West Windsor, N.J. – Head Coach Widmarc Tigana Dalce feels just fine about the Vikings' 8-8-2 final record. Noting that the roster was composed almost entirely of freshmen, he said the team spent the season building their skills and adjusting to college-level play.
“We will be in a strong position to compete next year,” he predicts.
According to Dalce, his three co-captains – Nana Osei, Lorenzo Laurenti and Valdo Jean-Baptiste – were exemplary team leaders. “They were trusted by their teammates and they helped the team get better.”
The Vikings had some solid wins, including several on the road outside Region 19. As of Sept. 22. they were 5-1-1 and looking solid. But then came three mid-season losses and some tough challengers, especially in the region, where the games counted most.
Unlike last season, when Mercer captured the Region 19 title after defeating Burlington in the final, the no. 3-seeded Vikings were stopped in the semifinal round with a 3-0 loss against no. 2-seeded Essex County College on Oct. 29. (Essex went on to lose to a talented Burlington squad in the final.)
Dalce says it was a disappointing way to end the season, but he is still proud of his team. “Our players gave us their best."
Noting that while like most coaches, he loves to win, the Vikings’ .500 record does not trouble him. “For me, it’s not about the score. It’s about developing skills and playing the right way,” Dalce said. “My goal is to help players improve their game and stay focused on their school work. That’s what will lead to success and to transfer opportunities.”
He notes that games are regularly attended by four-year college scouts and that players are able to use Mercer as a showcase for the future.
Dalce says that the team’s training regimen goes on practically year-round. “When practices begin in the summer, the first step is getting players into physical and mental shape for college-level play. It’s a much more intense game than in high school."
Players are also expected to train in the gym in the winter and play a spring schedule that typically includes six scrimmages. “I work to keep players here for two years, so we have more time to help them develop,” Dalce says.
Dalce has a patient approach to coaching. “I want my players to achieve their potential,” he said. “They all have skills. They just need time to work on them. That goes for on the field and in the classroom.”
That’s where good captains can make all the difference. According to Dalce, captains Osei, Laurenti and Jean-Baptiste set the tone throughout the season with their determination and consistency. “They are good students who showed real leadership.”
Osei and Laurenti were named to the All-Region 19 First Team. Osei and freshman forward Uzochikwu Iloka were named to the All-GSAC First Team.
Other players who contributed consistently on the field included sophomore Robert Bednar, and freshmen defenders Thomas Willett and Jo-Wayne Butler, who had a big year in goal.