Jays split where West meets East

The Merrill soccer girls picked up their first Valley win of the season last Tuesday when they edged out Wausau West 1-0.
Then they nearly did it again on Thursday, losing 2-1 to Wausau East in a game that could have easily had the opposite score.
“I thought we played our best game of the year,” MHS coach Will Bialecki said. “I feel we won that game.
“I wanted to beat Wausau East after the last couple of years losing to them. On Thursday, we out-played them. We had a lot of scoring chances, but at the end of the day it’s still a loss.”
Merrill took a 1-0 lead on Shelby’s Swiechowski’s close finish of an Alyssa Noland cross in the 14th minute.
In the 30th minute, the Jays sent a corner kick in front of the goal and Sydney Harris netted it. But the linesman waved it off, saying Swiechowski had touched it slightly backward before the Harris kick, making Swiechowksi offside.
“Two of the refs thought Shelby missed the ball and she said she did, but the linesman thought she touched it,” Bialecki said.
East’s Keisha Jackson tied the game up in the 56th minute. Five minutes later, East was attacking again when Claire Peterson made a perfect foot plant in front of the ball, but Peterson was called for a foul in the box, giving up a penalty kick converted by Mallory Wanserski.
“(The referee) said that even though Claire got 100% of the ball, he felt she had thrown her hip into the girl,” Bialecki said. “It was heartbreaking, but I give the girls credit because they kept the pressure on to the end.”
East had a handball in the box in the 70th minute, but Merrill’s PK flew over the top of the goal.
Breigha Bienfang-Johnas made 13 stops and Merrill had 12 shots on goal.
West respect
The Bluejays and Warriors battled for 65 minutes before Merrill’s Ellen Donner finally broke through with a goal.
“It was just a hustle play, Ellen getting to the ball before anyone else in the six-yard box,” Bialecki said.
The Merrill coach felt much better about this showing than the first meeting, a 5-1 loss on April 28.
“The first time they beat us was the day after our spring break and we didn’t have the chemistry or conditioning,” Bialecki said. “This game represented our team much better.
“West had a few chances but mostly they were long outside shots, and no real scoring threat. We moved the ball pretty well. In the first half we possessed the ball in our midfield and West did a nice job of denying us any scoring chances. In the second half we really stepped it up. We stopped their counter-attack. Unlike the first time where we scored first and tried to sit on the lead, after we scored we dominated. With 15 seconds left, the girls were still taking shots on net.”
Bienfang-Johnas ended up with 10 saves. Merrill had 7 shots on goal.
“Ellen, Shelby and Sydney all had several chances,” Bialecki said.
Merrill was 1-11 in the WVC and 4-15 overall heading into Thursday’s regional opener at #1 seed D.C. Everest (13-5-1, 9-2-1, 2nd in the WVC).

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