DeLand, Fla. - For the third straight game Stetson scored four or more goals, allowed just one, and took home an Atlantic Sun Conference victory. Sunday afternoon at the Stetson Soccer Complex the Hatters (6-7-0, 3-2-0) defeated Mercer by a score of 5-1.
The Bears (4-8-1, 3-3-0) used all three goalkeepers on their roster yet not one of them could keep the Hatters from hitting the net. Stetson tallied four in the first half and then swapped single goals with Mercer in the second.
"A great win top to bottom. A great team win and a great team weekend. The first time we have ever beat Kennesaw State and Mercer in the same weekend", said Stetson head coach Julie Orlowski. "Have to give a lot of credit to Mercer though, they never gave up and were attacking to the end."
With Mercer applying most of the pressure senior Katie Bitetto (Jacksonville, Fla.) opened the scoring with a counter attack in the 12th minute. Coming across the middle Alexis Hermosa (Orlando, Fla.) fed Bitetto coming down the right wing. Rather than delivering one of her patented crossing shots she served an arching shot that tucked itself high and inside the far post.
Alyssa Welsh (Edison, N.J.) was next scoring what turned out to be her second game-winning goal of the weekend. Courtney Jenista (Pensacola, Fla.) started the play hitting Kaisi Hartwick (Granite City, Ill.) just outside the box on the right side. Hartwick dribbled towards center and slipped a through pass just right of a defender. As the pass went to the right Welsh went around to the left and squeezed a right footer just past the startled keeper. It was the 3rd goal in two games for the freshman.
Just over three minutes later it was time for Stetson's two-time defending conference player of the year Tessa Gavilsky (Granite City, Ill.) to get in on the scoring fun with assists going to Bitetto, and freshman Ciarra Britt (Jacksonville, N.C.).
At 37:18 freshman Kait Jones (DeLand, Fla.) picked up her first career goal. Sarah Rodriguez (Deltona, Fla.) picked up a loose ball top-right, dribbled to the middle and passed back right to the open Jones who lifted a shot over the keeper and into the top right corner.
"Kait has been working real hard and buying into our system. She is really coming along as a freshman", said Orlowski.
Mercer's Olivia Tucker (Peachtree City, Ga.) scored her second goal of the season early in the second half on a set piece to give the visitors hope. It was an impressive header off a long free kick deep into the box by Patricia-Anne Upson (Griffin, Ga.). Stetson's stingy defense took over however, and would not give the Bears another tally on the day.
Allowing just a single goal in each of the past three games, Stetson's defensive game has come to life in conference play. Goalkeeper Andrea Garavaglia (Webster Groves, Mo.) has been hot and defender Crossley Simmons (Winfield, Ill.) played exceptionally well today. Garavaglia finished with five saves.
"Defensively we struggled early in the year. We have been trying some different combinations and we are really starting to play well", said Orlowski. "Andi was incredible today. Mercer plays a direct style and throws a lot of balls into the box. They had 10 corners and she did a fantastic job coming off her line and picking off dangerous opportunities."
Gavilsky finished off the scoring in the 85th minute after picking up a pass from Bitetto, dribbling around the keeper, and popping the ball into the open goal. On the weekend Stetson's 'Dynamic Duo' of seniors Gavilsky and Bitetto accounted for four goals and five assists.
"Tessa works so hard. She played 90 minutes today and is always a key to a lot of the things we do", said Orlowski. "Katie is taking advantage of the opportunities she gets. She was on fire again today. As Tater goes we go."
Next up for the Hatters is a road trip to play USC Upstate on Friday October 8 and ETSU on Sunday October 10.