Men’s soccer team defeats Mercer University to cinch playoff spot
Following a one-sided defeat in their last outing, the Belmont men’s soccer team looked to gain some momentum for a potential playoff run in their last regular-season game against Mercer University at E.S. Rose Park.
The game had high stakes, as it would determine whether the Bruins kept their current spot in the middle of the conference and continue their season in the playoffs, or drop them into the bottom half of the table, ending their season short.
At the final whistle, Belmont came out victorious, beating Mercer one goal to nil.
In the first half, the Bruins started off slowly, finding themselves under the pressure of Mercer’s high press. Nonetheless, Belmont’s backline remained confident and was able to close down air through passes and long balls sent down the field by Mercer’s defense.
Drew Romig, eager to correct his mistakes from his last game, made several confident moves in the box that prevented Mercer from getting good looks at goal.
Even though Belmont’s defense was under a lot of pressure, the Bruins’ offense managed to get their chances in.
A free-kick from a good position allowed senior wing back Estaban Lestido to challenge Mercer’s goalkeeper. Unfortunately for Lestido, the hands of the keeper met his shot aimed toward the top left corner of the net.
Another chance for Belmont arose in the 15th minute when forward Ares Marlonsson found space in Mercer’s penalty box and made an attempt at the bottom left side of the goal. His shot, however, much like Lestido’s, was collected by the keeper.
In the 33rd minute, Belmont’s offense got its best chance at goal when a cross into the box by winger Michael Saunders forced an error from Mercer’s goalkeeper.
The keeper chose to dive out of position to stop Saunders’ cross, but in the process, deflected the ball straight into the feet of Jack Shaw. Shaw passed the ball towards Jordan Dozzi who shot the ball into the left side netting before the keeper could recover.
Dozzi has been an essential role player for his team’s offense when he is present on the pitch, and his recent performances have garnered respect from Coach David Costa.
“Jordan is an important player in our team and creates so many match-up problems for opposing teams,” he said. “We were pleased for him to get a goal tonight.”
At the end of the half, the Bruins managed to outshoot the Mercer Bears 4-3, hoping to carry their momentum into the second half.
At the start of the second half, Belmont came out hungry for more possession. The Bruins began to implement a high press of their own, which allowed them to regain offensive possession higher up the pitch.
In the 61st minute, freshman Michael Saunders was able to separate himself from Mercer’s defenders and take a shot from outside of the box. Saunders smashed the ball with pace towards the left side of the goal, forcing Mercer’s keeper to make desperate a cross-goal save.
Although a lot of attention was given to the offense, Romig and the bruins’ defense continued to play consistently throughout the half. The backline stopped several threatening plays from getting in on goal and prevented any late drama from ruining the team’s day.
Costa was very pleased with his goalkeeper’s efforts on the pitch.
“Drew is a top goalkeeper. His positioning and organization throughout the match allowed him to diffuse situations before they turned into chances at goal,” he said.
One key effort came late in the 70th minute when the team pulled together to close down on a potential equalizer making its way down the field. Several players closed down on potential passing lanes and were able to react to a handful of dangerous deflections.
By the final whistle, the Bruins remained the dominant shooter, totaling ten shots across the entire game.
A dominant Belmont team achieved a much-deserved win and secured its fourth-place spot to advance to the Southern Conference Tournament.
Coach Costa is relieved to have won a playoff position but recognizes the need to stay focused and humbled in order to finish the year strong in the postseason.
“It is great to be playing in the SoCon Tournament and qualified in the top four,” He said. “We were very close to a higher seed and will use the past matches as motivation in the playoffs.”
Costa added, “We will continue to maintain a consistent approach emphasizing humility and respect for every opponent. We will remind our team that we are only as good as our next match.”
The Bruins finish their season with a record of 6-2-2 and now move on to face Furman University in the tournament semi-final on Friday, April 9, where they will hope to redeem themselves of the performance they put up against Furman during the regular season.
This article written by David Pang.