The Mercer women’s soccer team got off to a slow start this season, losing 3 of their first 4 games. Fortunately, none of those losses came against Region XIX division I opponents, and since then have turned things around, winning 7 of their next 9 games. The Lady Vikings capped off a 6-1 inner-division regular season record with a 3-0 win over Sussex on October 9th.
The win helped Mercer clinch a tie for first place, but Essex will enter the Regional tournament as the number one seed because their 5-3 victory over Mercer on September 19th will work as the tie-breaker.
“At a two year schools girls are in and out so the team changes a lot each year. It takes some time to learn how to play with each other,” said Lady Viking’s forward and team co-captain Taylor Wright.
She said that after the slow start the team changed its formation from a basic 4-4-2, to a 5-3-2 which puts extra emphasis on stopping the other team from scoring. Mercer allowed 11 goals in the first four games of the season while using the 4-4-2 formation, and they matched that amount in the nine games that followed while using the 5-3-2 formation.
Goalie and co-captain Jackie Laurenti has also picked up the pace. According to stats.njcaa.org, Laurenti has nearly 100 saves and a .828 save percentage during her second season in net for the Lady Viking’s. Her vocal leadership certainly doesn’t go unnoticed on the field either, as she’s heard loud and clear cheering on her teammates from the net and calling out orders when necessary.
The last of the three captains is half-back Rachel Martinez, who has a team-leading ten goals, enough for third most in Region XIX. If she keeps this pace she’ll have lead the team in goals in both of her two years with the program.
Taylor Wright stressed the fact that the team is still trying to improve despite the recent success. “On this team we never say to ourselves that we’re 100 percent ready to win the regional tournament whether the stats show it or not. There is always room for improvement. So we must come out to practice ready to work hard, realize our weaknesses, and then better ourselves,” said Wright.
The Region XIX tournament begins on October 28, and the championship game is set to be played on November 2nd at Ocean County Community College.