Men’s lacrosse eager to begin competition

Shane Harper / Cluster Staff
Shane Harper / Cluster Staff

The Mercer men’s lacrosse team has worked hard this preseason in hopes to have a successful year. Three players picked up Atlantic Sun Preseason All-Conference selections, and the team was selected to place third among the six A-Sun teams.

Jacksonville was picked to win the league while High Point came in second. Although the team was selected to finish third, that doesn’t change the team’s aspirations of winning the conference championship.

“We were beating both Jacksonville and High Point in the fourth quarter when we played these teams last year. In both games, we let them slip away and ended up losing. There is no way that will happen again with this team’s drive and determination,” said senior Harry Baker.

Senior Cole Branch, junior Justin Evans, and sophomore Chris Baxa were the three players that earned A-Sun preseason honors.

Branch was one of four midfielders selected to the preseason team after racking up 26 points last season on the strength of 15 goals. Branch enters the final year of his career as Mercer’s all-time leader in career points (76), goals (54), assists (22), shots attempted (182), shots on goal (117) and man-up goals (11).

Evans earned his spot on the preseason team after ranking fifth nationally with 8.0 ground balls per game and 17th among Division I players with a 0.561 face-off win percentage in 2013. Evans boasts a program-best 196 ground balls for an average of 7.84 ground balls per game.

Baxa is one of three attackers on the preseason team after having a standout freshman campaign a year ago. The Owings, Md. native finished the 2013 season ranked 10th in the country at 2.75 goals per game, equaling Stony Brook’s Brody Eastwood for the best average among Division I freshmen. His team-leading 43 points in 12 games played also slotted him 30th nationally in points per game.

The team is confident that they have not only the talent, but the work ethic and determination to have a winning season. The hard work was not just executed on the field but also in the weight room and with Coach Kyle Hannan analyzing film.

“Our offseason workouts were the best we’ve ever had. Between being in the weight room with Coach Shelton Stevens, individual workouts with the coaching staff and full team practices, I think we have definitely prepared ourselves to have a very successful season,” said Baker.

This past weekend, Mercer competed in two scrimmages against Florida Tech and the University of Tampa. The Bears came out on top against Florida Tech, but were unable to defeat Tampa.

“Tampa was a high energy, vocal and talented team. They came out fired up and we had to respond. It wasn’t the best showing from our team but we know now what we need to do to come out prepared against Boston,” said Baker.

Although the Bears have been working hard in preparation for their first game against Boston, there are still some elements of their game that needs to be adjusted.

“After watching film many times, we have to fix the little things before we play Boston. It’s all fixable and will be taken care of,” said Baxa.

Junior Timmy Geran commented on some of the changes that can be made.

“Offensively we definitely could have possessed the ball more and shot a lot better than we did.”

According to Baxa, the team will approach this season one game at a time. Overall success is what the team is striving for, but the Bears still have their eyes set on one significant accomplishment: winning the A-Sun Conference Championship.

“First and foremost we want to win the conference championship. But that starts by consistently getting better throughout the season. We strive to get two percent better everyday so we can continually improve, and of course win more games to finish strong for us seniors.”