MACON, Ga. - The Mercer men's soccer team clinched a spot in the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the fifth-straight season under head coach Brad Ruzzo with a gritty 2-1 win over Northern Kentucky on Thursday evening at Bear Field.
Mercer (10-5-1, 5-1-0 A-Sun) is now tied with the 2002 squad for its best record after 16 games in program history.
The Bears improved to 6-0-0 at Bear Field this season and halted a red-hot Northern Kentucky (6-9-1, 3-2-1 A-Sun) squad that had a 6-2-1 overall record over its last nine matches.
Mercer wasted no time jumping out to an early lead by scoring in the first 10 minutes of a game for the fifth time this season. Junior Ryan King played a ball into senior Richie Edmondson who one-timed a pass to a streaking Ehjayson Henry for a beautiful goal to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
The Orange and Black kept up their attacking mentality and struck again just minutes later thanks to the Edmondson-Henry duo. Henry fed a ball into the channel that Edmondson tracked down and slipped past Northern Kentucky goalkeeper A.J. Fleak to put Mercer in front 2-0 just nine minutes into the contest.
The Norse began to collect themselves as the game moved further along and eventually cut the Bears lead in half in the 23rd minute of play. Sophomore Cain McDonald stepped up to a free kick from about 22 yards away and placed a beautiful strike just out of Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh's reach to make the score 2-1.
The Bears nearly took back their two-goal lead coming out of halftime if not for a clutch save by Fleak. Junior Brady O'Brien sent in a corner kick that senior Will Betts jumped up and headed on goal, but Fleak leapt into the air and tipped just over the bar to keep the score 2-1.
That would be the way things stayed despite multiple quality chances by Northern Kentucky late in the match. Ranjitsingh made eight saves to secure the win and increase his league-leading save percentage up to 84.4 percent.
Mercer returns to the field of play later this weekend when it travels to Spartanburg to take on USC-Upstate on October 28. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. at County University Soccer Stadium.