Bears Drop Heartbreaker to In-state Rival Georgia
MACON, Ga. – For a second year in a row the Mercer University women's soccer team held a one-goal lead going into the final minutes of regulation and were unable to convert the win against in-state rival No. 25 Georgia. The Bears pushed the Bulldogs to double overtime on Friday night at Bear Field, but were unable to hold off UGA's late game surge and lost 3-2.
Last season in Athens, the Bears held a 1-0 advantage going into the 76th minute before Georgia scored the equalizer. The game ended in a 1-1 tie after being called due to weather five minutes later. On Friday, it was not until the 88th minute that Bulldog forward Alexa Newfield took an open run at Mercer goalkeeper Cristina Guilarte and put the ball past her for the all-important tying score.
"Our problem right now is leadership and heart," head coach Grant Serafy said. "We need to find a way to do a better job in both of those areas otherwise we just can't improve."
In front of a sellout crowd of 637 fans on "Orange Out Weekend," Mercer came out as the more agressive team and quickly put the pressure on the newly-ranked Bulldogs. Senior forward Lauren Johnson was on the receiving end of a nice through ball from fellow senior midfielder Sara Elliot and connected for her second score of the season in just the 25th minute. The goal put the Bears on the board first 1-0, and shifted the momentum heavily in Mercer's favor.
Freshmen Nadja Kolliesuah and Casey Barrett continued to make plays early on this season for the Bears upfront. Tonight it was Kolliesuah's turn, creating an opportunity on net in the 42nd minute after a speedy play down the end line. The Ohio native served a beautiful ball to her club teammate that was one-timed by a well-placed Barrett. The goal was Barrett's first of her career in a Bears' unuform and gave MU the upper hand heading into the second half.
That all changed quickly from the start of the second half, as Georgia showed why they are the No. 25 team in America. Just 34 seconds into the second stanza, the Bears were caught off guard and UGA'a Nicole Locandro took a loose ball in the Bears' 18 and buried a shot into the back of the net. That made the score 2-1 and the momentum slowly began to sway to the Bulldogs' attack.
"You have to give credit to Georgia," Serafy said. "They did a good job in the second half and we were just unable to find a way to win."
The Bears' stout defense did squelch numerous scoring opportunities in the second half, due in large part to the strong play in-between the posts by Guilarte. The junior made her fourth-consecutive start on Friday and could have solidified her role as the starting keeper. While being charged with the three tough goals, she was also able to make a career-high nine saves on the night.
The Bears were outshot in the second half 12-1 and - after giving up the late equalizer - were forced to play their third-straight overtime match. Georgia forward Alex Hooker put the game-winner in the net off a cross from teammate Jamie Pollock in the second OT segment.
The loss drops the Bears to 1-2-1 on the young season and the road will not get any easier as No. 5 Florida State makes its way to Macon on Sunday at 1 p.m. Fans are again encouraged to wear orange in support of the Bears and will receive free admission for doing so.