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UNCG, Mercer advance to SoCon Championship Final
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 11/10/2017
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UNCG's Matt Mattis
Courtesy: Southern Conference
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ETSU 0, Mercer 0 - Mercer advances 4-3 on PKs (Photo gallery)

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The No. 4-seeded Mercer Bears knocked off the No. 1 ETSU Bucs 4-3 in penalty kicks after playing to a scoreless draw of the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship. After finishing the second overtime scoreless, Mercer goalkeeper Jeremy Booth saved two penalty kicks, setting up a Will Bagrou game-clincher to send the Bears to the final.

The Bears threatened just 15 minutes into the game as Bagrou cut to his left and fired just wide of the net. Minutes later, Leonel Toledo Jr. placed the ball on frame, forcing a diving save by Jonny Sutherland.

Mercer continued to pressure late in the half, pinging a free kick off the post before ETSU cleared the box and the two sides went into the break scoreless.

ETSU looked to apply pressure early in the second half as Danny Barlow took a shot from the 18- yard box that was just wide. In the 52nd, Fletcher Ekern flicked a header on frame but Booth was there to collect the ball for a save.

In the 74th minute, Mercer worked the ball up the left side of the box, playing it to the feet of Roberto Artega, who one-timed it wide of the net.

The Bucs earned a corner kick in the 78th, dropping the ball into the box, where Chase Clack headed it down with pace but The Mercer defense was able to clear the ball out of the box, however, and keep the game tied at 0-0. Minutes later, Mercer nearly took the lead as Natnael Endale had the ball in the box but pushed a shot just out of bounds.

In the 87th minute, Mercer’s Kobe Perez cut into the box from the left side and was tripped up, earning a penalty kick. Trenton Whitely stepped up and drilled the shot, but Sutherland, the 2017 SoCon Goalkeeper of the Year, came up with his biggest save of the season, leaping to his right and robbing Whitely to keep the game alive for ETSU.

In the first overtime, ETSU’s Barlow had a clean look from the top of the box, but Booth was there to turn him away. Barlow got another chance with less than a minute left, but Booth grabbed his third save of the game to force the contest to a second overtime.

ETSU’s Fletcher Ekern mustered the lone chance for either team in the second overtime as he sent a ball over the crossbar with less than 30 seconds left, sending the game to penalty kicks.

Mercer, kicking second, would take a 1-0 lead after the first round of penalty kicks. With the score 2-1, Sutherland stepped up and drilled a kick in the top-right corner of the net to tie the score at 2-2. Mercer’s Conner Antley would score to regain the lead for the Bears on the next kick. Clack fired the ball past Booth to make the score 3-3 and extend the game for the Bucs.

With a chance to advance his team, Bagrou, the 2016 SoCon Player of the Year, stepped up to take the penalty kick. Bagrou slowly approached the ball before placing it in the upper-right side of the net to send the Bears to the SoCon Championship final for the second straight year.

This is the second year in a row that Mercer has defeated ETSU on penalty kicks in the Southern Conference Championship. In 2016, the Bears topped the Bucs 4-1 in the final to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Mercer will face either No. 2-seeded UNCG or No. 3-seeded Furman, who play in Friday’s second semifinal match.

UNCG 3, Furman 2 (Photo gallery)

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Cyril Olowabi scored in the first half and Matt Mattis netted a pair of goals in the second as No. 2-seeded UNCG defeated No. 3-seeded Furman 3-2 in the second men’s soccer Southern Conference Championship match on Friday.

The two sides traded opportunities early, as UNCG’s Leeroy Maguraushe and Furman’s Laurence Wyke each sent a shot over the opponent’s crossbar.

In the 28th minute, the Spartans played the ball up to Owalabi who worked his way through a pair of defenders and flicked the ball past Ben Hale to put UNCG up 1-0.

Furman would nearly equalize just before the half, as Danny Kierath swung a ball in from the right side where Connor Hubbard sent a header just left of the net.

It took less than one minute into the second half for UNCG to double its lead. Maguraushe played a long ball up to Mattis, who dribbled into the box and chipped the charging Hale to make the score 2-0.

Furman looked to cut into the deficit, earning a corner kick but sending a header high. After getting another corner minutes later, UNCG would foul Furman just outside of the 18-yard box. When the ball was cleared out of the box, it was sent back in to Wyke, who poked it off a Spartan defender and out of bounds.

In the 56th minute, Furman fouled UNCG outside of the box. UNCG floated the ball into the 18-yard box where it was cleared out to a waiting Mattis, who volleyed it home to give the Spartans a 3-0 advantage.

Wyke nearly drew one back in the 66th minute, drilling the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the box. The Paladins would get on the board in the 75th, when Kierath played a ball into the box, where Emery May headed into the back of the net.

Kierath once again threatened in the 80th minute, finding himself all alone on the left side of the box, ripping a shot high of the net. The Paladins would draw to within one goal in the 85th minute when Dylan Rowe found Kyle McLagan, who finished to make the score 3-2.

In the 86thminute, Kevin Edelmann placed a ball on frame that Jon Milligan would tip over the crossbar to set up another corner. On the ensuing play, Zach Jackson dropped the ball into the box but Milligan won possession in the air to thwart the Furman attack.

In a last-ditch effort, Furman would get its 13th corner of the game with less than two minutes to play, having the equalizer waved off due to a handball into the box.

UNCG advances to take on the No. 4-seeded Mercer Bears, who defeated ETSU 4-3 on penalty kicks in Friday’s first semifinal match. UNCG last won the SoCon Championship in 2010, while the Bears took the 2016 crown.

2017 SoCon Men’s Soccer Championship
First Round, Saturday, Nov. 4 Campus sites (at higher seeds)
Match 1: No 4 Mercer 2, No. 5 Wofford 1

Match 2: No. 3 Furman 7, No. 6 VMI 1

Semifinals, Friday, Nov. 10 Greenville, S.C.
Match 3: No. 1 ETSU vs. No. 4 Mercer 0, No. 1 ETSU 0 (Mercer advances 4-3 on PKs)

Match 4: No. 2 UNCG 3, No. 3 Furman 2 

Championship, Sunday, Nov. 12 Greenville, S.C.
Match 5: No. 4 Mercer vs. No. 3 UNCG 1 p.m. (ESPN3)

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