Ruzzo, men’s soccer drops two road matches to open season

The Mercer men’s soccer team began their season with a rocky start after falling to both UAB and NC State in the season’s opening weekend.
On Friday Aug. 24, the bears were unable to respond to UAB’s early two point lead in the first half of the game.
When asked what changed about the team’s mentality when they stepped out onto the pitch for the second half, senior and captain Will Betts stated, “We had a great talk at halftime that reenergized the team and reminded us that we were capable of digging ourselves out of the hole.”
Coming out of halftime with a determination to prove themselves, the bears received their first goal of the season on a corner set piece.
In the 48th minute, senior Joey Heavner delivered a strong serve into the box where Will Betts was able to get his head under the ball and into the goal to make the score 2-1.
Betts later commented, “Joey consistently hits top quality services and we can always count on him to give us a dangerous ball for a scoring chance.”
In the 69th minute, junior Ryan King was able to infiltrate a pair of Blazer defenders and blasted a shot on goal that was unfortunately corralled by UAB goalkeeper to keep the score at 2-1.
When commenting on ball possession of UAB versus Mercer, Betts stated, “UAB certainly had more possession, but if we were a little more defensively sound from front to back, we could have absorbed the pressure and countered.
Their combination play and movement of the ball made them very dangerous.”
In an interview after the game, Coach Ruzzo said, “Now with the loss, it’s going to be about character on Sunday, and hard work.
Can we rebound quickly? Because certainly we are going to be in adverse situations throughout the season. NC is going to be a great opponent.”
Betts also commented on what to expect out of Sunday’s game. Betts says, “As with every game, we need to go out and get a result.
A win in Raleigh would be great, and the season is far too short to drop in games — let alone two in one weekend.”
Looking to learn from their mistakes and prove themselves, the Bears continued their season opening road trip where they traveled to North Carolina to take on ACC member NC State on Sunday afternoon.
Despite gaining a lead on NC State, the bears lost in overtime with a final score of 2-1 on Sunday Aug. 26.
In the first half, neither team had many quality shots on goal.
A significant combination play featuring senior Josh Shutter, and senior Richie Edmondson gave a glimpse of promise near the end of the first half.
However, the game went into halftime with the score remaining at 0-0.
In the 60th minute, junior Ryan King received the ball and was able to slide a pass that set up Edmondson’s shot giving the Bears a 1-0 lead.
NC State proved resilient and continuously pressured Mercer’s defensive line. In the 85th minute, NC State fired an equalizer shot on goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Seconds later, Mercer retaliated when Shutter blasted a ball over the NC State defense where Edmondson was alert and ready to receive.
Right as Edmondson went to gain control of the ball, NC State’s goal keeper slammed into him inside the penalty box.
No card or penalty shot was awarded by the referee.
Coach Ruzzo commented, in an interview after the game, “There was a questionable call inside the box.
I felt that we could have deserved a penalty.
It was a last man situation and [involved] the goal keeper that could have been a red card as well and it wasn’t.
But you have to deal with those types of things on the road, especially at an ACC place.”
The scored remained 1-1 at the 90th minute and the game went into overtime.
Unfortunately for the Bears, NC State was able to sneak an early shot in, securing their 2-1 victory.
After the match, Coach Ruzzo commented, “I’m really proud of our team for responding back on Friday after a tough loss at UAB.
It was going to take a lot of work today against a good, well-coached team like NC State and I think that our guys really showed well.”
In response to the late equalizer goal that led to overtime play, Ruzzo said, “When we play good teams like this on the road, we have to be able to kill games off and finish them and we weren’t able to do that.
So hopefully this is going to be a valuable lesson for us to learn and go forward.”
It’s still early in the men’s soccer season and the team holds the promise of a successful season.
After these two games, Ruzzo says, “I think we’ve proven that we can play with anybody now. It’s just a matter of putting the finishing touch on it and being sure we finish games off.
I’m not sure we will play that many good attacking players over a weekend, so we just gotta lick our wounds and get back to training, and working hard.”
Mercer is set to take on the University of Nebraska-Omaha on Aug. 31 and Hartwick on Sept. 2 as part of the Busey Bank Invitational hosted by Bradley University.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha won their first match of the year against Bellevue in a resounding 4-0 fashion.
The Mavericks are led by Vance Rookwood who tallied one goal and one assist against Bellevue.
Hartwick enters the tournament 0-1 after losing their opening match to Saint Joseph’s University.
Will Broomfield scored the lone goal for Hartwick in the match that ended 2-1.
Hartwick plays host Bradley University on Aug. 31 prior to playing the Bears.