Men’s soccer 3-0-0 in conference play

On Sept. 26, the Mercer men’s soccer team dominated UNC-Asheville offensively to come away on top with a 4-0 win at Bear Field.
Mercer out-shot UNC-Asheville 19-8 and held the advantage in corner kicks, 7-2, during the match. The Bears’ 4-0 result matches their shutout win over Presbyterian on Sept. 8 for the most goals in a single game this season.
In the post game interview, Head Coach Brad Ruzzo commented, “It’s a great win for us. It’s a great result for us. UNC-Asheville is a well coached team and they battled all the way through. I was happy with our performance both off the ball and on the ball. I thought our movement off the ball was really good today, especially in the first half. We’ve been talking a lot about that this week. It’s always good to score some goals and keep a clean sheet.”
Mercer’s scoring streak didn’t take long to get started. In the eighth minute of play, sophomore Carl-Oscar Andersson fed a ball to junior Ryan King. King immediately snapped a pass across the box to sophomore Ashani Samuels for a one-touch goal to gain the 1-0 lead.
A little over 10 minutes after the first goal, Andersson and King both played their part in assisting another goal. With the help of Andersson and King, senior Richie Edmondson gave the Orange and Black a 2-0 advantage over UNC-Asheville.
When commenting on the early lead, Samuels said, “playing from the front normally allows a team to play more comfortably. On the other hand, the team who is down is now chasing the game and commits numbers forward which leaves them open to counter attack. Our strikers were on point and when the opportunities presented themselves, they took full advantage.”
The Bears received their third goal of the evening by way of freshman forward Juan Jose Morales in the 66th minute. King played a ball to Morales’ feet and from about 30 yards out from goal, fired a quality strike into the upper-left 90.
Ruzzo mentioned that he was happy with Morales’ performance. “I think it was just a matter of time for him to get on the board, get a shot off. He’s a great finisher, so he just needs that one little opportunity and it was a great shot,” said Ruzzo.
The fourth and final goal for the Orange and Black came off of a set piece. Junior Brady O’Brien took the corner kick. Samuels, ready to battle it out in the box, jumped and headed the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the match.
When asked if anything has changed in the way set pieces are executed since Heavner’s injury, O’Brien said, “there really have been no major adjustments to our set pieces other than giving our team a chance to score and as a team having a strong mentality to do so.”
During this match, King had a career-best three assists, falling short of the Mercer single-game record of four set by Marshall Eckford in 1981.
Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh tied a season-high with six saves to pick up his 12th career shutout, moving him into a tie for seventh for the most shutouts in Atlantic Sun Conference history.
The Mercer men’s soccer team traveled to Tennessee to face East Tennessee State University and came away with an impressive 2-1 win in their Atlantic Sun Conference opener.
This match marks a perfect 5-0-0 in A-Sun Conference openers under fifth-year head coach Brad Ruzzo. This match also signified the Buccaneers first home loss of the 2012 season.
Both teams got off to a quick start. In the 17th minute of play, sophomore Ashani Samuels flicked a corner kick to Ryan King, who then swung the ball to Ehjayson Henry for a quick touch on the ball into the goal to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Going into the second half, Mercer retained the 1-0 lead. Within two minutes, ETSU mounted an offensive attack to secure an equalizer.
The Orange and Black responded quickly and regained the lead in the 50th minute of play. Senior Sharpe Sablon played a give-and-go ball to Henry who placed a finisher right between ETSU goalkeeper’s legs.
Ranjitsingh tied his season-high with six saves in the win. Mercer’s defense as a whole held strong for the rest of the match after the 50th minute of play to improve the record to 6-1-1 over their last eight contests.
According to Andersson, “The win over ETSU was a very good win, they are a very good team and we are the first to beat them at their place. In that game, we were very very efficient and scored on our chances, while being great defensively.” O’Brien added, “Every time we play ETSU it is a very close game and it is especially tough to get a result at their place. We were able to get an early goal and we responded well to get another after allowing them to tie it in the beginning of the second half. Our team was able to stay strong and not allow another goal after that.”
Mercer returned to Macon to continue its A-Sun Conference slate against Lipscomb on Oct. 4th at Bear Field.
During this match, the Bears equaled its best start dating back to the 2002 season with a 2-1 Atlantic Sun Conference win over Lipscomb.
Ashani Samuels was asked how game play changed after gaining a 2-0 lead over Lipscomb early in the first half. He said, “For the past couple of weeks, conference games were what we were preparing for so everyone was amped and ready to play. The goal in starting conference away from home is always to come back with a result. You never have to recover from a good start. Although the game was tough, the guys dug deep and came out with a win. Going two up on lipscomb gave us more control of the game. It also put us in comfortable position and it forces the opponent to chase the game.”
Due to the issuing of a red card late in the first half, Mercer played the entire second half with 10 men and still protected a one-goal lead for its fourth-straight home win.
When commenting on the effect the red card had on the team, Ruzzo said, “It’s tough. You always deal with these types of things and you’ve got to fight through it. Just like adversity on the road, or bad refereeing or whatever it may be. It happened for us tonight that it happened to be a red card. That’s why we train, and that’s why we train the guys on the bench that don’t get a lot of minutes because we need those guys. In particular, Mark Riggins, Michael Lewis, and Bryson Jones really came in and gave us a good 10 minutes to give those other guys a break and to finish it off.”
In the eighth minute of play, the Orange and Black got on the board first thanks to a quick decision by senior Richie Edmondson. The Jamaican native launched a snap throw-in to junior Ryan King who flicked a header to Andersson who then promptly buried a header of his own into the back of the net to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
 In the 24th minute, Brady O’Brien served a free kick into the box that Samuels leaped up and flicked past the Lipscomb goalkeeper, Miguel Hof, to put the Bears out in front with a 2-0 lead.
According to Andersson, “To get the first goal is always important, and to get it as early as we got it really put us in the driver’s seat. Ashani Samuels also helped us by scoring the 2-0 goal, and after that we just had to try and manage the game.”
When also commenting on Samuels performance, Ruzzo said, “Ashani has really come on these last couple of weeks you can see his attitude and mentality in training and he just gets better every time I see him play. He’s kind of the unsung hero right now.”
In response to Mercer’s 2-0 lead, the Bisons used a beautiful set piece of their own in the form of a one-touch volley to cut the lead down to 2-1 with 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
Upon returning to the field after halftime, the Bears valiantly defended their lead through the duration of the second half, despite playing a man down. Mercer never allowed any quality chances for Lipscomb up until the final horn. Redshirt junior Bryson Jones, redshirt sophomore Michael Lewis and freshman Mark Riggins all came on as subs and played excellent individual defense to help aid the fight in securing the win.
When asked about how the red card changed game play, Andersson said, “The red card was obviously very unfortunate for us, and changed the game totally. Lipscomb was already hunting the equalizing goal, and with us being one man down we had to work even harder. To be able to win a game like that you need to fight very hard all over the field, and our team is filled with players who do that.”
Mercer returned to the pitch when it welcomed Stetson into town on Oct. 7 at Bear Field.
The Orange and Black won its fourth-straight match with a 1-0 win over Stetson and is 3-0-0 to start Atlantic Sun Conference play for the first time since 2009.
This match also marked Mercer’s fifth-straight win in a home match over a rested Stetson’s team, having not played a match in 11 days, allowing Mercer to retain sole possession of first place in the A-Sun Conference standings.
The amount of time Stetson had between matches is important because, “With us playing down a man for 50 minutes, you could tell a little bit that we were tired today and we really had to grind this one out because we weren’t really clean in a lot of aspects of it. Proud of the guys for fighting and sticking in there and defending well today,” said Ruzzo.
The Bears took the lead early courtesy of another first half goal, the seventh time they have scored in the first 45 minutes of a game this season. After a header by sophomore Ashani Samuels was deflected by the keeper, senior Josh Shutter was ready and waiting. Shutter hammered home the rebounded attempt to give Mercer a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute of play.
When asked about the Shutter and Samuels combination play, Ruzzo said, “It was a good goal from us. Set pieces are important part of the game and Ashani, fortunately, the last couple of weeks has been getting his head to things. He’s just keeping it alive in the box and it just happened to fall to Josh. I think if it falls to Josh, 9 out of 10 times it’s going to the back of the net because he can strike pretty good balls. We were fortunate to get that goal.”
For the remainder of the match, the Orange and Black settled in and fended off Stetson’s offensive pressure.
Ruzzo commented on the overall result, “When you’re at home and at conference games, you have to try to get as many points as you possibly can and we knew it was going to be difficult today. Stetson has notoriously been one of the top teams in this league.”
The man of the match, without question, was Mercer sophomore goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh. Ranjitsingh made a career-high 10 saves, including a diving one-handed stop of a Stetson free kick with 35 seconds left in the match to preserve the win.
Ruzzo recognized Ranjitsingh’s efforts when he said, “Greg Ranjitsingh today was unbelievable in goal and really saved us, particularly in the first half.”
Senior Richie Edmondson paced the Mercer attack with three shots, while Samuels records at least one point with an assist for the fourth-straight match.
When offering final comments on the match, Carl-Oscar Andersson said, “Today’s win was very important against a strong Stetson team. We have won all of our home games so far, and continuing to be very hard to beat at our place. Once again, we got the first goal and after that we just had to defend our lead, which we did. They put a lot of pressure on us, but Greg Ranjitsingh was massive in goal for us today, and he kept us in the game.”
Things don’t get any easier for Mercer next time out, as it travels to Tampa to take on No. 15 South Florida on Oct. 10.