Men’s soccer opens final week of play on Thursday at Mercer

After being on the brink of elimination a week ago, the JU men’s soccer team is back in the driver’s seat for an Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament berth as the Dolphins travel to Macon, Ga. to play Mercer on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Dolphins (5-9-1, 3-4 A-Sun), who also plays Campbell on Saturday at 2 p.m., will need to win one of their final two matches to secure a berth for the conference tournament that starts Nov. 7th.

“We are ready to get back to business,” said JU head coach Mike Johnson. “We played really well last week and we look forward to trying to secure a conference berth. Our guys know what is at stake and they plan to fight like they did last week. We plan on doing whatever it takes to get back into the A-Sun tournament.”

Last week, the Dolphins jumped from last place in the standings to fifth after consecutive shutout victories over USC Upstate (Oct. 23) and East Tennessee State (Oct. 25) at the Ashley Sports Complex.

Senior midfielder Stefan Runeman scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 1-0 victory against the Spartans, while three different Dolphins had scores in the 3-0 win over the Buccaneers two days later. Senior goalie Joey Sanchez tallied eight saves in 135 scoreless minutes to receive A-Sun Defensive “Player of the Week” honors.

The Bears (4-9-2, 3-4) enters Thursday’s match on a four-match losing streak after winning their first three matches in conference play. Offensively, Ian Cameron leads Mercer with six goals, while Brett Petricek has 72 saves in 12 starts between the posts.

In last season’s match, the Dolphins earned a 1-0 victory over Mercer as Ramak Niakan Safi scored the game-winning goal in the 45th minute and Sanchez posted four saves to get the shutout.

The Camels (6-8-1, 5-1-1) host North Florida on Thursday before playing the Dolphins in the regular season finale on Saturday. After tying Lipscomb in the A-Sun opener, Campbell took its next five conference matches, but dropped a 4-0 decision to Florida Gulf Coast on Oct. 24 to fall to second in the standings.

Mitchell Cardenas and Khail Johnson pace the team with four goals, while Vince Petrasso has a team-best eight assists. Ted Awana has 48 saves and three shutouts for Campbell between the posts.

In the last matchup between the two schools, JU rallied scored three unanswered second half goals to earn a 4-3 victory over Campbell in the A-Sun Championship on the Camels’ home field.

Niakan Safi scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, while the Dolphins’ defense limited the Camels to just three shots the entire match.