Girls soccer: Joyce’s goal lifts Shelton into league final

Maggie Howard looks to deliver a kick. — Andy Hutchison photos

Moments after narrowly missing a chance to break the scoreless deadlock, with a shot just over the top, Shelton High’s Mackenzie Joyce got a similar look and lowered her shot just enough.

The ball hit the bottom of the cross bar and landed on the back side of the line.

Joyce’s goal was all second-seeded Shelton needed to post a 1-0 victory over third-seeded Amity Regional in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament semifinals on Tuesday night at Finn Stadium.

The Gaelettes will take on top seed Mercy-Middletown, the only team to defeat them this fall, in Thursday’s championship game at West Haven High beginning at 5:30.

Mackenzie Joyce scored the game winner.

“We’re really excited to play Mercy again,” said Shelton coach Marvin Miller, whose team split a pair of regular-season contests with the Tigers. “We thought we didn’t make our best effort the last time we played them (a 2-0 loss).”

Shelton put forth a tremendous effort against Amity, maintaining pressure on the visitor’s half of the field for most of the night.

Haley Oko headed a bouncing ball over a defender and into the 18-yard box, where Joyce unloaded a shot that went just over the top bar with just under 16 minutes left in regulation.

Then, Zoe Rogers’ left-footed a pass from the wing toward the top of the box. Joyce settled the ball, turned to her right, took a dribble and stepped into a shot that ultimately sent the Gaelettes into the final.

“She really put a good effort up top. It was nice to see her score,” said Miller, who noted that Haley Adcox did an outstanding job marking Amity standout Audrey Marin in a battle of players that wear the number 15. “That was a huge thing for us,” Miller said of Adcox’s play.

In the first half, Amity countered off a Shelton corner kick, but nice defensive work by Erin Keary and Heather Garrett nullified one of few Amity chances.

Shelton goalkeeper Arianna Malick needed to make just a trio of saves to preserve the shutout. Shelton put 18 shots toward goal, and Amity keeper Becca Doyle made seven stops.

The Gaelettes would have been pleased to advance with a win over anybody, but moving on against Amity was a little extra special given the level of opponent, rivalry, and the respect the teams have for each other.

“It’s always nice to get a good win against an opponent you have a lot of respect for,” said Miller, adding that he was appreciative of the kind words the opposing coaches gave his players following the match.