NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont men's soccer team (6-9-2, 2-4-2) dropped a heart-breaking 2-1 home contest to Mercer on Sunday afternoon. Sophomore Nico Olsak (Boca Raton, Fla.) scored the first goal of the game, but it wasn't enough as the loss leaves the Bruins out of the A-Sun Tournament.
A win would have allowed Belmont to advance to the league championships for the first time since 2008, but a tie wasn't good enough. That is why the Bruins remained on the offensive throughout most of the second half, and continued to attack while tied with the Bears from the 56th minute on.
Mercer's second goal came in the 79th minute of play, as Belmont played with only three men at the back, and a number of extra offensive players in the game. A goal at that point in the game could have been enough for BU to earn a berth to the A-Sun Tournament, but a goal for Mercer virtually ended the Bruins' season.
Belmont fought hard and had chances to tie the game and send it into overtime during the final 12 minutes of play, but it wasn't enough as Mercer left Nashville with a 2-1 victory and a ticket to Johnson City for the conference playoffs.
After a first half with very little action on either side, Belmont got things started in the second period with Olsak's fourth goal of the season. The crafty midfielder, who takes most of BU's set pieces, placed a free kick over the Mercer wall, off a Bears' defender, and into the back of the net in the 50th minute.
With their season on the line and now down a goal, Mercer fought back, scoring less than seven minutes later. A long ball into Belmont's defensive box was cleared out to the Bear's Joey Heavner. The defender controlled the ball, played it one step to the side, and beat Belmont goalkeeper Lou Manning (Southlake, Texas) to the left corner of the net.
Just before Mercer scored the game-winning goal, Belmont had a perfect opportunity to take the lead once again, and hold on for the victory with only 15 minutes remaining in regulation. Junior Brandon Tarr (Knoxville, Tenn.) beat a number of MU defenders down the left side, reaching the end line before playing it back into space for his teammates. Senior Edgardo Padilla (Grapevine, Texas) found it and one-touched it towards net. The ball caromed off the left post and out of bounds.
The Bears scored just over three minutes later. Carl-Oscar Andersson crossed a ball to Sean Baumann, who took an attempt at goal. Ehjayson Henry flicked on Baumann's attempt, and into the back of the net to give Mercer the win and a spot in the A-Sun Tournament.
"We're disappointed. I think we let ourselves down," Head Coach Earle Davidson said. "We were leading 1-0 and then we gave up a soft goal to give them some hope. Then we have a great opportunity to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes left, and just missed it. The story of our last few games has been that we haven't finished the chances that we've had, and we've left a few games get away from us that we should have had…like this one."
Belmont will finish up the 2011 campaign with a non-conference contest against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday. The home match will be played at Rose Park beginning at 6:00 p.m.