In the last four games of the season, the Mercer women’s soccer team has won three of those matches, claimed a first-round bye in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament, and broken a program record for wins in a season with 12 on the year. It is no doubt that head coach Tony Economopoulos has had a successful debut season for the Bears, and he looks to continue that success going into the conference tournament.
On Oct. 12 the women’s soccer team took on the Dolphins from Jacksonville University. The first half of play saw both teams go back and forth. Neither side was able to break through and get the important first goal, although Mercer did have the best chance of the half.
In the 20th minute, sophomore Tess Patton took a shot that hit off the far post and back into play to keep the game level.
The Orange and Black would not waste any time coming out of the halftime break and jumped in front of the Dolphins in the early moments of the second half. Sophomore Lauren Gassie cut inside on the left edge of the 18-yard box and hit a shot that was saved by Jacksonville’s goalkeeper Jill D’Amico. However, the rebound went right to sophomore forward Washida Blackman who drilled a shot into the back of the net to give Mercer a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.
This was all the Bears needed to claim the victory over their competitors and with this win they clinched a spot in the conference tournament.
“We had a game plan coming in of how we wanted to play against this team because they played a different formation,” said Economopoulos. “We came out and we executed well. We dominated the game statistically, we created quite a few chances, and we knew coming in that if we got a result tonight we would clinch a spot in the postseason,” added Economopoulos.
The next game for the Orange and Black was against North Florida. It was the team’s last home game of the season, so in tradition they honored the seniors who have served this team for four years. Seniors P.A Upson and Danielle Hesse were both recognized prior to the match.
The team helped send out their two seniors in resounding fashion as they claimed a rousing 3-0 victory.
The Bears scored their first goal just 52 seconds into the match. Sophomore Tess Patton collected a loose ball in the UNF box, pushed through two Osprey defenders, and drilled a shot past the UNF keeper to put Mercer ahead.
Patton did not rest on her laurels though as she scored her second goal of the game in the 19th minute. Junior forward Nadja Kolliesuah dribbled past her defender on the right side of the field and sent in a cross to Patton. Patton settled the ball and volleyed it into the back of the net putting the Bears up 2-0.
Mercer earned their third goal just seven minutes later. Sophomore Lauren Gassie sent in a corner kick that found the head of junior transfer Devon Fry to put the team up 3-0.
Mercer held the 3-0 advantage going into halftime and was not able to put in any more goals in the second half. Although the Bears slowed down offensively in the second half, their defense remained strong and was able to keep a clean sheet.
Head coach Economopoulos and his squad then traveled to Deland, Fla. to take on the Hatters of Stetson University. The Bears scored a goal in each half to secure the 2-0 win and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“We knew coming [in] that it was going to be a tough environment and they were playing very relaxed,” said Economopoulos. “We knew we had struggled against them in recent years in the regular season, but I challenged my seniors to go out and win and we were able to get the result, so I am very happy.”
The Bears netted their first goal in the 28th minute of the match. Senior Danielle Hesse collected a pass from Washida Blackman and put the ball in the back of the net from eight yards out.
The team would not score again in the first half, but found the net in the second.
Junior Casey Barrett put the game out of reach. Tess Patton sent in a free kick that ricocheted off of the Stetson goalkeeper. The rebound found Barrett in the box and she put it away for her third goal of the season.
The Bears were now in a perfect position. With a win or tie against their next opponents, the Bears would secure the first regular season title since 2008. The team looked to exact revenge as they lost to the same team they would be playing for the regular season conference championship that they played against in the previous season in the conference tournament.
Unfortunately, the Orange and Black could not find the net and lost the match to a talented squad from Florida Gulf Coast University.
“It was a great battle between the two top teams in the conference,” said Economopoulos. “It could have gone either way, but you have to give them credit. They are a great team.”
With the loss the Bears gave up tournament hosting rights to the Eagles of FGCU. After a bye in the first round, the team will hit the field in Ft. Myers, Fla. on Nov. 2 for the semi-finals.