Inaugural win for Head Coach Economopoulos

In only his first season, Head Coach Tony Economopoulos has led the Mercer women’s soccer team to a resounding 2-1-1 start in their first two weekends of play.
With conference play looming in the near future, the Bears look to capitalize on these non-conference match-ups to gain experience and confidence going into the always competitive conference schedule.
The squad opened up at home against Southern Mississippi on Aug 17. In what was a competitive and hard fought match that played into two overtimes, the bears were not able to prevail and settled for a 1-1 draw with the Golden Eagles.
The Bears dominated play from the start gaining several chances in the early minutes of the game, but it was not until the 26th minute that the team found the back of the net.
Senior Captain P.A Upson sent a long ball from midfield to sprinting sophomore Lauren Gassie. Running past the last defender, Gassie coolly chipped the ball over the rushing keeper, recollected the ball at her feet and calmly placed the ball in the back of the net giving her team the advantage.
This score would remain until halftime. Early on in the second half, Nadja Kolliesuah gained another chance for the Orange and Black to strike gold as she was viciously taken down in the box. Gassie stepped up to take the penalty kick but a stretching Golden Eagle goalkeeper was able to thwart her attempt and keep the game at 1-0.
Southern Mississippi took advantage of the missed penalty and capitalized later on a header from a free kick that barely beat junior goalkeeper Nikki Atkinson. The game was now tied at one.
Regulation ended and the game went to overtime. Two overtime periods were not enough to produce a winner, so both teams settled for a draw.
After tying their first match, the Bears continued to push to help get Economopoulos his first win as Head Coach of Mercer University. They were able to gain that win for their coach on Aug 19 versus South Alabama.
Not only was this Economopoulos’ first win at Mercer University, but it was also his first win as a Division I head coach.
Although fatigued from their double overtime game earlier in the weekend, the Bears were able to muster up enough energy to secure a 1-0 win.
Again Mercer dominated play from the first whistle, showcasing a well balanced attack and constantly pelting the South Alabama goalkeeper with shots. Although the Bears failed to find the net in the first half, they were able to continue their attacking prowess in the second and forge on to get the ever important first goal of the match.
Again, it was Lauren Gassie who found the back of the net for the Orange and Black. Gassie’s second of the young season came off her right foot to the far post after a nice run at the top of the Jaguar’s box.
Gassie finished with the game-winner and led the team with four total shots.
Forwards Nadja Kolliesuah and Washida Blackman both looked in top form for the Bears, as they were both able to record three shots each in the contest, while goalkeeper Nikki Atkinson made three saves to secure her first shutout of the season.
With the most important first win out of the way, Economopoulos and his squad traveled to take on a formidable and talented SEC opponent in the South Carolina Gamecocks on Aug. 23.
The Gamecocks proved to be too much for the Bears as they dropped the contest 2-0.
Through the first 35 minutes of play, each team had recorded three shots yet it was Mercer that looked to have the momentum going their way, until a Mercer turnover in the middle of the park created a scoring chance for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks countered off an errant MU pass at the midline and a subsequent service inside the MU box was headed on by a leaping Gamecock that forced Mercer’s Nikki Atkinson to push the ball over the cross bar.
On the ensuing corner, South Carolina’s Andie Romness struck a well-placed ball that was headed in by teammate Rea Wilson giving USC the early 1-0 lead.
The Bears were now trailing for their first time ever.
Playing from behind was not something that they were used to, and the Gamecocks were able to strike again in the second half.
The Gamecocks of the University of South Caroline proved to be too much for the Bears to handle and the squad recorded their first loss of the season.
Head Coach Tony Economopoulos was proud of his team’s effort despite the result.
“I thought we played a very solid game tonight against a very high caliber program,” Economopoulos said.
“It was a back-and-forth game and we had a very good chance in the last ten minutes with a shot off the post that could have got us right back in the game. Overall I am pleased with how we played,” Economopoulos added.
After that devastating loss, the Bears then took their talents on the road to Charleston Southern.
It was here the women would gain their footing again and shutout a talented squad from Charleston Southern in a 2-0 victory on Aug. 25.
Again, the Bears proved to be dominant in early game play as sophomore talent Brianna Stampler was able to strike first in the 27th minute of play.
On a breakaway Stampler was able to quickly dribble past the Charleston Southern goalkeeper and place the ball into the net.
Mercer’s goal in the second half came off a set piece in Buccaneer territory.
Sophomore Kristin Hagaman took the try from her defensive position and put a phenomenal cross on the Charleston Southern far post.
Danielle Hesse positioned herself well and was able to get a head on the ball for the goal.
Freshman goalkeeper Maggie Cropp saw her first action of her career receiving the start on Saturday.
Cropp performed well in her debut, turning away four shots en route to her first win in goal.
“It was good experience for her as a freshman,” Economopoulos said. “She was called upon today and she made the saves she needed to and got a good result.”
Economopoulos and the Bears return to Bear Field on Aug. 31 to take on Alabama A&M.