West Windsor, N.J. -- The Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women’s soccer team came as close as you can get to winning the Region 19 title this season. While they will have to settle for the runner-up spot after losing to Sussex County College in penalty kicks following double overtime, this Vikings squad saved its best play for the two games that mattered most – and demonstrated talent, resilience and teamwork along the way to the final whistle.
With the score stuck at 1-1 after 20 overtime minutes, the game moved into the dreaded penalty kick shoot-out. After Mercer missed two of its kicks, Sussex scored all of its first four kicks, sealing the win.
Despite the disappointing ending, the Vikings dominated most of the championship game, outshooting the Sussex Skylanders 33-11. Mercer’s lone goal was scored by freshman Cassidy Denno, who was named the Offensive MVP of the game.
The defense was also strong for the Vikings, limiting the Skylanders to a single goal. Sloane Hughes helped control the midfield and sophomore All-Region defender Danielle Schneck anchored the defense. Freshman goalkeeper Lesly Gonzalez made seven saves in regulation.
The Region 19 Championship, which was hosted by MCCC on Oct. 31, featured the Vikings coming in as the no. 4 seed after finishing the regular season 9-6-1. Their unexpected run in the four-team Region 19 playoffs included a 1-0 upset over no. 1-seeded Rowan College at Burlington to advance to Championship. (During the regular season, Rowan at Burlington beat Mercer 7-2.)
Partly due to injuries, the Vikings’ regular season had its ups and downs, including losses to three Region 19 opponents. But this team was all about building skills and momentum with every contest.
This year's co-captains were sophomores Samantha Barlow, Katie Diamond, Sloane Hughes and Melanie Sachs.
The Vikings' head coach was Michelle Ogborn-Haywood. Assistant coaches Marissa Segal and Lauren Sparano, both of whom are alumni of the MCCC soccer program, took over for Ogborn-Haywood later in the season to lead the team to the Region 19 Championship.
According to Segal, the team was full of hard workers who strived to be better with each game and looked to be challenged daily.
"Once they clicked, it was great to watch them play and support each other," she said, noting that the sophomores set the tone and the freshmen got right on board.
"We anticipate that our returning players will step up the way the sophomores did this season and lead the Vikings to another successful year. We expect to have a good group coming in and we are going to follow a game plan that prepares them for succes," Segal said.
See more photos of the Region 19 Championship on Facebook here.
|Assistant Coaches Lauren Sparano, left, and Marissa Segal led the team late in the season.