Written by: Steven Bassin
What looked to be a season of dis- appointment and failure turned around for the Mercer men’s Vi- kings soccer team that ended the season with a regional champion- ship.
The Vikings soccer team is lead by first year coach Wid- marc Dalce. Dalce comes from Haiti. He was a member of the Haiti Olympic soccer team in 1991 and 1993 and graduated with an associate’s degree from Mercer County Community College is 1998 with a degree in humanities and social sciences.. Dalce was also a member of the Mercer Vikings soccer team in 1997 under coach Charlie Inverso.
The Vikings started the season 3 and 7 through its first 10 games and the team seemed to be in turmoil. “The season didn’t start out well for us” said Coach Dalce. “We had a lot of injuries and players playing new posi- tions. This made it tough for us to play well as a team.”
According to Sascha Haecker, a defenseman on the team, “We just weren’t piecing everything together on the field,” He added “injuries really added to the problems on the team dur- ing the first half of the season… [Also] having guys, especially younger guys, playing new posi- tions made it tough for the team to gel and play together on the field.”
Although the team was 3 and 7, beginning in October, the team rallied to win seven straight game including a win against Burlington County College in the Regional XIX finals. This was the team they lost to in the regional finals last season. “We just kept playing as a team” said first year player Bumba Batyerault.
Haecker noted, “Guys came back healthy and we were able to get on a roll…Beating Burlington in regional’s was a high for the sophomore class… Losing to those guys last year re- ally put a damper on the season and coming back this year to beat them and to win back the regional championship was very satisfying to all of us on the team.”
For Coach Dalce, the successful rebounding of this season owed to the captains and senior leadership keeping the team together. “Many teams who started out the way we did would give up and throw away the season, but our guys, especially the second year players, kept the team together and kept working to get us back on track.”
After winning the regional championship, the Mercer Vikings moved on the Northeast District championship where they lost 2-0 to Monroe College in a contest that remained tight until the last period.
“It’s really tough to be that close to making it to nationals and lose a game where you completely outplayed the other team” said Coach Dalce.
Haecker said of the game, “At the end of the day we did not capitalize on our opportu- nities and they did…It would have been nice to make it to nationals. From the start of the season that was our number one goal, but when you look at how our season began and how we finished with winning a regional championship makes this season a successful one and one that I will always be proud to be a part of.”
The Vikings finished out the season with a 10-8-1 record.
As for next season, the Vikings will have to replace nine graduating players including most of the team’s defensive line, which contained two All-American players.
“It’s the same thing every year with getting together a new team” said Coach Dalce. “In junior college it’s hard to lose second year players to 4-year colleges, especially these players, but you have to look at the freshman coming up and the new players coming in for next year. But that’s how it is in junior college.”
The regional championship for the Mercer Vikings was its third regional title in five years and the first for Coach Dalce.