Prep Soccer: Mercer boys' historic season ends with 4-0 loss to Dunbar in state tournament
Mercer County coach Matt Vogel consoles senior Corey Brown as the rest of the Titans look on following their 4-0 loss to Paul Dunbar on Tuesday in the first round of the boys state tournament. (Hal Morris / October 24, 2012)
It showed it, as the state’s second-ranked team shut down the No. 9 Titans in a 4-0 victory at Dunbar in the first round of the boys state soccer tournament.
“They were both center backs and defenders, unfortunately,” Vogel said of Dunbar starters Nick Dimeo and Davoud Saghaian. “I told them after the game, ‘You’ve got to let us win at least one ball.’”
But those two are just an example of the all-around talent Mercer (21-4-1) ran into in its first state tournament appearance, one that helped end the team’s best season ever.
“That whole team basically plays club soccer. You can tell. Every one of them’s technical, every one of them’s skilled. They play hard, they’re well organized, they’re well-coached,” Vogel said. “It’s at their home field, and I’d seen Dunbar play several times, and that was probably some of the best I’ve seen them play. They were just tuned in to everything in what they did. They have a tremendous team.”
Mercer senior Matthew Gammon agreed after the Titans’ offense was shut out for only the second time this season and the first time since a 1-0 loss to Collins on Aug. 30.
“They’re just well-organized back there. They didn’t make any mistakes. They played their game, we didn’t play ours,” Gammon said. “I think a big part of it was we sat back and they came at us at the beginning of the game, and we never seemed to recover. They’re a darned good team. They’re number two for a reason.”
Dunbar (22-3) came out aggressive and struck first early when Riley Calhoun scored the first of his two goals with 31 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first half. Then with 22:51 left in the half, Guillermo Clemente scored the first of his two goals when he ripped a shot past Mercer goalkeeper Slade Ransdell into the upper right side of the goal to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
The Bulldogs controlled the tempo from there and took their 2-0 lead into halftime. Dunbar outshot Mercer 16-6, including a 12-4 edge in shots on goal.
Dunbar has not allowed a goal in six postseason games, and has just given up just 17 goals all season, with 15 shutouts.
“That defense right there is the best one we’ve faced all season, hands down,” Vogel said. “We tried to get some looks. Every other team that we’ve played, we’ve had at least a few very good looks. We had a couple of decent chances, but other than just a couple of decent looks, that was about it.”
In the second half, Clemente scored off a pass from Nathan Jones with 26:25 to go, then Calhoun added his second goal with a little more than 18 minutes to play.
Vogel said there was little Mercer could do to counter the Dunbar attack.
“We had a difficult time controlling the ball on this field, but Dunbar was so organized and seemed to have an answer for stuff we were trying to do,” he said. “It really was hard for us to get the ball down and settle and play, and they had the ball for a good chunk of the match. Every single thing we tried was not working.”
But for most of the season, everything was working for Mercer, which is what the coach told his team after the game.
Mercer finished the best season in school history, one that included the team’s first district and regional titles. Vogel said the Titans finished in the top 10 in three different polls.
“This program has never had this kind of success. It definitely has been a great season for us,” he said. “We’re going to try to build upon that. The seniors have brought us a long way, but we’re going to try to build upon that and try to keep establishing some tradition here.”