Mercer defense shuts down UVU

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Bears shutout Wolverines in Holiday Inn Express Invitational Finale

Kyle McDonald | Sports editor | @kylesportsbias

Gabi Campbell | Photo editor | @gabicampbellphotos

OREM, Utah — In a game that saw 29 fouls called, four yellow cards and one red card, the Mercer Bears handed the Utah Valley University Wolverines their first loss of the season 1-0 at Clyde Field on Sunday afternoon.Soccer 9-13-15 by Gabi Campbell-6471

It is the first time this season that the Wolverines have trailed in a game and marks the first time this season they have failed to score a goal.  For the Bears, it was nice to go into their home opener on Friday with a win under their belts.

“We knew this weekend was going to be tough,” Mercer Head Coach Brad Ruzzo said.  “We wanted to challenge our guys and it certainly was a challenge. But leaving with this result and us giving them their first loss of the year at their place can only propel us. We go home now and get to play two games finally at home.”Soccer 9-13-15 by Gabi Campbell-6474

It was a physical, defensive battle throughout the game as neither team could establish much offense.  Mercer did put pressure on the Wolverines and forced the issue in the first half as they took nine shots compared to just three for the Wolverines.

“Our pressure today on the ball was outstanding,” Ruzzo said. “We felt in the UNLV game that we let them have too much time in space on the ball and we said if we do that again today then we are going to have a long, long day. So we wanted to press higher and a little bit more up the field…the pressure of our front four guys was what led to the goal.”Soccer 9-13-15 by Gabi Campbell-6526

The first and only goal of the match came in the 75th minute when Jourdan Gooden took a cross from Carson Brooks and put it into the left corner of the net.  UVU attempted to get back in the game as they put pressure forward but the Mercer defense and goalkeeper Jeremy Booth held on for the shutout win.

“Credit to Mercer,” UVU Head Coach Greg Maas said. “They were very organized today, very physical behind the ball. They came in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder after Friday’s result.  They have been on the road for five games prior to this and they came out with a lot of energy.”

As the game wore on, the physicality picked up and so did the whistles.  UVU was whistled for 19 fouls, four yellow cards and a red card in the game and Mercer picked up 10 fouls in the game.

“Sunday afternoon games are difficult to play,” Maas said.  “It took us a long time to even feel comfortable into the match at one point and we just never really got there today.”Soccer 9-13-15 by Gabi Campbell-6425

The big blow for the Wolverines was when All-WAC defender Alex Neff took out a Mercer player with a slide tackle to earn the red card and go off the pitch. It didn’t effect the outcome of this match but Neff will miss Friday’s contest at Gonzaga due to the red card.

“That was uncharacteristic of our captain Alex Neff,” Maas said. “I think it’s indicative of the frustration that we felt within ourselves and how the game went. But certainly it’s a game from a coaching perspective that sometimes you have a little bit more to learn from a loss than a win.”

UVU’s Austin Buxton, who had two goals on Friday night against Bradley, and Skyler Milne were named to the All-Tournament team.Soccer 9-13-15 by Gabi Campbell-6528

Mercer’s goalkeeper Jeremy Booth along with the Antley twins, Ian and Conner, were named to the All-Tournament team as well.

UVU goes back on the road for a Friday contest at Gonzaga and a Sunday contest at Denver while the  Mercer Bears return home to Macon, Georgia to take on Presbyterian in their home opener on Friday and then a Sunday match against Lipscomb.