Women's soccer outduels Jacksonville, advances to Atlantic Sun semi-finals

After winning their way in, the Mercer Bears women’s soccer team has advanced to the Atlantic Sun semifinal with a thrilling penalty shoot out win over Jacksonville University. Despite being the sixth and lowest seed for the tournament, the Bears are trying to defend their title from last year and return to the NCAA tournament. However, the path to get here was one that has most of the Atlantic Sun scratching their heads. As of Oct. 29, the Bears are 9-7-2 overall, with a rematch with East Tennessee State looming in the semifinal. ETSU was recently awarded with the player, freshman and coach of the year for the Atlantic Sun.

The Path to Defend the Title
Mercer 1, USC-Upstate 0
The Bears needed a win, and for the second-straight game, freshman Washida Blackman scored a dramatic game-winning goal. The Bears took control of their postseason destiny even more with the comprehensive win on the road. For the ninth time this season, the Bears held their opponent scoreless and grinded out a win. They held USC Upstate to just two shots in the match, with neither getting on target. Meanwhile, the Bears had several players who got at least two shots off, and Emerald Phillips threatened the goal four times. After weeks of Head Coach Grant Serafy demanding that his players needed “heart” to win, he said that the Bears “had a very good performance.” The Bears finally lived up to expectations, controlling their own destiny because of this result.

ETSU 2, Mercer 1
Mercer suffered a huge blow to their postseason aspirations, but due to other results around the conference, this tough 2-1 loss against the ETSU Lady Bucs was nothing more than a sour end to the regular season and snapped a two-game winning streak. The Bears went up early behind Olivia Tucker’s ninth goal of the year in the eighth minute. However, ETSU rallied, with a winner in the 81st minute after an equalizer in the first half. ETSU keeper Caitlin Gaughan played phenomenally, with six saves to stop the Bears from assuring a playoff spot on their own. Coach Serafy gave all the credit to ETSU for stepping up and making a play “when they needed it.” The win gave ETSU the A-Sun  co-championship.
Mercer 1, Jacksonville 1 (Mercer 4-2 on PKs)
Whenever a conference champion has several individuals return from the winning squad, they never can be brushed aside in the postseason. Despite being the sixth and lowest seed and having clinched a spot due to some beneficial results around the conference, the Mercer Bears women’s soccer team marched into Jacksonville, forced overtime late, and capped off a penalty shootout win to advance. Olivia Tucker was one of four Bears who scored in the shootout, but hers eliminated the Dolphins, one of three teams to win the Atlantic Sun regular season title. The Bears had just one shot on target all game, but it did not matter. Casey Barrett’s goal was her first since Sept. 16 against Presbyterian.

The Bears are next in action on Friday, Nov. 4 against ETSU in Fort Myers, Fla. The Bears look to avenge their defeat from two weeks ago, but both squads are looking to play in the final and have a chance for NCAA glory.