OMAHA — Omaha Skutt coach John Carlson says Skutt forward Laurin Mertz belongs on the list of some of the great players in program history, and that’s really saying something for a soccer program with seven state championships.
Mertz sure looked like it on Saturday, scoring two goals to lead the No. 2 SkyHawks to a 5-2 victory against No. 4 North Platte in the Class B girls state semifinals.
In the second semifinal, Elkhorn South beat Omaha Mercy 3-0.
So it will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the championship match on Tuesday, and the fourth time in the past five years that Omaha Skutt and Elkhorn South have played at state. Skutt and Elkhorn South also played in the championship match in 2013, which Skutt won.
Skutt and Elkhorn South played once this season, with Elkhorn South winning 1-0.
Mertz has a team-best 17 goals for the season, with an impressive 12 assists.
“She’s one of the greatest ever to play at Skutt, and that’s saying a lot,” Carlson said. “You could just see it in her. She wanted to carry the team, and that’s what the great ones do. She was not going to let us lose today. Her work rate was amazing.”
Mertz scored 24 goals last season, when she earned second-team Super-State honors. She’s signed to play soccer at UNO.
“When she’s finished this year her four-year total will rank right up there with Liz Bartels and Stacy Bartels and Mayme Conroy,” said Carlson of past Skutt players.
“I’ve been lucky to coach some great players, especially up top, and difference-makers, and you can kind of just see them this time of year they just have that attitude where, 'I’m going to get a goal.'”
North Platte scored first on Saturday, just 2 minutes, 53 seconds into the match on a breakaway by Meilisha Hou.
Mertz quickly scored the tying and go-ahead goals, three minutes apart in the 16th and 19th minutes. On the second goal, Mertz stole the ball from a defender and beat the keeper.
When Jena Hotovy headed in a corner kick, Skutt had a 3-1 lead at the end of the first half.
“That’s the sign of a great team,” Carlson said. “We gave up a goal two minutes in, and they just kept playing. That’s kind of the way we are this year. We’ve been down in a few big games early on and we just keep playing.”
Mayson Gordon and Allie Clark also scored for Skutt.
Skutt is in the state championship match for the fourth straight year. The SkyHawks finished second to Elkhorn last season.
In Elkhorn South’s win on Saturday, Jordan Vanderloo scored just 6:10 into the match. Halle Gleckler and Reagan Anderson added second-half goals.