TAMPA, Fla. - The Mercer men's soccer teams' four-game winning streak came to an end after a 1-0 loss at No. 17 South Florida on Wednesday evening at Corbett Soccer Stadium.
After USF (7-2-4) controlled possession and tempo throughout most the first half, Mercer (8-4-1) regrouped at halftime and nearly netted an equalizer several times in the second half before time ran out.
"I thought in the first half they got on us a little bit and were aggressive with their movement and passing," head coach Brad Ruzzo said. "Even though we are not happy with a loss, I am proud of the way our guys battled in the second half. We made some adjustments at halftime and we came out and executed the plan well and nearly scored several times towards the end."
The first real chance of the game for either side came for South Florida in the 11th minute. Sophomore Roberto Alterio received a chip pass on the left side of the box and ripped a shot that was turned away by Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh to keep the game scoreless.
The Bulls kept up the offensive pressure and struck for the only goal of the match just minutes later. Sophomore Wesley Sharpie dribbled to just outside the top of the 18-yard line and fired a left-footed shot into the upper-left 90 of the net to give USF a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute of the first half.
Mercer came out with much more intensity in their final third of the field to start the second half and the extra effort almost netted an equalizer for the visitors in the 54th minute of play. Sophomore Ashani Samuels intercepted a pass and fed a long ball to freshman Jason Sayers who ran onto the attempt and fired a shot that was tipped wide by USF goalkeeper Dallas Jaye to keep the score 1-0 in favor of the Bulls.
The Bears had another chance in the 73rd minute when senior Josh Shutter collected a deflection and launched a shot just over the crossbar.
The Orange and Black saved their best scoring opportunity for last, nearly tying the game up in the 87th minute of play. Shutter sent in a free kick from midfield that freshman Juan Jose Morales back flicked on net but was pushed just wide by Jaye to seal the win for South Florida.
Ranjitsingh made eight saves in the contest while Jaye made three saves to pick up the win.
Mercer resumes Atlantic Sun Conference play on October 18 when it is back in the Sunshine State to take on North Florida. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hodges Stadium.