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Men's Soccer Team Falls in District Final;
Rewarding Season for First-Year Head Coach Larry Povia


West Windsor, N.J. --Two games during the regular season foretold a satisfying ending for the men's soccer team. The Vikings regained the Region 19 title and earned a 7-0 record in the region and a 13-4 record overall. Says first-year Head Coach Larry Povia, "These players made amazing progress from the beginning to the end. I couldn't be prouder of them as players and gentlemen."

According to Povia, this squad was all about teamwork. "This team was not about individuals. There was a total team effort on the field; it was about working together to make it happen."

The Vikings got a real boost when they defeated Burlington County College 2-1 on Sept. 23. With one of its strongest squads in years, Burlington had been unbeaten in the region prior to facing the Vikings. Mercer's goals were scored by midfielders Dylan Smith and Kadeem Dacres.

In another predictive game, Mercer defeated regional rival Essex CC 2-1 on Oct. 1, the team that had beaten the Vikings in the 2009 Region 19 championship. Going into the contest, Essex was ranked third in the country, but Mercer proved it had the stuff in an all-around solid performance on both offense and defense. Goals were scored by centerback Robin Patton and striker Rockie Kazouh.

Entering the post-season as the no. 1 seed, the Vikings were ready for the challenge. Their semi-final game against Essex at the MCCC stadium on Oct. 25 proved a battle from start to finish. Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, Mercer came away with the win in penalty kicks (5-4). Both of Mercer's regulation goals were scored by Rockie Kazouh. Among the game's many highlights was the effort put forth by freshman goalie Diego Diaz, who came in after starter Chris Ball was injured. Aided by stellar defense, Diaz kept Essex from scoring through the last 30 minutes of regulation and two ten-minute overtimes and then made the save in round 3 of the penalty kick phase to record the win.

In the Region 19 final Oct. 30, the Vikings once again faced Burlington, a team on a successful run of its own, having beaten Essex at the end of the regular season and defeated its semi-final opponent, Del Tech Stanton, by a score of 7-0. Mercer once again proved its mettle, winning 1-0 on a goal by Patton, assisted by Smith, with 20 minutes remaining. Patton proved decisive on defense as well, heading out a Burlington shot late in the game to preserve the win. He was named Defensive MVP and Kadeem Dacres was named the Offensive MVP.

On Nov. 6, the Vikings continued their great run in the Northeast District Tournament, defeating Monroe CC (Rochester, NY) 1-0 in their semi-final match-up, with Patton scoring the game's lone goal. Povia also praised Dacres and Smith in the midfield for creating opportunities while taking commanding control of the game and possession of play.

The season came to end on Nov. 7 when the Vikings lost 3-0 to Monroe CC (Bronx) in the district final. Povia notes the score was not indicative of the game's competitiveness and credited Monroe's goalie with a number of brilliant saves that thwarted the best efforts of the Vikings offense. Monroe also had an overall size advantage, with five players measuring 6'2" or taller.

While some Vikings players remain unsung heroes in the region's tallies, Kadeem Dacres was named Region 19's Player of the Year and Mohamed Conteh was named no. 5 in the Top 5. Both players were selected for First Team All-Region honors; Robin Patton and Jonni Ventura were selected to the Second Team All-Region. Conteh and Dacres were also selected to the All-GSAC Team.

Povia credits much of the team's progress to his dedicated coaching staff, which included Assistant Coaches Pat Snyder, Bill Daily, John Kalinowksi, John Pietrowski and Tigana Dalce. According to Povia, "Pat was a real asset in leading the team through technical drills, while Bill and John Kalinowski developed the team physically. John Pietrowski and Tigana Dalce helped players develop their set pieces and defensive plays." He notes that his first year at the helm was hard, but rewarding. And he's ready for next year.

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