With the way Mercer County has been playing defense, one goal has been enough for the Titans to get a win.
Well, that one goal took a while to get, but it stood Thursday as Mercer held off host Danville 1-0 in a battle for the No. 2 seed in the 29th District.
Shannon Murray scored with 17 minutes, 50 seconds to go and Amanda Howard had three saves as Mercer improved to 11-1-1 — with all the wins coming by shutout — and a 4-1 mark in the district. With the first regular season win for Mercer over Danville since 2002, the Titans get a first-round bye in the district tournament.
“I think both teams came in thinking this was a district game. And with the new rules, I don’t think anyone wanted to go to (a shootout),”Ã?Â¿Mercer coach Paul Brooks said. “Very pleased with the result obviously, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in district again.”
It was Mercer’s first regular season win over Danville since a 2-1 win in 2002. The Titans beat Danville in last year’s district tournament. Mercer’s only loss is to Boyle County. The Titans had a 2-2 draw with Southwestern. They’ve won their 11 games by a combined score of 59-0.
But it appeared no one was going to win this one in regulation.
Despite a huge shot advantage, which reached 32-3 by the end of the game, the Titans could not find the back of the net. Then with 17:50 left, Murray took a pass from Michelle Roby, wheeled around and fired a shot from about 25 yards out that ripped into the left side of the goal to put the Titans ahead to stay, 1-0.
“I just kept working and it went in,”Ã?Â¿said Murray, who scored her 40th goal of the season, three more than she had all of last year.
That was all it took because the Mercer defense took care of the rest, which is just what Danville coach J.D. Smith expected from the Titans.
“I knew coming into the game scoring’s going to be the trial for us. We made some good opportunities for ourselves, but we kept pushing, kept working,” he said.
Brooks credited Danville’s defense for not allowing Mercer to get comfortable in its offense.
“We were flat and they were playing with a stopper. Usually come up against three in the back or a flat four (in the defensive backfield), and that’s something we got to work on,”Ã?Â¿Brooks said. “We had one other game that had a stopper and gave us problems. And (Katie Nelson) did a great job at the back. That always seems to confound our formation. So obviously between now and district we’ve got to work on that.”
Danville (6-7-1, 3-2) did not have many scoring chances, but its best one came late in the first half.
With 1:27 left in the opening period, Danville had a close shot that was deflected by Howard, then the rebound shot sailed wide left. With 6:58 left in the game, Danville appeared to have another open shot opportunity, but Howard came out and corralled the ball in a crowd to help preserve the shutout.
“They were big saves. Any saves against point blank shots were big,”Ã?Â¿Brooks said. “We’ve got so many shutouts this season, we’re afraid she’s not been tested enough. But she came up with three mega-saves tonight.
The Danville defense was just as effective against the constant barrage of Titan shots. Keeper Emily Jacobsen, playing her first game since being injured in the All “A”Ã?Â¿Classic last weekend, had 14 saves.
“This was her first game back and I thought she came out hard and played well. Our defense stayed in and hung in there. They absorbed a lot of pressure throughout the game,” Smith said. “Usually as the game goes on, they get weaker and weaker but I thought they really tried to step up and make sure they kept their intensity up for themselves no matter how late in the game it was.”