FORT MYERS, Fla. (School Release) - The Mercer men's soccer team came back against all odds to pull out a 4-2 penalty kick shootout win over East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun Championship semifinals on Friday afternoon at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Mercer (11-6-2) advances to the A-Sun Championship final for the sixth time in program history and second time in the last four years, also equaling the feat in 2009.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game because ETSU has a great program and Scott Calabrese and his staff are great coaches," said Mercer Head Coach and A-Sun Coach of the Year Brad Ruzzo. "I give our team credit though; they battled and fought and even played a man down for 15 minutes. I am tremendously proud of our team and the effort they put forth to get a result tonight."
Mercer's first real chance of the game came in the 24th minute when senior Richie Edmondson raced behind the ETSU defense and fired a left-footed shot that trickled just wide of the far post to keep the game scoreless.
After both teams entered halftime tied at 0-0, ETSU dominated play for the most part and nearly scored on a pair of chances. Junior David Geno had a header and senior Colin Pugh ripped a shot, but both were saved by Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh to keep the score 0-0.
The Buccaneers kept the ball through the run of play and their offensive pressure finally broke through the stingy Mercer defense in the 75th minute. Senior Franck Doumbe dribbled towards the inside and delivered a shot that deflected off a Bears defender and into the back of the net to give ETSU a 1-0 lead.
The Bears didn't fold, however, fighting back with a huge counterpunch goal just minutes later. Senior Josh Shutter sent in a free kick that was flicked on by classmate Will Betts and pushed in by freshman David Murtaugh in the 75th minute of play to tie the game up a 1-1.
Each team nearly took the lead for good in regulation when Edmondson failed to convert a breakaway chance and ETSU freshman Kristoffer Ibsen's header hit the post, but each team ended 90 minutes of play settling for a 1-1 tie score.
Things took a momentum swing in ETSU's favor in the 95th minute of the match when Mercer got a red card which forced the Bears to play a man down for the last 15 minutes of the game. The Orange and Black held strong, however, keeping the Bucs off the scoreboard and forcing the game into a penalty kick shootout.
Geno and Shutter were both good on their respective penalty kicks to keep things square through the first round. Ranjitsingh then came up big for the Bears, stopping both Nate Hodges and Alesi Osorio penalty kicks in rounds two and three, setting up sophomore Carl-Oscar Andersson who converted the game-winner in round four.
Betts and fellow senior Sharpe Sablon also converted their penalty kicks for the Bears, who went into mass hysteria and mobbed Andersson after he converted his penalty kick chance that sent Mercer into the finals.
Ranjitsingh made eight saves in the match for the Bears while ETSU goalkeeper Ryan Coulter stopped three shots in a losing effort.
Mercer will now play the winner of tonight's other semifinal match between FGCU and Lipscomb in the 2012 A-Sun Championship final on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.