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In three years, Women’s Lacrosse Coach helps build championship winning program

Mercer+Women%27s+Lacrosse+Head+Coach+Samantha+Eustace+shows+she%27s+still+got+it.+Photo+provided+by+Mercer+Athletics.
Mercer Women's Lacrosse Head Coach Samantha Eustace shows she's still got it. Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

Mercer Women's Lacrosse Head Coach Samantha Eustace shows she's still got it. Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

Craig F. Chase

Craig F. Chase

Mercer Women's Lacrosse Head Coach Samantha Eustace shows she's still got it. Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

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Samantha Eustace took charge of a recently created Mercer Women’s Lacrosse program three years ago, and in those three years managed to build a team that would become the 2018 Southern Conference champions.

Eustace has coached lacrosse for over a decade now, but coming to Mercer was the first time she held the position of head coach of a D1 college program. Before coming to Macon, she spent three years as an assistant coach at James Madison University, a school more than twice the size of Mercer located in Harrisonburg, Va.

The University of Massachusetts alum said her time spent under the tutelage of the head coach at James Madison and other programs largely influenced the way she coaches and what she looks for in student athletes when she is recruiting.

“I think as a coach you take a little bit from everywhere,” Eustace said citing her list of coaching credentials. “Every place that you’ve been you take a little bit of what you learned there. Coaches that are successful are constantly learning.”

According to the Mercer Athletics bio page, “Eustace has previously coached with several of the nation’s top club teams, including Capital Blue and Mass Elite. She also has been involved with the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Division National Tournament as both a head coach and selector.”

Eustace said she always is looking for new opportunities to learn from other coaches, despite what the sport may be.

“I like to try and go watch other practices and see what other coaches do, not just the sport of lacrosse,” she said. “Coaching is coaching whether you’re coaching basketball, soccer or lacrosse.”

Eustace was not Women’s Lacrosse’s first head coach. The program was previously run by Eve Levinson for its first full season.

During Eustace’s first year with the team they posted a 7-11 overall record and a 4-4 conference record, an improvement from their 2-5 conference record the season before.

The following year in 2017, the team had its best year as a program so far, going 13-6 overall and 7-3 in conference, but was unable to win the Atlantic SUN conference championship, which was the division the Bears played in before a SoCon division was established for Women’s Lacrosse in 2018.

It would only take one more year however before the Bears would win their first conference championship in the Southern Conference, making history as the first team to win a SoCon Women’s Lacrosse championship.

“I think it was a surprise for a lot of people,” Eustace said.

Going into the SoCon tournament, Mercer did not look like the likely winner. They were the no. 4 seed having to go against no. 1 seed Detroit Mercy in the first round. The Bears were able to edge out a 18-17 win at Five Star Stadium to move on to face Furman.

Mercer had the honor of hosting the first ever SoCon Women’s Lacrosse championship; however, she did admit that there was a possible drawback.

“The flip side to that is you may host the first one but you may not win the first one,” she said, but believed playing at home would help give her team an edge over the competition.

In the end, this concern was hardly a problem as the Bears pulled off an 18-8 blowout of Furman to take home the title and move on the NCAA tournament.

The Bears lost in the first round of the tournament but managed to further a goal they had set out on since their first year of being a program.

“I think the first year was about getting respect,” Eustace said. “I think after talking to the team my first year here; they wanted other teams to respect them.”

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In three years, Women’s Lacrosse Coach helps build championship winning program