MACON, Ga. – After taking a 1-0 shutout against in-state rival Georgia St. on Sunday, the Mercer women’s soccer team remains the only undefeated team in the Atlantic Sun Conference at the end of the second full week of competition in the 2011 season.
The Bears are off to their best start in more than a decade and it is the first time in head coach Grant Serafy’s eight seasons that his team has gone undefeated in their first three matches. Mercer has also yet to allow a goal on the year and has given up just seven shots on goal in three games.
On Sunday, the Bears faced possibly their toughest test of the year in a Georgia St. team that went 12-7-2 in 2010. The Bears played a tough physical first half and had several early scoring chances that added up to a 9-6 advantage in shots and a 6-0 lead in corner kicks by the end of the half.
Freshman forward Washida Blackman made a nice run with the ball in the 13th minute taking a shot from 22 yards out that forced Georgia St. keeper Rebecca Ingram to make a diving save. Ingram pushed the ball off the cross bar to keep the score knotted at zero going into halftime. Blackman finished the game leading the team with five shots and four on goal.
Just five minutes into the second half, sophomore Nadja Kolliesuah became the fifth different player to score a goal for the Bears on the year. Kolliesuah went stride-for-stride with senior Emerald Phillips down the middle of the field and put herself into perfect position in the Panthers’ box for the cross.
Phillips then floated a beautiful ball off her left foot that Kolliesuah was able to head into the upper right corner of the net to score the eventual game-winner. The assist is Phillips’ second on the year.
The Bears defense, that has seen its fair share of growing pains this season, played well when it needed to and was able to fend off several scoring chances by the Panthers in the second half. The Panthers best chance came in the 66th minute when Alison Gonzalez broke away and got behind Mercer’s keeper Cagney Valloch. Gonzalez ended up pushing her shot wide to keep the Bears lead at 1-0.
Valloch received her first start and win of the season after fellow senior Cristina Guilarte had started in goal in the Bears’ first two games. Valloch made five saves and played all 90 minutes.
Getting out the quick 3-0 start gives the Bears a little momentum heading into their longest road trip of the season. The Orange and Black now begin a four-game road stretch that takes the team first to Florida Atlantic next Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.