Prep Soccer: Returning Mercer boys up for the challenge of building on program's best season
Clay Morris, left, of Mercer County battles for possession with Paul Dunbar's Guillermo Clemente during the first half of Mercer's 4-0 loss Tuesday in the first round of the boys state tournament. (Hal Morris / October 24, 2012)
The Titans’ season ended Tuesday with a 4-0 loss to No. 2 Paul Dunbar in the first round of the state tournament, but it was a season that saw Mercer finish 21-4-1, win its first district and regional titles and rise to a No. 9 ranking in the statewide coaches’ poll.
That will be a lot to try to live up to for next season, but junior Daniel Steele said the returning Titans are up for the challenge. Mercer loses nine seniors, but returns nine juniors and eight sophomores.
“We’re losing a lot of good guys. But I think this is just going to fuel us to play even harder and work even harder because we know what it’s like to get this far and not make it,” said Steele, who had five goals and four assists this year. “It’s a feeling you never want to have again.”
Defender Nathan Sheehan was part of a squad which allowed less than a goal a game. The junior said coming back off the best season ever is a good driving force for next season.
“It gives you something to work for, to set goals,” he said. “We’re losing some good players, but we want come back and do the same thing. That’s what we’re going to try to do,” Sheehan said. “Other teams are losing people, too. We just have to make (younger players) work and make them get up to our level.”
Junior Dylan Carss said the offseason is going to be key for the Titans.
“We’re just going to have to have other players step up and fill in those gaps where we’re losing people. In the offseason people are just going to have to get better,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be tough, but with all the players we have coming in and all the work we put in over the summer, we’ll get back to where we were.”
Steele said what should help Mercer is the fact that the younger players that practiced against the varsity every day.
“We’ve got a lot of strong, young guys coming up, and I feel like our team is going to be pretty strong again next year. Them playing against us in practices, it’s made them a lot better,” he said. “And we weren’t necessarily doing that before coach (Matt) Vogel came along. Now they’re scrimmaging against us and working against us, so it’s making them better as well.”