Young men's soccer squad departs early at A-Sun, large strides made

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Young men's soccer squad departs early at A-Sun, large strides made

Garret McDowell

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During one of the best stretches of Mercer men’s soccer history, it is difficult to look back and see what is and is not working currently. For the first time since the 2001 and 2002 seasons, the Bears have posted back-to-back winning records. After consecutive postseason runs, the Bears are hoping to use the successes of 2011 to further that. The Bears were consistently in the RPI Top 140 as well.
One of the season’s many bright moments has been the play of sophomore striker Ehjayson Henry. He finished with five goals and 11 points on the year, his first with the Bears after transferring from Penn State. The Saint Kitts and Nevis national soccer team actually called him up to play for the national team in the 2012 Caribbean Football Union Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The squad played well, getting to the brink of qualification before a shocking loss against Suriname unfortunately eliminated them from the Olympics. This international experience is sure to be a major plus for the Mercer Bears’ men’s soccer team in the next few years.
The Mercer Bears finished 9-8-3 overall. They were 6-5-1 against opponents outside the Atlantic Sun season schedule. This included wins against Appalachian State, VMI and Georgia Southern. Mercer also suffered some tough defeats against Alabama-Birmingham and Central Florida. The Bears also lost a rough match before the Atlantic Sun championships on the road at Duke.
The Atlantic Sun season was a different story for the Bears, as they finished 3-3-2, not clinching a postseason spot until the final match day of the season. They started strong with a win over North Florida. However, the Bears played the three teams from Florida, and they lost all three. The matches with Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson were overtime losses on the road. This nearly eliminated the Bears, but with their backs against the wall, the Bears played spirited soccer. They did not lose again, seeing a run that would carry them into the postseason.
The postseason was a different affair for the Bears, as they would get a rematch with Lipscomb in the first round. The first match was a draw in Nashville, but the Bears took the rematch 2-1, booking a place in the semifinals against FGCU. Their season ended earlier than they hoped, but it was against quality opponents.
Junior midfielder Joey Heavner helped carry the Bears all season, and he had a goal and seven assists on the year. However, it was his postseason play that garnered him even more attention when he was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Tournament Team. He was also added to the Academic All-Conference Team and All-Conference second team. Heavner’s play was instrumental in the back-to-back winning seasons for the Bears. His lone goal helped launch the Bears into the postseason in the 2-1 win over Belmont. He was second in the conference and 29th in the country for assists.
Team Awards were also announced, recognizing the Bears who have helped carry the squad this far. Sophomore Cole Mitchell was named Most Improved Player. Oscar Andersson, a freshman, was named co-Newcomer of the Year with Henry. The Bears award was given to junior Will Betts. The offensive MVP was Andersson, and the defensive MVP was freshman Greg Ranjitsingh. The team MVP was Heavner, and the Coaches Award was given to senior Phil Thoren.

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