Echeverri tallies game-winner; Defense posts 5th shutout in last 6 games
MACON, Ga. – Entering on a five-game win streak and in need of its sixth straight victory in order to claim its third consecutive Atlantic Sun regular season crown, the FGCU men’s soccer team delivered a hard-fought 1-0 win at previously first place Mercer Saturday night at Bear Field on the final day of conference regular season action.
Sophomore Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) picked an ideal time to deliver his first career game-winning goal, providing the lone tally of the contest in the 51st minute to help the Eagles claim the top seed in the A-Sun Tournament for the second straight year. With the No. 1 seed, FGCU will play host to the A-Sun Tournament quarterfinals (Nov. 7), semifinals (Nov. 9) and championship (Nov. 11) and receive a bye into the semifinals.
FGCU (9-5-2) entered the game trailing the Bears by two points in the standings, but moved ahead with the three-point victory to finish with a 6-1-1 (19pts) A-Sun mark. Mercer (11-6-1), who will be the No. 2 seed in the postseason and also receives a bye into the semifinals, finishes one point back of the Eagles at 6-2 (18pts).
“I’m really happy for this group of guys. They’ve come a long way in a short period of time and to win the conference championship on the last day against a team that hasn’t lost at home all season is really impressive,” said head coach Bob Butehorn, who has orchestrated all six years of the program’s existence. “They’ll enjoy this night, but their sights are set on the next prize.”
FGCU is just the second team to win three straight A-Sun regular season crowns since the league moved out of divisions in 1998. Oddly enough, Mercer was the last team to accomplish the feat from 2000-02. Over the Green and Blue’s current three-year run, they are 22-2-1 in the A-Sun.
Though Echeverri’s goal will go down as the game-winner, the FGCU defense should be credited with the assist as it posted its fifth shutout during the current six-game win streak. Sophomore keeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) came up with four big saves, leading the defensive unit to a shutout of the A-Sun’s top goal scoring squad, who ranked 39th in the nation in goals per game (1.76) entering the match. FGCU is now tied with Mercer for the league-lead with seven shutouts.
After a tightly played first half resulted in no goals, Echeverri’s second career goal came at the 51:07 mark when he collected a loosed ball and drilled a shot past Mercer keeper Greg Ranjitsingh, who, like Ingham, has logged every minute in net this season.
FGCU was able to hold off any type of equalizer from the Bears, becoming the first team to win at Mercer this season and snapping a nine-game home unbeaten streak (8-0-1) that dated back to last season.
The two teams have meet before with major implications on the line, as FGCU defeated the Bears, 2-1, last year in the A-Sun Tournament semifinals. The Green and Blue have now won five straight against Mercer and hold a 6-1 edge in the all-time series.