Prep Soccer: Mercer County's Slade Ransdell enjoying Titans' success
Mercer County goalkeeper Slade Ransdell has come back from a broken leg last season to anchor one of the best defenses in the state going into the 12th Region Tournament. (Mike Marsee / October 14, 2012)
Spending nearly half a season on the sideline — and briefly considering the possibility that he might never be the same player he was before — has given Ransdell a perspective that the rest of the Mercer County boys don’t have.
In exchange, the senior goalkeeper has given the Titans his best effort in his senior season, anchoring a defense that has become one of the stingiest in the state.
Ransdell is one of nine seniors on a Mercer team that is ranked ninth in the state and enters this week’s 12th Region Tournament as the favorite. He has played alongside most of them since his earliest days in soccer, and he’s thrilled to have the chance to do so one more time this year.
“I love these guys, and I’d do anything for them. Last year, sitting on the sideline in the district final, I felt like there was nothing I could do, so like right now it’s really kind of set on my heart that I’m going to give it everything I have,” Ransdell said.
Ransdell suffered a broken right leg nine games into the 2011 season, a year in which he and his teammates shut out four of their first eight opponents. The injury was serious enough that he said he wondered if his skills would be forever altered, but only for a little while.
“I did, and I think as my rehab progressed, the doubt just kind of went away,” he said.
He doesn’t seem to have missed a beat this season, as Mercer (18-3-1) ranks among the state’s top five teams in scoring defense with .72 goals allowed per game.
Ransdell is an imposing presence in goal, and he’s also valuable as a sort of traffic director for the defenders in front of him.
“He’s been amazing all year. He’s been consistent, he keeps that back line together. He does a great job of organizing the defense, organizing in set pieces,” Mercer coach Matt Vogel said.
Ransdell said he considers his role in organizing the defense as important as his role in blocking shots, and he said his time on the sideline has helped him in that respect.
“Sitting back and watching the game, I kind of learned how my defenders move and what their tendencies seem to be on the field, and for me that kind of helps in the back. I can shift them over, and when they get a little too far out of position I can just bring them back in,” he said.
The Titans have 11 shutouts this season, and Ransdell said the defense takes pride in keeping opponents off the scoreboard.
“It’s really important. We can’t do it every time — I wish we could — but there’s sometimes that it just slips through. It can’t be helped,” he said with a grin.
Ransdell said he worked hard after his leg healed to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“When I got hurt, originally they told me it was going to be six months, and I ended up coming bak in four and playing in the spring,” he said. “It gets sore from time to time, but it’s nothing unbearable.”
However, he said it took some time before he finally felt at ease again and stopped thinking about the leg.
“It was well into our spring season, probably three-fourths of the way through our club season, when I started getting back in there and playing like I usually do,” he said.
Once he knew he was all the way back, he was determined to make his senior season his best year yet and work toward his goal of playing at the collegiate level.
“I had a great start to (last) season, and when I got hurt, it just kind of set things in perspective for me, I guess, that I didn’t really want to leave soccer and regret anything, so I think that’s why this year I’ve been working as hard as I can to better myself,” he said.
Vogel said he’s thrilled with how things have gone for Ransdell to this point.
“For him to come back off a leg injury, almost a career-ending injury, for him to come out and get a district championship, I couldn’t be happier for him,” Vogel said.
The district title was Mercer’s first, and with it came the right to host this week’s regional, where Ransdell and his many senior teammates are taking dead aim at a state tournament berth.
“I grew up with these guys playing since I was little, so it really means a lot to me,” he said. “For me, this is my last chance, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
He said whether the Titans’ season ends in this week’s regional, which they are hosting, or somewhere in the state tournament, it will be hard for him to walk away from the team and teammates who have helped Mercer’s program ascend to new heights.
“We’ve had a great run,” Ransdell said. “Just looking back, I’ve had so much fun, and the memories of this team, I can’t really describe it. It’s part of what made me who I am.”