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Monday, Mar 20, 2023

Soccer teams set to start 2021 season after exhibition tune-ups

Mercer's Brie Pavol lines up to kick in a 2020 soccer match at Betts Stadium.
Mercer's Brie Pavol lines up to kick in a 2020 soccer match at Betts Stadium.

The Mercer men’s and women’s soccer teams will start their seasons soon and offered previews of what’s to come in exhibition games throughout August. Here’s a look at how each team fared in friendly matchups and what to look for this season.

Women’s soccer

Mercer women’s soccer began their season Aug. 11 with an exhibition matchup against Jacksonville University, winning the game by a score of 3-0 at Betts Stadium. An early goal in the fourth minute of play gave the Bears a 1-0 lead that set the tone for the matchup. Mercer’s Pace Stephenson, Ally Fordham and Kendall Cook all scored goals in the game.

"It's always good to play a friendly prior to the regular season and see where our team is at," women’s head coach Tony Economopoulos told Mercer Athletics after the game. "We got off to a quick start and did some things well, but Jacksonville exposed things we need to work on as well.”

The team’s second friendly match came against the Auburn University Tigers Aug. 14.

Mercer lost by a score of 2-0, allowing goals in the 51st and 55th minutes of the match. The Bears did not allow a shot on goal for the first 20 minutes of play.

"In the first half I thought our defense was good," Economopoulos said. "Auburn had more shots than us, but I was proud of the way we played throughout the first 45 minutes.”

Despite the loss, the game was a positive showing for Mercer’s squad. The future of the team was on display in the area of goalkeeping, as freshman goalie Lindsay Bell made multiple saves against Auburn to keep the game scoreless at halftime.

While the goalie position this year will be occupied by graduate student Jordyn Ebert, the team will eventually need a replacement. Bell proved in the exhibition matches that she can succeed Ebert in goal.

In the meantime, Ebert will play the position during the 2021 season. She led the team in minutes last season and led the Southern Conference with 96 saves, according to Mercer Athletics. Other team leaders include Cook, who was an All-Conference Freshman last season, and leading scorer Fordham.

The women’s team will have their first matchup against Georgia State University Aug. 19.

Men’s soccer

The men’s team kicked off their season with a friendly matchup against Campbell University Sunday, losing by a 4-1 score at home.

The Bears’ lone goal was scored by Logan Longo off of a corner kick from Dylan Gaither. The goal came in the 28th minute and gave the Bears a 1-0 lead, but the advantage did not last. The Fighting Camels scored two goals less than 10 minutes later and eventually tacked on two more.

Despite the low goal total, Mercer had many opportunities on offense. The team tallied seven corner kicks and 14 shots on goal. Many of these opportunities came during the final 20 minutes of the match, but the Bears couldn’t capitalize.

Mercer’s season shows promise despite the exhibition loss. Two Mercer players, Gaither and Ousman Jabang, were both awarded preseason honors by the Southern Conference. The Bears were also tied for third in the conference’s preseason poll, according to Mercer Athletics.

Gaither, a rising junior and midfielder, tallied a team-leading five goals last season for Mercer. Two of his goals were game-winning goals against Georgia Southern University and Jacksonville. Jabang, a defender, contributed to Mercer’s two shutouts last season with solid defense and even scored a goal of his own against Wofford.

The Bears will play one more exhibition match against University of Alabama at Birmingham this Saturday at Betts Stadium. They open their official schedule with a home game against Gardner-Webb Aug. 26.

Micah Johnston

Micah Johnston ‘22 is a journalism and media studies double major who has written for The Cluster since his freshman year at Mercer. He has written on and reported for Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Macon Telegraph and The Macon Newsroom on a variety of topics. He received the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s Junior Honors Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. Micah’s other interests include obsessively following Braves and Mariners baseball, constantly listening to all kinds of music and probably eating junk food.


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