FT. MYERS, Fla. - All the Mercer women's soccer team needed was a draw in Sunday's final regular season match at Florida Gulf Coast to secure the team's first Atlantic Sun regular season championship since 2008.
Unfortunately, the Bears allowed an FGCU goal in the 56th minute and could not find the equalizer as the Eagles took the match 1-0 to secure the top overall seed in the A-Sun Championship and their second-straight regular season title.
"It was a great battle between the two top teams in the conference," head coach Tony Economopoulos said. "It could have gone either way, but you have to give them credit. They are a great team."
The Bears rode an 11-game unbeaten streak into Sunday's game gave up their first goal in the last six games to end the streak. Mercer however did wrap up the No. 2 seed headed into the A-Sun Championship which means they will have a little more time to regroup and prepare for a another tournament title run.
Mercer, as it has done on numerous occasions this year, started fast and set the early tempo. The Bears had seven shots in the first half, five of which were on frame that forced FGCU's Brittany Brown make several saves.
The Eagles had several of their own chances in the first stanza, yet freshman goalkeeper Maggie Cropp kept the Bears in it with three saves. Cropp has been outstanding for the Bears this season and had allowed just two goals all season coming into Sunday.
Unfortunately, the young keeper was unable to stop an Ally Kasun shot off a FGCU free kick. The Bears fouled in their end that set up the FGCU service. The Eagles Melissa Arnold took the try and found Kayley Clay inside the Bears' box and Clay fed Kasun who buried the game-winner.
Mercer fought hard after allowing the goal and several close chances in registering 14 shots on the day, including seven from forward Tess Patton.
By virtue of the bye, the Bears now await the winner of next Saturday's match between No. 3 Kennesaw State and No. 6 North Florida. The Bears downed both the Owls and Ospreys in their regular season meetings and will have a week extra to prepare.
The Bears are slated to play in the semi-final round Friday, November 2 in Ft. Myers, Fla.