Men’s soccer goes 1-1 in latest contests

On Sept. 16, the Mercer men’s soccer team battled in-state rival Georgia State and came out on top with a 2-0 win.
This match signified five-straight matches in the Bears’ favor, going 4-0-1 in their last five games. This match was also Mercer’s second-straight victory over an in-state opponent, after winning the match against Georgia Southern, 1-0, earlier in the week.
During the game against Georgia State, the first half gave the Bear’s one quality scoring opportunity by Senior Richie Edmondson. The ball, going on frame, was met by a Georgia State defender just off the line.
The game entered halftime with the score tied at 0-0. Head coach, Brad Ruzzo, commented after the game, “I think we were a little unlucky in the first half. We were just missing that final ball, that final service. I think in the second half, certainly we dodged some moments, but we got the first goal and I think anytime you get the first goal [in a game] that changes the game. Fortunately for us, [that goal] change [the game] for us.”
In the 59th minute, the Bears gained a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Carl-Oscar Andersson chipped a ball into Ehjayson Henry’s path. He, in turn, controlled the pace of the ball and set up a cross where Senior Sharpe Sablon met the ball and slipped the ball right past the keeper and into the back of the net. The crowd of over 450 fans responded and generated even more momentum for the Orange and Black.
When asked about his role in the game, Andersson mentioned, “in the attack, my role is to find open spaces and create chances for our forwards. I need players who cover and make runs for me. I certainly had that in the Georgia State game. I [usually] play just in front of Ryan King and Will Betts, and their hard work is what’s making it possible for me to be creative on the ball.”
This first goal was important for Mercer, and Coach Ruzzo said in response to the goal, “I think that was a really nice goal. [Andersson] set that up perfectly, [Henry] had a little composure in the box and [Sablon] ran the far post. That was a great goal in my opinion.”
Within the next three minutes, Junior Brady O’Brien stepped up to take the corner kick set piece. Originally planning to set up an opportunity for a header into the goal, O’Brien put just the right bend on the ball and the ball went over the arms of the Georgia State goalkeeper and just inside the far post for his second career goal.
O’Brien recalled, “The corner kick wasn’t exactly how we drew it up, but set pieces are a vital part to our program. We had an unfortunate injury to Joey Heavner, who is our usual set piece taker. I was asked to fill this role along with fellow teammate David Murtaugh.”
Coach Ruzzo hasn’t seen many goals off of a corner but he said, “I was happy to see it tonight. It’s certainly not something we’re working on. O’Brien’s usually not on those and we had to make some changes tonight. It was a quality kick.”
By the end of the game, Mercer goalkeeper, Greg Ranjitsingh made the clean sheet a reality. He secured his 11th career shutout, moving him into a tie for 10th place for the most shutouts in A-Sun Conference history.
Overall, “the Georgia State game was a great result, especially after suffering a close defeat to them last year,” says O’Brien.
On Sept. 22nd, the Mercer men’s soccer team’s five-match streak of remaining unbeaten was put to an end after a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat at Central Arkansas at the Bill Stephens Track/Soccer Complex.
Central Arkansas shut out Mercer for the first time this season and pulled a 1-0 lead just before going into halftime.
In the 76th minute, Central Arkansas scored yet another goal to put the match out of the Bears’ reach. This goal secured Central Arkansas’ 2-0 win.
When asked about the difference between the Georgia State match and the one against Central Arkansas, Carl-Oscar Andersson said, “Against Georgia State we had such good movement in the attack that we forced them to run a lot. Eventually, they got tired. In the game against Central Arkansas, we were too static and we made it too easy for them to defend us.”
O’Brien commented “[Central Arkansas was] a good team and we just didn’t pull out the away result we were expecting to get. We are however looking forward to Wednesday’s game at home against UNC Asheville and hopefully get another win.”
Mercer returns home for its next match when it welcomes UNC-Asheville to Macon on September 26. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Bear Field.