Friday, November 9, 2012

Bears Rely on Ranjitsingh; Reap Rewards

Perhaps selection to the A-Sun All-Conference second team didn’t sit too well with Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh.

After all, Ranjitsingh led the A-Sun in saves percentage (.835), goals against average (.88) and tied for the most shutouts (T-7th). He finished ahead of or tied Goalkeeper of the Year Ryan Coulter in five of the six goalkeeping statistical categories, and helped the Bears to the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun Championship, their highest ranking since 2002 when they claimed the A-Sun title.

The numbers that mattered most to Ranjitsingh and Mercer supporters, however, were the numbers that he recorded Friday afternoon: eight saves, one goal allowed, and two huge saves in penalty kicks to energize the Bears and propel them into Sunday’s final.

The penalty session started well for ETSU. The A-Sun’s leading scorer David Geno slid a shot into the left corner past Ranjitsingh for the first successful PK, but then Ranjitsingh answered. He rejected the next two Bucs attempts by Nate Hodges and Alesi Osorio, while his teammates found the back of the net four times in as many attempts against Coulter. ETSU’s Luis Calzadilla also beat Ranjitsingh to keep the Bucs’ hopes alive, but Carl-Oscar Andersson beat Coulter for the final goal and Mercer had its victory.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” said Mercer Head Coach and A-Sun Coach of the Year Brad Ruzzo. “ETSU has a great program, and Scott Calabrese and his staff are great coaches.

“I give our team credit, they battle and fight, and tonight they played a man down for 25 minutes. I am tremendously proud of our team.”

For Ranjitsingh, success in goal, particularly in penalty kicks, is more of a science than a guessing game.

“Usually during the game I read how they shoot the ball, so I know if we get to a situation where we have penalty kicks, I can be ready and confident,” said Ranjitsingh. “I was confident before he stepped to the spot, and I made the save.

“It’s good to save one, to give your team a good boost. I am always confident, because I have a good back four in front of me. But even if someone does get past them, they know that I am behind them to have their backs.”

Ruzzo said going into the A-Sun Championship that defense is the hallmark of this Bears team, especially the back four. Ruzzo certainly provides his keeper all of the credit to which he is due, but also understands, like Ranjitsingh, that teammates like A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Josh Shutter and Ashani Samuels deserve credit for a portion of his success as well.

“We know Greg is one of the best keepers in the country, and he proved that tonight,” said Ruzzo. “If we do break down, he will come up with a big save. The defense was phenomenal in back, and Shutter and Samuels proved why they were first-team selections.

There is no doubt that Ranjitsingh’s play energized the Bears, keeping them in the game in regulation until David Murtaugh could net the equalizer in the 79th minute, then turning away two penalty kicks to secure the win.

“I know that if I can keep them in the game, I am confident that they can score and win the game. Now we move on. We have played both of these team already this season, so we know how to prepare once the next game is over.”

“We struggled a bit in second half, and you can credit that to ETSU,” said Ruzzo. “When your goalkeeper makes a save it energizes you a bit, and Greg made two great saves in the PKs. But credit the guys, too, who took penalties, as they were 4-for-4. But ultimately penalties come down to goalkeeping, and we are happy to have him on our team.”

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