COLUMBIA, S.C. – Jake Mezei delivered the final blow in the upset victory over No. 24 South Carolina on Tuesday evening, scoring from the narrowest of angles on the end line to give Mercer the 3-2 win in the second extra time session.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bears could not have asked for a better opening 45 minutes, as they led 1-0 at the halftime whistle. The Mercer goal was set up by great play from sophomore Will Bagrou. The forward broke into the box from the left side and took on a couple of defenders before delivering a perfectly weighted pass to Kobe Perez, who slotted into an open right side of the net to give Mercer the lead in the 22nd minute.
Mercer doubled its lead in the 55th minute, as the Perez and Bagrou combination struck again. Perez beat a defender and picked out a great pass to Bagrou, who curled the ball into the upper left corner of the goal to put the Bears on top 2-0. The South Carolina offense came to life after the score, as the hosts got a goal back off a header from Tryvge Ellingstad to cut the lead to 2-1. The Gamecocks completed the comeback in the 85th minute to send the match into extra time at 2-2.
After a scoreless first 10 minutes in the first session, the Bears got the winner off the foot of Mezei. Conner Antley headed the ball towards the goal and the USC keeper couldn’t control the shot. Mezei then took a touch to the end-line and somehow found the back of the net from virtually no angle, sparking a huge celebration from the Mercer bench.
MEN OF THE MATCH
Perez and Bagrou were masterful in the attack for the Bears as both continually took on defenders and found others in space to present a constant threat to the South Carolina backline. Both Perez and Bagrou scored a goal and recorded an assist, linking with each other on both occasions, to combine for six points on the evening.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Bears’ win over South Carolina is the first in program history, coming in the ninth meeting between the two programs. Mercer’s three goals are also the most they have scored against the Gamecocks in series history.
· The win over South Carolina was the first in program history.
· The victory was the first over a ranked team since the Bears took down UAB during the 2010 season.
· Tuesday marks the third time Mercer has defeated a ranked team during head coach Brad Ruzzo’s tenure.
· Mezei’s game winner was the first of his career and the second goal of his career.
· The three goals are the most Mercer has scored against South Carolina in program history.
· The goal was Perez’s first of the season and fourth of his career and the assist was the first of the season and fifth of his career.
· Bagrou scored his first goal of the season and 18th of his career and also collected his first assist of the season and 10th of his Mercer career.
· Tuesday’s match marks the sixth time Bagrou has recorded three or more points in a single game in his career.
· Perez matched his career high in points with for a single match with three.
· Goalkeeper Jeremy Booth came up huge on a number of occasions, totaling six saves.
Mercer stays unbeaten at 2-0-0 on the year, while South Carolina drops to 0-2-0 on the young season.
The Bears will be back in the Palmetto State this weekend for the SoCon/Big South Challenge. The Bears will play Winthrop in Spartanburg on Friday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. for the opening game of the challenge.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE BEARS
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