JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – A three-point night by Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year Xavier Silva (Boca Raton, Fla./North Broward Prep) helped push the top-seeded FGCU men’s soccer team past fourth-seeded Mercer, 2-1, in the A-Sun Conference Tournament semifinal game on Friday evening at ETSU’s Summers-Taylor Stadium. In their first year of postseason eligibility, the Eagles advance to the A-Sun Conference championship game on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
The win moves the Eagles’ record to 11-5-2 (7-1 A-Sun) on the season, while picking up the program’s first-ever postseason victory. Meanwhile, the Bears’ season ends with 9-8-3 (3-3-2 A-Sun) record.
“It was a game that got away from us a little bit and I give credit to Mercer because they continued to battle,” said A-Sun Coach of the Year Bob Butehorn. “We were in a position where we probably should have put the game away early in the second half, but we’re pleased with the win and the chance to move on to the final on Sunday.”
In a back-and-forth first half of play, the Eagles were finally able to break into the scoring column in the 38th minute of play. A ball dribbled deep into the left side of the box by Silva was sent to the far post on well-struck cross, where senior midfielder Cristian Raudales (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee) was able to drill the header past Mercer keeper Greg Ranjitsingh for the 1-0 lead. It was Raudales’ team-leading seventh goal of the season, and also put him atop the point column with 15 this year.
The lead held for final seven minutes of the frame, as the teams headed to the intermission with the Eagles out in front 1-0. The Green and Blue held a slim 5-4 advantage in shots, while both schools recorded three corners and a pair of saves in the half.
As the second half got underway the Eagles pushed the lead to 2-0 at the 58:11 mark, again off the foot of Silva. Carrying up the left side of the field, freshman defender Federico Crespo (Heredia, Costa Rica/St. Paul College/Universidad Latina) placed a cross into the center of the box, connecting with Silva for a header into the back of the net. With his third point on the night, Silva moved into a share of the team points lead with six goals and three assists.
The Bears wouldn’t go away quietly, finding the back of the net in the 65th minute of play. Following a shot on goal by Mercer’s Ashani Samuels that was saved by FGCU freshman goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Ontario, Canada/Keswick HS), Ehjayson Henry was there to collect the rebound and send it into the upper left corner of the net to make it a 2-1 game.
FGCU’s defensive effort held firm over the remaining 25 minutes, as the match came to a close with the Eagles ahead of the Bears 2-1. The final line on the contest showed the Eagles ahead in shots, 12-11, while trailing the Bears in corners, 7-5.
With three of his game-high five saves coming in the final 10 minutes of the game, Ingham’s play in net was crucial in helping the Green and Blue come away with win. Through six contests this season, the netminder holds a 5-1 mark, sending away 22 shots on goal for a .733 save percentage while recording a 1.33 goals against average.
Mercer's keeper Ranjitsingh finished the contest with four saves.
The Green and Blue now await the winner of the Friday night semifinal contest between sixth-seeded ETSU and second-seeded Stetson. Each game of the 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship will be streamed online for free via ASun.TV. Live stats, live video (www.ASun.tv), in-game Twitter updates (@FGCUMensSoccer and @FGCUEagles), results and recaps from the 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.