Suffield girls advance to Class LL final

MIDDLETOWN — It was a slow start, but the Suffield girls soccer team not only showed they belong in Class LL, but that they deserve the No. 1 seed after a 3-1 win over Mercy Monday night in Middletown.

“It feels really good,” Suffield head coach David Sullivan said. “I am really proud of these girls. As you can see this level is a little more physical than were used to in Class M. They stepped up to it.”

The Wildcats scored three goals in the second half after a scoreless first and are 80 well-played minutes of soccer from being not only state champions, but the best girls soccer team in Connecticut.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Ashlie DaCruz said. “We worked together as team to get this, hopefully we will work together to win it”

The typically potent Suffield offense was held in check by Mercy, as few scoring chances for either side resulted from a blustery wind and stifling defense.

“We knew they were a good team,” Sullivan said, “and against the wind, we knew if we could get out of there 0-0 with the tough wind, we know we can score. It didn’t go as well as it should have in the first half but in the second half we were confident that with the wind we would have some chances there.”

And Suffield had tons of chances. Just under four minutes into the second half, Michelle D’Agta finished a great setup by Brittany Champagne to give Suffield a 1-0 lead.

“We were pressing a little bit, and not scoring,” Sullivan said of the first half. “We’re not used to going a whole half without scoring. Once we got one to go in, I thought ‘once it comes it’s going to go.’ I thought it would be four or five but their goalie made some great saves. Once we broke the ice I felt pretty confident.”

With a slim lead against a previously 15-2-1 Mercy squad, Suffield knew it needed a little insurance. And with 28:48 on the clock, DaCruz lined up a corner kick. Her bending shot went off the goalie, and gave Suffield a 2-0 advantage.

“I just drove it and hopefully it was going in,” DaCruz, a senior, said.

A bevy of Suffield chances followed, with a corner kick at the 15:30 mark followed by a goal off the leg of Nicole Stryjek with just under 15 minutes remaining.

“We talked about finishing your runs,” Sullivan said. “This team, all of them are willing to take a ball in the face, take a ball anywhere for the good of the team. Today, these goals were hustle goals. The extra effort scores goals and makes a difference.”

Mercy got a hustle goal of their own less than a minute later, quite a feat, considering it is just the second goal allowed by 19-0 Suffield all season. Olivia Ozycz scored with 14 minutes left, giving the Tigers a little hope with a 2-goal deficit and their season ticking away.

But Suffield controlled the ball down the stretch, nearly adding more goals several times, including a shot on goal by DaCruz that was barely saved by the Mercy goaltender.

Suffield now has nearly a week off before its title bout Saturday, at a time and place to be named later. But the win in the semis is almost validation for Sullivan and the Wildcats, who will appear in their first ever Class LL championship.

“From the beginning of the year people were saying, ‘it’s a whole different story,’” Sullivan said of joining Class LL, “but this is easily one of the top 3 teams I’ve ever had. Out of any of the years to compete in LL, we figured this was the year.”

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