MERIDEN, Nov. 12 – The Avon High girls soccer team is going back to the Class L state championship game. The Falcons clamped down on Mercy High in a 2-0 semifinal victory Wednesday night at Falcon Field, allowing just three shots on goal.
Avon’s leading scorer Michaela Marcus had two goals to lead the Falcons back to the state final for the fifth time in the last six years. No. 4 Avon (16-1-2) will play No. 6 Immaculate-Danbury (13-2-4) for the state championship on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at West Haven High School.
Marcus scored on Avon’s second shot of the game, connecting from 15 yards away with about 9:58 gone in the game. Marcus sprinted away from two Tiger defenders on the far sideline and before they could catch up with her, Marcus ripped a shot that got past Mercy goalie Alyssa Morrisey and inside the far post.
Avon spent much of the game controlling the ball. Mercy (12-5-3) didn’t get off a legitimate shot against Avon goalie Emma Carlone until the later stages of the second half and the Falcons had a two-goal lead.
“We started out really strong and intense,” said Marcus, who has scored a team-high 16 goals, including three in three state tournament games. “We kept moving the ball and eventually we got some open shots. I know Taylor (Lisevick) had some great shots. We played more as a team than we have all year.”
Avon was able to control the ball on the synthetic turf of Falcon Field. “This field is nice and wide, a beautiful field,” Avon coach Jim Murray said. “We like to move the ball and we like to move it quickly. This helps us a lot. This field is 70 yards and 120 yards long. We love to run.”
Murray praised Marcus and Taylor Lisevick for their play at midfield. “They shook things up. They poke checked the ball away (from Mercy players) and didn’t let them establish any of their game,” Murray said. “That played right into our hand.”
Avon’s defense, anchored by Amanda Holtzman, Christine Oberhausen, Jen Greenfield and Stephanie Saccoccio was outstanding. Goalie Emma Carlone went the distance in net, making three saves to earn the shutout. Teammate Lydia Cuddeback, who usually plays in the second half, sat out after getting kicked in the head in the quarterfinal win over Guilford on Saturday. She has been cleared to begin practicing on Thursday.
“Our girls were focused and worked really hard,” Murray said. “They earned everything they got and they deserved it.”
A strong left footed shot from Sherman gave the Falcons another chance with 16:29 remaining to extend its lead. But Morrisey made the stop. Two minutes later, a Sherman shot bounced high off the crossbar and came down right in front of Hannah Davey. She blasted the ball into the net but it was no goal because the ball had gone out of bounds when it bounced high off the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Avon extended its lead to 2-0. Off a corner kick, Sherman rolled a pass across the top of the crease to Marcus near the 15-yard line. Marcus took a second and then ripped the ball past Morrisey’s right side for a 2-0 lead with 11:58 remaining in the game.
That inspired Mercy, who was finally able to get some shots toward the net in the final 11 minutes but Carlone was up to the task.
Avon will be playing in its 10th state championship game. They’ll be looking for a sixth title and a championship to go along with Class L titles won in 2012 and 2011.
“Everyone kind of discounts us a little bit because we play in a small school league (NCCC),” Murray said. It’s a great league and it prepared us every day. I think some people overlook us and say, we can beat that team.”
Immaculate is making its 12th appearance in the state championship final. It’s the first time in the Class L final for the Mustangs, who won or shared nine Class S titles from 2003-12. The Mustangs beat Wethersfield in the other semifinal on Wednesday, 2-0.
Avon 2, Mercy 0
Mercy (12-5-3) 0 0 — 0
Avon (16-1-2) 1 1 — 2
Goals: Michaela Marcus (A) 2; Assists: Kaleigh Sherman (A); Saves: Emma Carlone (A) 3, Alyssa Morrisey (M) 6; Shots: Avon, 10-3; Corner kicks: Avon, 5-1