FT. MYERS, Fla. (School Release) - For the fifth time in the last six years, the Mercer women's soccer team has earned the right to play for the Atlantic Sun Championship; advancing to the title game after downing No. 6 North Florida, 3-0 on Friday night at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
The No. 2 Bears now await the winner of No. 1 Florida Gulf Coast and No. 5 Jacksonville who play in the other semi-final match to be played at 7 p.m. on Friday. Game time for the championship is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday. Friday proved to be Mercer's third-straight shutout in a semi-final game in the A-Sun Championship and also marks the third-straight appearance in the championship game.
Freshman goalkeeper Maggie Cropp picked up the shutout victory - the team's lead-leading 11th of the year - and improved her overall record to 9-2-2. She also lowered her nation-leading goals against average to 0.24 in the process. Friday was also the largest defeat in an A-Sun semi-final since 2010 when Mercer took down Stetson 5-0.
Mercer, as it has done all season, got off to another early start. For the seventh time this season, the Bears recorded a goal in the game's first 10 minutes. Junior defender Kristen Hagaman played through ball in the third minute of the game that carried through several defenders and ended up finding the back of the net.
It was Hagaman's first of her career and gave the Bears the early momentum. Mercer would continue to add pressure throughout the first half and walked into halftime with a 7-3 advantage in shots and looked to poised to add to their lead.
Mercer again captured the early momentum in the second half as senior midfielder Danielle Hesse tallied her sixth of the season in the 48th minute. Hesse settled a feed from sophomore Lauren Gassie and beat UNF's Brittany Hahn with a powerful shot from the 18 yard line. Junior Nadja Kolliesuah began the play in the box and picked up an assist as well.
Junior forward Casey Barrett put the game out of reach in the 72nd minute off a nice individual effort. Barrett finished off a long run through a couple defenders and slid a soft touch to the near post to give the Bears the decisive 3-0 lead.
Mercer becomes the third team in A-Sun history to appear in at least five championship games. The win also marked first-year head coach Tony Economopoulos' first postseason victory as a Division I head coach.