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South Hadley soccer coach Jij Mercer enjoys family affair as sons Jamey, Eddie square off in college game

South Hadley Head Coach Jij Mercer talks top his team during a game against Hampshire Regional Wednesday at Hampshire.
JERREY ROBERTS

South Hadley Head Coach Jij Mercer talks top his team during a game against Hampshire Regional Wednesday at Hampshire. JERREY ROBERTS

South Hadley boys soccer coach Jij Mercer has watched his sons, Jamey and Eddie, play countless times, but never on opposite teams.

At least not before Sunday.

Mercer and his wife Melinda made the drive to Keene, N.H., Sunday as sophomore Eddie Mercer’s Keene State team hosted senior Jamey’s Endicott College.

“It was fun because they were covering each other” in the midfield, said Jij Mercer, who coaches his another son, sophomore A.J., at South Hadley. “We had a lot of family there and (Keene) was very cordial and it was just a great event for me and for them.”

Mercer expected the situation of rooting for both sons against each other to be difficult, but ended up enjoying himself.

“At first I thought it was going to be really hard, but when you know the players on both teams, it’s fun because you are cheering for someone on every play,” he said. “It was actually pretty enjoyable, knowing each team the way they do.”

It was a good day for the Mercers on the field. Eddie scored a goal for the home team, but it was Jamey’s Endicott squad that came through with the 3-2 victory.

It was also a good day for the Mercer parents’ gas tank. Usually Jij and Melinda spend all day driving and then watching Keene and Endicott play their respective games. The prior Saturday, they went from South Hadley to Salem to Norton and back to South Hadley.

“Usually our Saturday are 5, 6, 7 hours worth of traveling to see both teams play, but we don’t mind,” Jij Mercer said. “That’s over before it starts it seems. It’s a blast.”

Instead, it was a day of celebration for South Hadley’s soccer family.

“I kind of just sat back and really enjoyed the game and having the two boys on the field,” Mercer said. “I played college in Springfield and I kind of know what it is like to be out there. I’m sure when they are done, but they will look back at that moment as something special for them and for our family.”

AMHERST INVITE — The Amherst Invitational has a full field for Saturday’s cross country race at Hampshire College.

There are 50 (24 boys, 26 girls) teams competing in one of the top early season meets in the state.

“It’s going to be big and it’s going to be compitition,” Amherst girls coach Eric Nazar said. “It will be challenge.”

Along with host Amherst Regional, local teams include Hampshire Regional, Northampton and South Hadley.

The event starts at 10 a.m. with the girls freshman race, followed by freshman boys (10:40 a.m.), varsity girls (11:20 a.m.), varsity boys (noon), junior varsity girls (12:40) and junior varsity boys (1:20).

There will be new individual champions. Last year’s winners were seniors.

Danbury (Conn.) returns to defend its boys title. The Amherst girls will also put their title on the line.

Lowell is the highest ranked team in the state that will compete. The boys and girls team are each ranked third in Division 1 by the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association.

Former Northampton coach Nate Kraft is an assistant with the Lowell boys team.

GAME OF THE WEEK — Minnechaug at Belchertown girls soccer, Friday, 4 p.m.

The Falcons and Orioles are the reigning Western Massachusetts Division 1 and 2 champions, respectively, but Belchertown is now in D-1. The teams are a combined 9-0-1 through Thursday and have outscored their opponents 38-5.

ETC. — Smith Academy girls soccer senior Cassidy Snyder scored two goals in a win against Frontier Regional on Monday. She enters Thursday’s 4 p.m. game at Ware with 98 goals for her career. ... Hopkins Academy boys soccer senior Tyler Szymkowicz has 123 career points. ... The South Hadley and Northampton football teams are each 0-2 and have this weekend off. The Tigers and Blue Devils then square off in Northampton on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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