GIRLS SOCCER:  Mercy edges Sheehan in showdown that lives up to billing

GIRLS SOCCER:  Mercy edges Sheehan in showdown that lives up to billing

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WALLINGFORD — This was one of those games that gets circled on the calendar.

Oct. 6, Mercy at Sheehan, girls soccer: It’s one that’s going to have a postseason pulse even if it’s played just two games into the regular season.

On top of that, it was Senior Night for Sheehan.

At turns fluid and physical and ricochet-addled as a pinball game, Tuesday night’s SCC clash between the Titans and Tigers at Riccitelli Field lived up to the billing.

And with goaltenders Beth Arnold of Sheehan and Melina Ford of Mercy playing as well as they were, it seemed destined for a scoreless draw until, with 13:03 left to play, Mercy’s Kate Donlan landed a left-footed goal to the far side that earned the visitors a 1-0 decision.

“Before they scored, I almost though it could be a 0-0 game because both teams were out there really fighting hard and nobody wants to lose,” Sheehan coach Rob Huelsman said. “We had a couple of opportunities here and there, but in this game, especially when it’s tight, the ball bounces the right way for one team and that can be the difference, and it was kind of that way with Mercy.”

The field tilted Sheehan’s way for much of this contest, especially early in the second half, when Amy Casorla put a nice ball to the far corner in the opening minute to set the tone.

And yet while Casorla and teammates Madison Yasgar, Olivia Violette, Samantha Barone and Ashley Bunnell continued to buzz and splice the Mercy end of the field, they had to really battle to get off quality shots.

Some of the best bids were on corner kicks. More times than not, Ford got airborne to snag those before they became problematic.

At the other end, Arnold was huge, playing a game reminiscent of the shutout she pitched last year when Sheehan upset top-seeded RHAM in lthe Class L quarterfinals. Mercy had several dangerous counters that Arnold, coming off her line, stifled or steered aside.

The senior had turned away a close shot in the box moments before Donlon, on a follow-up opportunity, collected a lead pass lofted ahead out of the midfield from Kaila Lujambio and connected for the game-winner about 10 yards out from the left side.

“Beth did a real good job,” Huelsman said. “There was that one save down there I thought was definitely in, the first time around. I didn’t even see the goal that actually went in.”

The Titans pushed the attack hard in the wake of Menard’s goal, literally to the last second. As the final buzzer sounded, Barone was carrying the ball deep down the left wing.

“There were times we had the ball down their end a lot,” said Huelsman. “We just couldn’t capitalize on it.”

Capitalization was no issue in the season opener on Friday night, when the Titans (1-1) routed Lyman Hall 8-0. Mercy (2-0), meanwhile, was coming off a 3-1 season-opening win over Cheshire.

“Mercy, we knew coming in, they’ve got some solid players. We knew they had some good finishers, and how they move the ball quickly,” Huelsman said. “That’s one thing, playing Friday to today, it was a little different speed in pace of the play. It took us a little bit get used to it, but we’ve got a pretty resilient team. These girls, they’re hungry.”

Well, they’ll get another shot at Mercy over in Middletown on Oct. 30. Go ahead, circle the date.

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