JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 23, 2017) – With two games remaining before the Southern Conference tournament, the ETSU men’s soccer team is jockeying for position in the standings and looks for a key win at Mercer tomorrow night.
The Bucs (7-2-6, 4-0-4 SoCon, 16 points) are currently tied with UNCG for the conference lead and can clinch one of the top two seeds with a win over Mercer in Macon, Ga. Trailing behind in a third place tie is Furman and Wofford, who each own 12 points. Mercer is fifth with 11 points and VMI remains sixth with zero points.
Last Time Out
The Bucs scored their quickest goal of the season, courtesy of a 20-yard roller into the right corner by junior Luke Parker (Memphis, Tenn.) in the third minute, but would not hold the early lead in a 1-1 tie to Furman Saturday in Greenville, S.C.
The Bucs forced early pressure, and a stifling ETSU defense held Furman to one shot in the first 35:00. Furman would then explode with a flurry of shots to end the half, but ETSU held strong. The Paladins eventually scored the tying goal in the 51st minute and the deadlock would hold until the end.
Each team took 15 shots in the game and combined for 15 shots on goal, including three shots on target by sophomore Bruno Andrade (Sao Paulo, Brazil) on four attempts.
Junior goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland (Chester, U.K.) finished with seven saves in the contest, giving him 17 against Furman this season and 55 for the year.
ETSU Quick Facts
Mercer remains in the thick of the Southern conference race, despite trailing behind in fifth place. The 5-7-2 Bears own a 3-3-2 conference record and can still earn a top seed with a couple of wins and some help.
The Bears are coming off two heartbreaking losses to Furman and UNCG – both in similar fashion. Both losses came on handballs late in overtime, resulting in opponent goals for 2-1 defeats.
Mercer – who began its program in 1970 – is ETSU’s most storied rival and has been with the Bucs nearly every step of the way. The Bears were members of the ASUN conference when ETSU established its men’s soccer program in 2008. Both teams would later join the SoCon together in 2014.
Mercer is led by 10 year head coach Brad Ruzzo, who took the helm in 2008. He came into the season with an 82-77-18 career record and a 20-8-2 record in SoCon play. In the SoCon tournament, Ruzzo is 3-1-2 all-time, including a win in last year’s tournament championship over ETSU.
Scouting the Bears
Mercer plays an aggressive offensive style of soccer, attempting 13.7 shots per game while leading the conference in offside calls.
Leading the charge is last year’s Southern Conference Player of the Year, senior forward Will Bagrou. He ranks 31st nationally and first in the SoCon with 10 goals and 0.63 goals per game. Bagrou also has three game-winning scores, ranking him 25th in the NCAA.
The Bears have eight other players with at least three points on the season. Seniors Airrion Blackstock, Trenton Whitley and Conner Antley typically anchor the backline for Mercer, as each have over 1,300 minutes thus far.
The goalkeeper for Mercer is senior Jeremy Booth, who has allowed 20 goals in 16 starts. Booth has 52 saves on the year – which is three less than ETSU’s Sutherland – and owns a .722 save percentage.
ETSU and Mercer History
Mercer holds the all-time advantage over ETSU with a 7-4-4 record over 15 contests. Mercer is the only school ETSU has faced in every season since 2008. The 15 games mark the most any school has squared off with ETSU in program history.
The two teams battled to a scoreless draw in Johnson City this season, coming in a Tuesday night contest Oct. 10.
Last season, the Bucs earned two regular season wins by scores of 3-2 at home and 2-0 in Macon, marking the first time ETSU has knocked off Mercer twice in a season.
Also, the two schools faced off in the 2016 conference championship game, which ended in a 4-1 penalty kick advantage for Mercer. Both schools received bids for the NCAA tournament, with Mercer picking up an automatic bid and ETSU claiming an at-large bid.
ETSU’s other two wins in the series came in 2010 and 2013, respectively. The two ETSU wins last season snapped a four-game losing streak to the Bears that dated back to 2014 and 2015.
ETSU Record Watch
After Sutherland’s record-breaking 183rd save two weeks ago against Mercer, the keeper now has his eyes set on a couple more records. Sutherland now needs four shutouts and four wins to tie the program career records held by Ryan Coulter in each category.
Sutherland is also five saves away from the 200 milestone and would become the only ETSU keeper in history to hit that number.
Senior defender Chase Clack (Memphis, Tenn.) has now played in 5,276 straight minutes, becoming only the second player in ETSU history to hit 5,000 career minutes (Coulter) and the first non-goalie to accomplish the feat.
Coulter has 5,855 straight minutes, meaning Clack would need to log 580 minutes to break the cumulative record. Adding in the 141 minutes he played as a freshman in 2014, Clack also has 5,417 career minutes and needs 438 more to tie Coulter for total career minutes.
After adding his third goal of the season last Tuesday, Ekern has 23 career goals and is four goals away from breaking the program career goal record held by David Geno (26).
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