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Aug. 28, 2015

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – In front of the eighth-largest attendance for a men’s soccer match in Stone Stadium history, South Carolina (1-0) started the 2015 season with a 2-1 victory over defending Southern Conference regular-season champion Mercer on Friday night.

A total of 4,325 fans streamed into Stone Stadium to watch the Gamecocks get the win in fine fashion. Freshman defender Ben Davidson blasted home the first goal in the 17th minute with a beautiful shot, sending in the free kick from 24 yards out. That 1-0 lead held through halftime, as the Gamecocks and Bears played a very even first half.

South Carolina senior midfielder Jeffrey Torda made it a 2-0 lead in the 55th, getting a gorgeous cross from junior midfielder Danny Deakin and sending it into the net from inside the six.

Mercer tried to make a late comeback, cutting the lead to 2-1 when Emmet Johnson tapped in a goal after a cross from Will Bagrou in the 83rd minute. Ian Antley also was credited with an assist. South Carolina’s defense came through from there, keeping Mercer from making another shot until there were 16 seconds left in the contest.

Gamecock junior Marco Velez made four saves in the contest to take the victory.

Game Changer:
The Gamecocks never looked back after Davidson’s free-kick goal.

Key Stat:
Velez’s four stops were key, as well as the fifth, when junior Koty Millard cleared a ball off the line on Kobe Perez’s 16th-minute shot.

• Mercer won the shot battle, 14-10, and also held the advantage in corner kicks, 6-4.
• Torda made four shots and Deakin three to lead South Carolina’s attack.
• Perez fired six shots on the night, three on goal.
• Three yellow cards came out in the affair, two against South Carolina on different players and one to Mercer.

Head coach Mark Berson

“It was a physical game, and our guys were up to the test in that category. For big stretches, we did really well. The two goals we scored were exceptional. In other places, we weren’t too sharp. You need to give Mercer credit. They came in here and battled and really played well. They are a solid team. This is a team that will again be one of the better teams in the Southern Conference. It’s a good win for our guys. I’m really pleased.”

Up Next:
South Carolina hosts Georgia Southern for a Monday evening showdown at Stone Stadium. Gates open at 6 p.m., with $1 admission for first responders (firefighters, EMTs and police) and their families. Boy Scouts in uniform also get a $1 admission to Monday’s 7 p.m. affair.