The Bisons (10-8-2), the No. 3-seed, will play Jacksonville, the No. 2 seed. Both Jacksonville and Campbell, the No. 1 seed, drew first round byes. Game time at the Eakes Athletic Complex on the campus of Campbell University is 3 p.m. The game can be seen live on ASUN TV. Live stats are also available.
“The first game of any tournament or championship is always the hardest,” said Bisons' coach Charles Morrow. “With an off week like we had before this it makes it even harder because our guys had not played in awhile.
“There is the nervousness of the tournament. Everyone knows the next game could be the last of the season. You have to get the butterflies out and get in the rhythm of playing.”
Freshman forward Garrett Pettis added to his record-setting goal total with his 12th of the season at 4:24 of the first period as he kicked home the rebound of a shot by sophomore forward Miguel DaSilva.
“Getting the goal early was a big relief,” said Morrow. “It is always a big relief to get a goal early because it takes some pressure off, especially in the first game like this. It was huge for us.”
Pettis found the first game to be everything he expected it to be.
“Everything was a lot more fast-paced than a regular season game,” said Pettis. “Mentally, there was so much more pressure on us. When you get an early goal a lot of the time the opposition will put its head down. That's how we got the second goal.”
At 15:32 the Bisons took a 2-0 lead when freshman midfielder Andrew Chamberlain dribbled the ball past a Mercer defender and then scored with a sharp-angled kick from the right side of the box.
The Bisons dominated in shots in the first half holding a 10-0 advantage. The Bisons held a 6-5 edge in the second half.
Freshman defender Josh Lind and midfielder Angel Chairez each made three shots, tops in the game.
Morrow was not surprised that his freshmen played such a big part in the game. He stressed that they were upset because only Pettis, the A-Sun Freshman of the Year, was the only selection from the Bisons for the A-Sun All Freshman Team.
“I think we have the best freshman class in the conference,” said Morrow. “To have only one guy on the All-Freshman team offended me. I hope our guys were offended too.”
Mercer cut the Bisons' advantage to 2-1 at 64:53 of the second half. Arkenson Neckles scored on a counter on the right flank.
“In the second half we tried to do too much individually in the attacking third,” said Morrow. “We were trying to be too cute.
“I don't think it was a selfishness thing. There are just times when you try to do too much. If we had played a more simple and more fundamentally sound game we would have seen more goals in the second half.”
Bisons' freshman goalkeeper Patrick Walsh only needed to make one save in the game.
Mercer goalkeeper David Bird turned back five shots.
Campbell, the No. 1-seed, will play the winner of the Stetson-Belmont game.
The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.