again against Amity, but we know we can play with them. They were the toughest (opponent) team this year.”
Junior keeper Melina Ford had a save in the first half and two in the second for the Tigers, who won 11 of 12 matches played in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. There was no state tournament last fall.
“Melina controlled the box well,” said Harley. “They didn’t pressure us as often as we thought they would. The game was played pretty much in the middle of the field. They didn’t build much offensively. But Sacred Heart played a good game. They should be making some noise in the Class M tournament.”
Mercy thought it had scored at the horn of the first half, but the goal was disallowed for not crossing the goal line in time.
“We were close all game,” Harley said. “Our halftime talk was, ‘Keep it up.’ We kept the momentum up in the second half and had chances and near misses.”