With conference play just around the corner, the Mercer women’s soccer team looked to add one more win to the record to catch a momentum. They did just that by defeating Jacksonville State on the road on Friday, Sept. 14.
Although play was tough and competitive, neither the Bears nor the Gamecocks were able to score in the first half. It wasn’t until midway through the second half that Mercer was able to jump out to a lead. Sophomore Lauren Gassie passed the ball downfield to senior Danielle Hesse who then proceeded to shoot from the left corner and score, putting the Bears up 1-0. That was Hesse’s first goal of the season.
Jacksonville State stormed back and scored with a game tying goal in the 82nd minute with a cross shot from the left off of a penalty kick.
With a tie score and only eight minutes left on the clock, Mercer knew that they were going to have to capitalize one last time to get the win. Gassie quickly responded and took a shot but it was it was wide right. The JSU Gamecocks took two more shots, but with saves by freshman goalkeeper Maggie Cropp, the score would remain 1-1 until the 86th minute.
With nice individual effort, Junior Casey Barrett scored her first goal of the season by dribbling the ball downfield past a Gamecock defender and shooting to find the back of the net. Mercer controlled the rest of the game and finished with a winning score of 2-1.
The confident Bears knew that their hard work was not done for the weekend. Two days later, they traveled back to Alabama to gain another win against Troy.
Midway through the first half, Barrett finished where she left off on Friday. She took a shot from the far right side off a feed from classmate Nadja Kolliesuah. The effort by the Troy goalkeeper to save the ball failed as it was deflected, putting the Bears up 1-0.
Little time was wasted before Kolliesuah and Barrett connected again for Kolliesuah to bury one in the back of the net. Kolliesuah finished on a nice pass from Barrett inside the box to give the Mercer Bears a quick 2-0 advantage. That would be Kolliesuah’s first goal of the season.
The first half was coming to an end when the Trojans responded from inside the box off a second chance shot. Junior Nikki Atkinson was unable to make the save leading to a halftime score of 2-1.
Going into the second half with a lead, Mercer wanted to continue dominating the game. With an exceptional group effort, the Bears were able to add one more to the board in the 69th minute. The ball bounced around the box when Barrett was able to hit freshman Sydney Brogden with a pass to find the back lower right corner of the goal to score her third of the season and extend the lead to 3-1.
Merely a minute passed when junior Sadie Curry got not only her first of the season, but her first ever collegiate goal. She became the 12th Bear this season to score a goal. With a shot from the far right wing over 20 yards out, the ball flew past the Trojan goalkeeper’s reach and hit the back of the net.
In the 83rd minute, Troy was finally able to get passed the Mercer defense to get a shot off, but it was high and they were unable to score. The game came to an end and the Bears received the win with a score of 4-1. After two wins and a competitive weekend of play, the Bears returned home only to practice even harder to start off the next weekend’s first conference match-up. With a winning record of 6-3-1, this successful Mercer team knew that the game against in-state rival and conference foe Kennesaw State was going to be no walk in the park.
After the hard-working week of practice, the Bears traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia to play the tough and physical team that they were expecting. Mercer fought the entire game for a win, but after two overtimes, they could only come out with a tie.
Standout player Lauren Gassie commented on the start of conference play.
“Everyone was excited to start against Kennesaw because they are a big rival. Conference is something we have worked for since last spring. We wanted to start out with a win. We knew we had to come out fast and score early. Coming off a strong previous weekend made us even more eager to play.”
Both Mercer and Kennesaw played an extremely aggressive and competitive first half. Each team took five shots, but by the end of the period, the game remained scoreless.
To win the game, the Bears had to push hard and execute. Sophomore Washida Blackman scored her first of the season with a shot to the upper right corner of the goal after a melee from a corner kick in the 82nd minute.
The Mercer defense did everything that they could to keep the score at 1-0, but after a questionable foul call on the Bears with only two minutes remaining, KSU was able to score a goal off of a free kick. That ended the second half with a score of 1-1.
After two ten-minute periods of overtime, neither team was able to execute and get ahead. The end of the game resulted in an unfortunate tie, but the Bears know that is no game to get upset about.
“We dominated the entire game, so ending in a tie was frustrating, especially since their goal to tie the game was a questionable free kick in the last two minutes of the game,” Gassie explained. “At the same time, we played well and still earned a point with a tie. It is early in the season, so we can’t let this dictate our play for future games.”
Their next game is this coming Friday at home against South Carolina Upstate, where they look to earn their first conference win.