After a hard fought 2-1 win over Northern Kentucky on Thursday, Oct. 25, the Mercer men’s soccer team clinched a spot in the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the fifth-straight season. This has been Mercer’s best record after 16 games since 2002.
The win over Northern Kentucky extended the Bears’ undefeated at-home record to 6-0-0.
Little time was wasted at the start of the game when the Bears jumped out to an early lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. This was the fifth time this season that the Orange and Black took an early lead. Junior Ryan King played a ball in to senior Richie Edmondson who one-timed a pass to sophomore Ehjayson Henry for a beautiful goal to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Just minutes later, the Bears were able to keep up the offensive pressure and scored another goal with the Edmonson-Henry duo. Henry fed a ball down the field for Edmonson to slip past the Northern Kentucky keeper, giving Mercer a 2-0 lead by the ninth minute.
By the 23rd minute, the Norse were able to fight back and find the goal. Off of a free kick from about 22 yards away, they were able to place the ball just out of reach of Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, making the score 2-1.
Coming out of halftime, the Bears were almost able to extend their lead. Junior Brady O’Brien sent in a corner kick that senior Will Betts jumped up and headed on the goal, but the NKU goalkeeper leapt into the air and tipped the ball just over the bar to hold the Bears at a 2-1 lead.
Despite multiple chances for the Norse, the score remained and the Bears won the game. Ranjitsingh made a remarkable eight saves to secure the win and increase his league-leading save percentage up to 84.4 percent.
After two more days of hard work at practice, the Bears traveled to County University Soccer Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C. to take on the USC Upstate Spartans. With two goals in the final 12 minutes of play, Mercer was able to steal a 2-1 comeback win.
With the win, Mercer was able to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
Although the Bears didn’t take the lead until the 80th minute, it was evident that they had offensive control throughout the entire matchup. Mercer outshot Upstate 16-5 and held a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks.
In just the fourth minute of the game, junior Ehjayson Henry was able to get a shot off past the USC Upstate goalkeeper, but it was saved off the line by a Spartan defender, keeping the game scoreless.
Although the Bears were clearly dominating the run of play throughout the majority of the first half, the home team was able to get on the board first, just before halftime. A Spartan defender collected a pass at the top of the box and put a shot on goal that was deflected by a Bears defender and passed goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead going into the half.
Going into the second half, the Bears knew that giving up was not an option. The Bears kept pushing forward and the pressure finally paid off. Edmonson launched a cross into the box that skipped past a few USC Upstate defenders and right to sophomore Carl-Oscar Andersson, who slipped a shot into the net to tie the game at 1-1 in the 78th minute of play.
Little time was wasted before the Bears took the lead. Merely three minutes later, Andersson sent in a beautiful cross that Henry was able to head into the goal past the lunging Spartan goalkeeper to take the win.
There was much hope going into the last regular season matchup against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday, Nov. 3. With a win, the Bears would host the Atlantic Sun Tournament by earning the No. 1 seed. A huge crowd of 600 came out to support the Mercer men’s soccer team, including many families and friends to honor the seniors at their last regular season home game. Despite the solid momentum and the cheerful fans, the Bears were unable to finish the game with a victory.
With a 1-0 win over the Bears, FGCU captured the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference regular season crown for the third year in a row. They will be hosting the A-Sun Conference Championship in Fort Myers, Fla.
Senior Richie Edmonson gave a solid effort in the competition and almost gave the home team a lead late in the first half. He collected a long ball and fired a shot on the net that hit the post keeping the game scoreless.
The Bears nearly scored again in the second half when freshman David Murtaugh ripped a low shot that dribbled just outside of the far post.
In the 52nd minute of the game, FCGU put one on the board. An Eagles midfielder collected a loose ball at the top of the box and hit a one-time volley past Ranjitsingh to put them up 1-0.
With one more chance left to tie the game, senior Josh Shutter took a free kick from about 25 yards away, but it was blocked by an Eagles defender to seal the win for FGCU in the 78th minute. Shutter commented on their efforts.
“There was obvious disappointment throughout the team, but we have to move on and take care of business now and not dwell on this game…We must go into this week of training and continue to better ourselves and get healthy for tournament play,” said Shutter.
“Our goal now is to win the A-Sun tournament and make the NCAA tournament, but we can only do so by keeping focused and taking it one game at a time,” Shutter added.
Mercer will be going into the A-Sun Championship this weekend with the No. 2 seed. The Bears have a first round bye and will play either No. 3 seed East Tennessee State or No. 6 seed Jacksonville University in the semifinals on Nov. 9.