Bears Advance in PK's; Knock Out Jacksonville
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Mercer women's soccer team advanced to next week's semi-finals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships in dramatic fashion, taking Friday night's game at No. 3 Jacksonville, 4-2 in penalty kicks.
The game will go down as a tie, but the Bears exacted a bit of revenge on Friday night as the team ended Jacksonville's season for the second year in a row. The Bears will next meet East Tennessee St. next Friday in the semi-finals of the A-Sun Tournament.
In a much similar game, the Bears were knocked out of the tournament in 2009 when JU was the team to prevail in penalty kicks, advancing in that game 3-0. On Friday, the Bears battled back from a 1-0 deficit to tie the game in the second half to force overtime.
After two scoreless overtime periods, the teams went to their second shootout in the last three conference tournament games against one another.
Mercer's Nicole Young started things off by burying her try to give the Bears the 1-0 advantage.
It was then that senior goalkeeper Cristina Guilarte, who had not played in the game, stepped between the posts and made the game's most dramatic save. Guilarte came in cold off the bench, yet made a miraculous dive to her left to stop JU's Jessica Hurtado's first attempt.
The save gave Mercer the early edge. MU would add their next two shots from Casey Barrett and Emerald Phillips. JU would miss again on their third attempt to set up the final shot for senior Olivia Tucker.
Tucker, who was recently named First Team All-Conference, placed her attempt low and to the left ensuring the Bears a spot in the sem-finals.
On Friday, Jacksonville put the early pressure on the Bears scoring in the game's fourth minute as Kaitlyn Bassett made a nice play off corner kick. JU's Liz Fink put a well-placed ball on the near post which Bassett was able to connect with to give the Dolphins the early advantage.
The Dolphins held a 20-9 overall advantage in shots, but coming out of halftime the Bears seemed to have gained the momentum. Mercer dictated play in the second and got on the scoreboard halfway through the period. Sophomore Casey Barrett cleaned up a rebound in the Dolphins box, tallying her third of the year.
Mercer's starting goalkeeper on the night, sophomore Nikki Atkinson is also credit for the Bears moving on to the next round. Atkinson made a career-high seven saves on the night, three of which were diving stops to keep the Bears in the game.
Mercer now has a week to prepare for its next conference game against No. 2 ETSU. The game will be played in Ft. Myers, Fla. as FGCU won the right to host the conference finals as the No. 1 seed. The game is currently scheduled at 4 p.m. next Friday.