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Women’s Soccer overcomes initial slump, gains momentum going into tournament

Christina+Mursuli+takes+a+goal+kick.+
Christina Mursuli takes a goal kick.

Christina Mursuli takes a goal kick.

Ethan Thompson

Ethan Thompson

Christina Mursuli takes a goal kick.

Cody Moran, Staff Writer

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Mercer’s women’s soccer team is diligently preparing for the upcoming SoCon tournament on Oct. 26-Nov. 6. The team had a rough start this season. But after pulling off a six-game win streak, they’ve built some momentum to carry into the tournament.

“It started off slow for sure,” said Maddie Clark, senior co-captain and outside forward/midfield. “But I think that we are definitely starting to jell as a team and work things out.”

Hayley Svede, senior teammate and midfielder, agrees. “The time that we picked it up was a good time to pick it up at,” she said. “I’m happy that we had a rough start rather than a rough end.”

It took work. The team had to come together after several losses and get through the issues that were holding them back from winning.

“Once we hit conference play, we started jelling way better,” said coach Tony Economopoulos. “After the Chattanooga loss, we came together and had a big team meeting about how we could improve things, and ever since then it has been a great run for us.”

One reason the team had such a hard time earlier in the season was that each loss built up like a snowball. The more they lost, the more the team’s unity and morale eroded. It was hard to put the ball in the back of the net, but that isn’t a problem now.

“We’re finally scoring,” said Katelyn Dimopoulos, senior co-captain and outside forward/midfield. “We had trouble scoring in the beginning, but finally it just kind of picked up and we stopped letting in goals and started putting them in.”

The team has high hopes for the tournament.

“The first goal is to get our first round by,” Economopoulos said. “The second is to finish top four and host. Third goal is to finish as high as we possibly can to get a lesser opponent, seating-wise.”

It’s the captain’s jobs to lead the team into the tournament, and Dimopoulos has some practical ideas of how to keep her team’s head in the game.

“Keep positive, keep working hard as a team, and just keep playing for each other,” she said. “If you see someone in defense doing really well, you want to do really well in offense.”

This advice coming from Dimopoulos is unsurprising given the compassion the teammates have for one another as they aspire to win the tournament as a team.

“I personally want to see more people get their first goals this season,” Clark said. “I think there is a lot of pressure to get your first goal, and when it doesn’t come early, there’s more pressure. I want them to get their first goal in, so they can get that pressure off their backs and just go.”

The team has one more game beyond the tournament, and then that will be the final game for nine seniors, which is both tough for them and for the team as a whole, for new leaders must rise from among the younger players.

“The class under us is small,” Clark said. “So I’m kind of curious to see if there is anyone from two classes under us that steps up.”

The SoCon tournament begins Oct. 26, with the championship being held in Johnson City, Tennessee. Mercer will face off at home against Chattanooga on Oct. 30. For more details, visit the Southern Conference website at www.soconsports.com.

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Women’s Soccer overcomes initial slump, gains momentum going into tournament