SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Gardner-Webb fell behind early to an athletic Mercer squad Sunday afternoon at Snyder Field, losing a 2-1 decision in the finale of the 2016 Big South/SoCon Challenge.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (1-2-0) saw the Bears get on the board in the 21st minute, when Max Poore headed home his second goal of the season off a cross into the box.
Mercer (3-1-0) added to its lead at the 26:24 mark, with Jordan Duru taking an assist from Poore and finishing on a shot from the top of the box for a 2-0 lead.
Ali Al-Gashamy had a pair of chances later in the half, getting off a shot in the 43rd minute that was turned away by Mercer's Jeremy Booth. Al-Gashamy had two earlier opportunities in the half, getting off a shot at 7:33 that sailed wide and putting a shot on frame at 10:57 that was saved by Booth.
Mercer had three more shots on goal after taking its 2-0 lead, with Matthew Swan saving a trio of opportunities between the 30th and 34th minute.
Gardner-Webb continued to battle throughout and Al-Gashamy pulled the match back within striking distance when he drew a foul in the box in the 50th minute. The redshirt senior slotted the ensuing penalty kick to trim the margin to 2-1 with plenty of clock remaining.
The Runnin' Bulldogs held the Bears' offense down the rest of the way, but were unable to pull even.
Swan made a tremendous save late in the match to keep the 'Dogs within a goal, turning away a penalty kick chance.
The physical match saw 30 total fouls whistled.
Mercer outshot the Runnin' Bulldogs by a 19-8 margin, but less than half of those chances (8) were on frame. Gardner-Webb put four of its eight shots on goal.
Swan had six saves between the posts in 90 minutes.
Gardner-Webb will get back to action next Saturday, traveling back to Spartanburg, S.C., to take on USC Upstate. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm.