After an impressive first round win over the third seeded Jacksonville Dolphins, the Mercer Women’s Soccer Team set their sights on the second seeded ETSU Buccaneers. Just 12 days earlier, the Bears battled to a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Bucs in the regular season conference finale. Needless to say, the Bears wanted revenge. This time around, it was a completely different story. The Bears dictated much of the play throughout regular time, amassing an impressive 16 shots as opposed to ETSU’s four. Unfortunately, the Bears could not capitalize on any of those chances and regular time ended in a scoreless draw. Overtime was nothing the Bears have not faced before as they had played five overtime games before this point. All it would take was one goal and their dreams of defending their conference title would stay alive. In the 96th minute of play, Senior Ali Meek tracked down a loose ball off of the ETSU defense and hit a perfectly placed shot that hit off the right post and into the goal. Meek’s wonder strike single handedly pushed her team into the Championship Match for the second year in a row.
“I couldn’t be happier for Ali,” head coach Grant Serafy said. “She is such a great kid. She missed one earlier and then for her to come back and power that ball home; it was a perfect shot. So it was a great way to end the game and hopefully we can come out and play well on Sunday.”
The Bears’ focus was now on the regular season champion Florida Gulf Coast. The FGCU Eagles had accumulated an astounding record of 14-4-2 during the season, with a 7-1-1 record in conference play. The Eagles were dominant in conference play, but the Bears had one thing the Eagles did not; experience. This was FGCU’s first year being eligible for postseason play and the Bears had played in many postseason matches prior to this one. They hoped that this experience would be enough to push them through to victory. In a very defensive 90 minutes of play the Bears and the Eagles remained scoreless, sending the Bears into their third straight overtime match. This time the Bears would not prevail, as their NCAA tournament dreams were thwarted by an FGCU goal with 3:50 left to play in the second overtime period. Despite the loss, Coach Grant Serafy was proud of the effort that his girls gave.
“That was the third overtime game in a row and it was a difficult challenge to overcome. But there wasn’t a lack of heart or effort. In the end, we are pleased with the season we had and I want to congratulate the seniors on a wonderful four-year career,” said Serafy.
The Bears say goodbye to a stellar senior class who has acquired two championships in their four year career, one regular season and one postseason. The senior class of Cristina Guilarte, Cagney Valloch, Jessie Kupstas, Kate Alderman, Emerald Phillips, Olivia Tucker, Vanessa Breslin, Emily Milone and Ali Meek will go down as one of the most accomplished in Mercer history.