Reyes keys JU win over league-leading Mercer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since the beginning of the season, JU men’s soccer coach Ryan Pratt has been preaching patience while progressing.

After Saturday’s 2-1 win over previously league-unbeaten Mercer at the Ashley Sports Complex, it’s pretty obvious the patience is working and the progressing has hit another level.

“Our guys are finally understanding what it takes to compete for 90 minutes,’’ Pratt said. “It may not be pretty, it may not be the way you draw it up but they’re just coming to work now. I think they are starting to see some of the results of their hard work over the season.’’

The Dolphins (3-11-1, 2-4-0) used a lightning-like goal from freshman forward Rene Reyes in the 78th minute to put the first blemish on the Bears’ (9-5-1, 4-1-0) Atlantic-Sun record.

“I saw the whole thing develop,’’ Pratt said. “Rene has a knack of being on the left and cutting to his right and trying to hit the back post. I’m not sure he hit it like he wanted to. He usually tries to curl it but that was a bit of a line drive. He struck it real well. As soon as it left his foot there was no chance the goal keeper had and it hit the back of the net. I couldn’t be more excited.’’

The goal came a mere 34 seconds after Mercer’s Carl-Oscar Andersson scored on an assist from teammate Ryan King and a one-all tie.

JU’s Matheus Saroli got the Dolphins, who had three shots on goal less than the Bears (8-5), off to a good start with a goal 16:42 into the game on an assist from Ashton Pett. JU goal keeper Gavin Carlin had six saves on those shots on goal.

Pratt singled out center back Hadi Alnaeemi as an example of hard work paying off. Alnaeemi stepped in because of a red card received by teammate Henrik Synnes  in Thursday’s double overtime game against Florida Gulf Coast.

“Hadi hasn’t played since September and he stepped in and played remarkably well,’’ Pratt said. “He hadn’t played in six weeks and was a bright spot for us. The moment was there and he took control of the moment.’’

The win kept the Dolphins’ playoff hopes alive as they have six points and are fighting for the postseason with USC Upstate, Stetson and Lipscomb. JU plays host to Lipscomb at 7 p.m. Friday at the ASC.