I started my day on Friday at 9am with 5 recruits on campus. After 3 meetings, 2 tours, and many other obligations, it was time to begin our conference season against Mercer.
My personal record against Mercer is abysmal. Mercer has had soccer forever. As a player, I played against Mercer and my team won 6-0 or better. I have a very funny story about that game, but I won't share it now. The mid-90's were some of Mercer's best years. They had one of the best players in the country - Mirella Ninic. I had just started the program at JSU in the same conference, and we had to play them twice each year. I was going 0-2 against Mercer for 3 years before ever getting a result against them. In 2000, my JSU team was down 2-0 at Mercer. We were probably going to qualify for the conference tournament, and Mercer was fighting for their tournament life. It was possibly a do or die game for them. JSU came back and won that game 3-2. I still remember all 3 goals in the 2nd half. I remember some of the halftime speech, and I remember the Mercer coach not getting up off of the bench at the end of the game and remaining in that same position as we got on the bus.
Since 2005, Belmont has not beaten Mercer. I think our record vs. Mercer since 2005 was 0-3-4 going into Friday night's game. Yes, we beat them in PK's to win the 2008 A-Sun Tournament. That felt like 2 wins, but it goes down in the record book as a tie. We lost to them in the 2007 Semi-finals in penalty kicks, and that one is a tie too.
The first 45 minutes, we played as well as we have played all year. We had 3 excellent scoring opportunities and despite other opportunities, we failed to score. At halftime, we talked about how Mercer would not quit, and we couldn't play like we did in the 1st half. We would have to play even better.
We did not play better in the 2nd half. We didn't play terrible, but we did not sustain the same level of play. Regulation ended in a tie, and we were destined for our 4th overtime game out of 7 games. We did not have the momentum going into overtime. We gave up 2 or 3 corner kicks in the final minutes of regulation. I felt a sense of accomplishment to deny Mercer from scoring on a corner kick in the last minute of the game.
We gave up a goal with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half of overtime. I can't describe the feeling - depressing, deflating, disappointing, sick, familiar, ...
I will tell you this, after the game, I let the team have it. We have lost 6 games - 4 in overtime and 1 in the last seconds of the game. After those games, I have been positive, I have been critical, and I have said nothing. I have been very careful not to rub salt in the wound, and I have been worried about the team's resiliency and ability to bounce back after a devastating and dramatic loss. Friday night, I rubbed salt in the wound.
I don't know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing, but I am running out of things to do and things to say. I do know this. My staff and I are working together to make sure the team believes we can win and we will win.