Coming into Saturday night’s Conference matchup against the Mercer Bears, the Spartans hoped to win their second SoCon match of the week. Last Tuesday, October 11, the blue and gold traveled to South Carolina to sweep season series against Furman by a score of 2-1. Saturday night’s match mirrored that result, with the Spartans splitting the season series against Mercer by a score of 2-1.
In the first half of the match, both teams seemed to either be in all out attack or ultra defensive on the ball. With 2 goals being scored early on in the half, the first one by Sophomore Forward Alexander Lewis of the Spartans in the 14th minute of the game. During a postgame interview with head coach Justin Maullin, I asked whether his plan was to keep attacking or not and he responded by explaining;
“Thats been a really big focus for us if you look at how we’ve conceded against ETSU and Wofford, both times we’ve scored the other teams responded within 5 minutes and 30 seconds, so we spoke about it a lot that once we score we want to stay on the front foot and keep attacking.”
But Mercer didn’t seem fazed by the goal as they would come back and score off of a giveaway from the goalkeeper that would lead to an open goal in the 16th minute. Coach Maullin discussed the decision calling of senior goalkeeper Logan Rhode that led to the equalizing goal in the match.
“Just very unfortunate, you know we tell the guys if you’re not sure just kick it down the field, just get rid of it, he obviously wasn’t sure the forward pressed nicely and just very, very unfortunate, but he made up for it with just an unbelievable save, and I’m very proud with the way he responded.”
During the second half it was rather quiet, but physical half. While there was only one yellow card given out in the 73rd minute of the game to Mercer’s Ian Antley, there were 17 fouls committed in total during the half. Seven fouls coming from Mercer, while the other 10 came from the Spartans. Despite the physical play, the 70th minute started to see the final score begin to shape out. Damieon Thomas would end up scoring a phenomenal goal in the 73rd minute of the game, with the goal coming off of a no-look header that would find the left side of the goal and slip past Mercer goalkeeper, Jeremy Booth.
But Mercer once again didn’t seem deterred by the Spartans efforts as it seemed like they would be in the attacking third for a large portion of the last 20 minutes of the game. But despite their efforts the defense for UNCG grew stronger and solidified by keeping Mercer’s ongoing attack out of the goal with constant clearances, and one counter attack which led to a shot that barely missed on the right side of the goal that would’ve sealed the game for the spartans. Asking Coach Maullin about the stellar defense that the spartans showed in the final minutes of the game he said this about the performance;
“Well we work on that, we work on scenarios so we work in practice being down a goal, being up a goal, and with about five minutes to go we made an offensive substitution for a defensive one, so we actually went with five defenders, so I thought we managed quite well down the stretch.”
For the final stats of the game the spartans would end with a total of 15 shots with five of them being on goal, four corner kicks, and 19 fouls. While Mercer ended with 11 total shots with four being on target, eight corner kicks, and 13 fouls. The Spartans next game is going to be against Wofford on Saturday October 22nd at 7:30 p.m. A game will also be held on Homecoming Weekend.