MACON, Ga. - Mercer controlled the A-Sun field winning seven of its 10 A-Sun matches. The Bears success translated into individual success as the Bears collected a plethora of regular-season awards, headline by senior Heather Manting winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, the Atlantic Sun Conference office announced on Tuesday.
All told, five Bears made either the First-or Second-Team All-Atlantic Sun squads and added two more to the All-Freshmen team. Manting’s defensive teammates, goalkeeper Jean Worts and Kacie Hudson earned First-Team honors along with midfielder Meghan Castaldo. Mercer's freshman midfielder Olivia Tucker earned a pair of honors capturing the Freshman of the Year award and a spot on the Second-Team All-Atlantic Sun lineup. Tucker is the one of three freshmen to earn a spot on the one of the two All-Conference teams. Ali Meek rounded out the Mercer contingent honored, joining Tucker on the All-Freshman team.
Manting is the first Bear to win Defensive Player of the Year in the six year history of the honor. She anchors the league's best defense from her center back position, allowing just 0.54 goals against average this season (ranking at ninth in the nation through the week of October 20, 2008). She has scored six career goals for the Bears, and chipped four assists this season.
Head coach Grant Serafy became the fourth A-Sun women's soccer coach to win multiple awards and first to win in back-to-back awards after leading the Bears to their first regular-season title. Mercer earned just its second bye in the Atlantic Sun Championship since the field expanded to six teams in 1997.
Kennesaw State, the regular-season runner-up to Mercer, earned its fair share of honors placing defender Jessica Kalonji, midfielder Beth Meadors and forward Rachel Baer on the All-Atlantic Sun First-Team. Baer finished the season second in shots, first in shots per game, third in points, second in points per game, second in goals and first in goals per game in conference play.
Jacksonville senior Keri Zwikker made history by landing on her fourth-straight All-Atlantic Sun First Team. No A-Sun women's soccer player had achieved this feat in prior to Zwikker. In her Jacksonville career, she ranks second on the program lists in goals, 49; assists, 24; and points, 122. Zwikker leads the team in goals (nine), assists (six) and points (24); and added a pair of game-winning goals to her credit.
Sophomore Tessa Gavilsky represents the lone Stetson Hatter on the All-Atlantic Sun First Team. This season, she broke the Hatter single-season record for points with 25 after collecting a goal and an assist in a win against Lipscomb on Oct. 19. The forward already ranks fifth in Stetson history in goals (16) and assists (11), and places sixth in points (43). Thanks to Gavilsky’s quick feet the Hatters gained berth for the third time into the tournament as the sixth seed. In both prior instances, 2003 and 2005, the Hatters upset the third seed and advanced to the semifinal round.
Jessica Rix joins Gavilsky as the only other sophomore on the All-Atlantic Sun First Team. She anchored Belmont’s defensive line and helped the Bruins rack up six shutouts this season. She netted an overtime penalty kick against Jacksonville to close out Belmont’s conference season with six wins for the second consecutive season.
The conference kicks off its premier women’s soccer event at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday when No. 4 Jacksonville faces No. 5 ETSU at the KSU Soccer Complex in Kennesaw, Ga., followed by a 7:30 p.m. showdown between No. 3 Belmont and No. 6 Stetson. Top-seeded Mercer and No. 2 Kennesaw State await the winners in the semifinals. Saturday’s championship match will begin at 6:00 p.m.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.