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The Mercer men’s golf team has just completed their third event of the 2014 competitive season. The Bears defeated 13 teams on March 14 in the Seminole Intercollegiate, winning the tournament title and finishing with a team score of 856 shooting eight under.

Senior Hans Reimers placed second in the event, with senior James Beale trailing just behind in third place.

“It felt great. It was fun to go out and win as a team again,” said Reimers. “We know we can play with the best teams in the country so it was good to show that this last weekend.”

All five of Mercer’s competitors placed in the top 50 at the event contributing to the first place victory. The team currently has the first place rank in the Atlantic Sun Conference and is ranked 36th in the nation.

Reimers added, “Our ranking this season is way better than in years past. I do not remember Mercer ever cracking the top 70.”

Mercer’s junior Trey Rule was named A-Sun Conference Golfer of the Week Feb. 19 after medaling in the Suntrust Gator Invitational. This was Rule’s career best event scoring a 69, 70 and 67 in his three rounds of play.

Rule said, “It’s an honor and a blessing to be named the A-Sun Player of the Week. There are a lot of solid players in this conference and it’s exciting to be named as one of the best.”

This was Rule’s second top five finish of the season.

With only two events until the conference tournament the Bears are in competition everyday to get better. Rule contributed, “The team prepares for competition by putting ourselves in competitive situations. We play a lot of competitive matches together within the team and this helps simulate some of the pressures when we are playing in a tournament.”

Mercer will co-host the Linger Longer Invitational at Great Waters Golf Course in Eatonton, Ga. with Kennesaw State University on March 22.

The Mercer University men’s tennis team hosted their conference opener this past weekend, March 14 and 15, against Northern Kentucky University and Lipscomb University. The team has been looking forward to the beginning of conference play all season.

“We had our ups and downs in matches,” said sophomore Arsav Mohanty. “However, we are ready to face teams in our conference and earn some wins.”

The Bears schedule this season has included many top tier programs, specifically, Auburn and Florida State. After facing such intense opponents, the team was no doubt prepared for the competition that the conference would bring.

“We will expect great results from everyone on the team as we enter into conference play,” said Mohanty.

The Bears are 1-1 in conference after this weekend. On Friday, they dropped a close match to Lipscomb 3-4. The Bears came out strong in the beginning and won both of the doubles points.

In addition, the Bears won the number one and number six singles seed. Sophomore Oliver Snaider and senior Joao Pagan captured these wins for the Bears. However, Mercer’s tough play was not enough to combat Lipscomb’s wins in two, three, four and five singles slots.

The Bears returned with a vengeance on Saturday when they took on the Northern Kentucky Norse. The Bears defeated the Norse 5-2.

Once again, the team started off strong, winning the number two and three seed doubles and capturing the doubles point. Pairs Arsav, Arnav Mohanty, Joao Pagan and Anderson Scarpa led the Bears to an early 1-0 lead.

This time out, the Bears did not drop the singles points. Scarpa and Mohanty won the number two and six singles seeds respectively. In addition, sophomore Austin Emmit contributed a win in the number five singles seed.

The team is continuing to see improvements in play with each match. “Most of us have been struggling,” said Mohanty, “But we are continuing to play better. We are looking forward to the rest of the season and know that we will be playing out best in the conference matches that matter most.”

The Bears know that competition will be tough in conference. They are taking each match as it comes, continuing to work hard in practice and mentally prepare for each opponent.

“Our next conference matches are Florida Gulf Coast University and Stetson University,” said senior Joao Pagan, “We have been preparing mentally and physically for these matches. While we are not overlooking our games next weekend, we have our sights set on winning many conference matches.”

The Bears will take a break from conference play for the next week when they face Georgia Southern University and Bradley.

 

The Mercer Bears have advanced to 18-10 this season with a two-game split decision against the Stetson Hatters. The final game of the series this past weekend was cancelled due to rain.

The Bears dropped their first game 6-1 to the Hatters, but were able to rally back for the second and win 5-4.

The excited match-up ended with a single-run, walk-off hit by sophomore Kaytlin Haney that allowed junior Kaylynn Sloat to score the final run, winning the ball game in extra innings.

Freshman Kirsten Stevens pitched the first game of the series. Junior Riley Carter pitched a majority of the second game but was relieved late in the game by senior Julia Rice.

In the midweek the Bears took on  No. 1 ranked University of Florida. The Bears fought hard in the double header but dropped both games to the Gators.

The first game ended in a 8-0 defeat, but the Bears were able to rebound in the second match-up. Rice pitched the entire game and only allowed one run. Mackenzie Woody went 2-4 in the effort.

“Against Florida the first game we didn’t play to our ability and it showed, but in the second game we came back and were mentally focused,” said Rice, “Holding the number one team in the country to one run really showed our team we can play with anyone.”

After only the second weekend of conference play, the Bears are ranked sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference. With a long season the team will face each conference opponent in a three-game series with the final goal of making the conference tournament.

“We have been hitting pretty well since conference started and our main thing is consistency,” said Rice.

Senior Krista Kennedy has much confidence in her squad.

“As every team on campus, we are ring chasing, but more than that we are looking to make a statement and I think we have a good opportunity to do just that with the team we have this year,” said Kennedy, “I think we have learned in our start to conference games that there are not going to be any freebies. We are going to have to show up and play our best no matter what.”

Haney currently leads the team in batting average. She is batting .379 and leads the team in RBIs as well with 32.

Caroline Taylor is leading the team in home runs with seven, Kennedy trails right behind with six.

Mercer hosts Georgia Southern in a non-conference double header March 20. The Bears will resume conference play March 22 for a three-game series at Jacksonville.

Mercer women’s tennis began conference play defeating both Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky in their opening weekend. The team advanced to a season record of 8-9 for the 2014 season.

The Bears are currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a conference record of 2-0. East Tennessee State shares the tie with the Bears.

After securing two consecutive conference wins, the Bears have a current win streak of three matches, the best for the Bears all season.

Friday, March 14, the team hosted the Lipscomb Bisons in a 4-2 decision, opening the match with the one and three doubles pairs beating Lipscomb to secure the doubles point.

Danielle Jones and Lucie Payrat in the one seed and Haley Powell paired with Natalie Franklin helped win the doubles points.

In singles play — Payrat in the two seed, Roxy Bartz in the three, Franklin in the five and Liza Klyachkin in the six — all remained victorious to the 4-2 win, which resulted in the first Mercer defeat over Lipscomb since 2010.

The hot streak continued when the Bears defeated Northern Kentucky 5-2. The Bears were able to capture the doubles point by defeating the Norse’s one pair and three pair.

In singles action, Bartz played in the two, Powell in the three, Franklin in the four and Klyachkin in the five spot. They all recorded wins.

On the weekend Franklin commented, “The matches went great, our intensity was incredibly high and everyone was really in it.” She continued, “It was great that I could be apart of the wins and help the team achieve our goal.”

With conference play underway the preparation and importance of each match is crucial. Franklin added, “We are just taking every match at a time and we are focused and determined to win each match and put forth every bit of work to get to the conference tournament.”

The top six ranked teams receive a bid to the end of the season conference tournament. Bartz said, “We just have to believe we can get it done and just do it. I’ve got faith in us. We need to get our focus and train harder to prepare ourselves for what is to come next.”

The Bears are back on the road to DeLand, Fla., to play Stetson Friday, March 28.

The Mercer University women’s basketball team wrapped up a great season this past week in Fort Myers, Fla. The Bears took the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament by storm Tuesday evening when they beat the Jacksonville University Dolphins to advance to the semifinals.

The Dolphins had beaten Mercer the Saturday before the tournament. So, there was not much sweeter revenge for the Bears than sending Jacksonville home early in the tournament. This was the second consecutive year that the Bears have advanced to the semifinals.

“The first round of the tournament was great,” said junior Alicia Williams, “We had at least four players in double figures and all out great effort from the team as a whole.”

Williams led the team offensively with 17 points while junior Teanna Robinson led the Bears defense with 14 rebounds.

“It was probably our best game of the season, and everyone contributed” stated Williams.  The Bears were stoked about their performance and carried a lot of momentum into the semifinals when they would take on the number one seed, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.

The Eagles took the lead early in the first half with multiple three-point shots. They continued to stretch the lead, and the Bears could not keep up, despite their effort. The Eagles eventually bested the Bears with a 64-47 win to advance to the finals.

Despite the loss, the Bears did not leave the tournament or the season without several great honors.  Multiple players were nominated for both in season and tournament honors.

Seniors Kendra Grant and Kate Alemann received in season conference awards. Grant was selected to second All-Conference team and is ranked 16th in points per game in the Atlantic Sun.

Alemann was named, with just six other players from the Atlantic Sun, to the

Academic All-Conference team. Alemann finished the season with a 4.0 and will be graduating with a degree in Biology.

In addition, Robinson was recognized twice this season. First, Robinson was named Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year. After the tournament, she was named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Bears are nowhere near disappointed with the season. “Overall, I think that we had a good season,” said Williams, “I am proud of our progress and development as a team. I think we have a lot of motivation going into the next season.”

Williams and the team both gave 100 percent of their efforts towards the season. “You never want to look back on a season and have things that you should’ve and would’ve done. You have to give everything that you have from start to finish each season.”

 

After an impressive week of play, the Mercer Bears baseball team now stands at 16-6 and leads the Atlantic Sun Conference after their first weekend of conference play.

Michael Massi, the second basemen, picked up his first A-Sun Player of the Week award after his stellar performance both at the plate and on the field.

“It was an honor being named player of the week, however, I’m glad it helped our team get off to a good conference start,” said Massi.

The infielder hit .571 during the week leading the bears to a 4-1 week overall including a sweep over Mercer’s in-state rival, Kennesaw State University.

Before the opening weekend of conference play, the Bears took on the Butler Bulldogs for a pair of midweek wins.

On the Tuesday night game, freshmen Matt Meeder and Kyle Lewis stepped up offensively for the Bears. The score was tied 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth when Meeder bunted the ball to the first basemen who mishandled the ball.

On the second day of play, freshmen Austin Lord shined for the Bears on the mound. He pitched seven full innings with three strikeouts.

The Mercer bats supported Lord’s efforts and the Bears won the game 5-0.

In the opening game of conference play, the Bears fell to the Kennesaw State 2-1. Freshman Ryan Askew earned the loss after pitching seven innings and allowing only one earned run.

Offensively, Massi was the impressive force against the Owls, going 3-3 at the plate and reaching base four separate times.

Although the Bears dropped the season conference opener, they came out alive on Saturday to the take the series against the owls. This is the fifth consecutive year that the Bears have taken the series from KSU.

At the plate, senior first baseman Nick Backlund and senior centerfielder Sasha Lagarde both had impressive appearances to lead the Bears for the sweep.

In game two of the series, Backlund launched a grand slam at the bottom of the fourth to ensure the lead for the rest of the game.

The bats did not stop swinging after the Bears’ first conference win. There were several home runs from the Orange and Black in the third game of the series, including Sasha Lagarde’s three-run walk-off home run at the bottom of the ninth to take the series. Lagarde was greeted by his fellow teammates at home plate as they celebrated the dramatic finish.

“Our team morale is very high after winning a hard fought rivalry series against Kennesaw,” said Massi, “We want to build on this and carry this momentum through the rest of our conference games.”

For their second conference series, the Bears will take on the Jacksonville Dolphins.

“Jacksonville will be a good test for us. We plan on putting all three components of the game (hitting, pitching, defense) together and get our first series road win,” said Massi.

In the 2013 series, the Mercer Bears went 2-1 with the Dolphins at Claude Smith Field. The Bears are excited to travel to Jacksonville and compete to stay on top of the conference.

 

The Mercer men’s lacrosse is off to a great start as they just won their second Atlantic Sun Conference game. Saturday the Bears faced Virginia Military Institute  and came out on top 8-3 at Mercer University Stadium.

Sophomore goalie Mike Nugent had a stand out performance, allowing only three goals on 30 VMI shots while pairing his 16 stops with two ground balls. The three goals allowed is a new season-best for Nugent against conference opponents. His 84.2 save percentage also marks a new season-best for a single game.

“Mike Nugent has been awesome in cage this year for us,” said freshman defenseman Colin Massa.

Sophomore Chris Baxa led the team in points in the contest with two goals and an assist while senior Zack Ward also had a multigoal performance with two scores. Senior Cole Branch, junior Timmy Geran, senior Eoin Collins and sophomore Anssi Kaisalmi each scored a goal in the contest as well.

“The cool thing about this year is we have a lot of people contributing and making plays,” said Massa, “ I think where we are at our best is when we are all playing together.”

Along with Nugent, the Bears have had other impressive defensive performances this season contributing to the team’s success. Colin Massa and sophomore midfielder Clay Rivers have led the defense, keeping opponents from generating much offense.

“Massa on the defensive end has been shutting down each team’s best attackman each week,” said Baxa, “Clay Rivers has been a huge surprise playing on the best midfielder each game too.”

Mercer’s next matchup is against another competitive A-Sun team next weekend. High Point is 2-0 in conference as well, but Mercer is confident they can come out with the win as previous wins have no effect on present games.

“I don’t think that speculating and trying to read into scores has any impact on what we need to do. There is so many factors that go into every game that makes it so unique. I think we just need to focus on us versus High Point and not speculate what scores versus common opponents means,” said Massa.

The Bears return to action in the start of a five-game road swing at High Point on March 22.  Game time against the Panthers is scheduled for 1 p.m.

 

Mercer men’s basketball took on FGCU for the A-Sun championship and won, securing the 14th seed in the NCAA tournament Midwest region. The Bears will take on 3rd-seed Duke tomorrow at 12:15. (photos by Patrick Hobbs)

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For the first time since 1985, the Mercer men’s basketball team won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, and will compete in the NCAA Tournament as the 14th seed in the Midwest Region. As announced by the tournament selection committee on Sunday, Mercer will face-off against the three-seed Duke, in Raleigh, N.C., at PNC Arena Friday at 12:15 p.m.

“Everybody is excited to play in the tournament and against a storied program like Duke, but we are focused and ready to play,” said senior point guard Langston Hall.

In a 68-60 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on March 9 in the A-Sun tournament final, Mercer captured the automatic qualifier bid.

“It’s been a long time coming for us,” said senior forward Jake Gollon, “Making it to the NCAA tournament has been a goal of ours since the beginning, so to see the hard work finally pay off, it is really gratifying.”

Mercer imposed revenge on the same FGCU team that had eliminated the Bears from winning the A-Sun title for the past two seasons. Langston Hall was named tournament MVP, while Gollon and senior guard Anthony White Jr. earned all tournament team selections.

Just a few days following the tournament victory, Hall added another postseason award to his resume as the point guard was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District three first team.

Hall’s recognition adds to his hardware collection that includes A-Sun Player of the Year, A-Sun All-Conference first team and A-Sun All-Tournament team, and A-Sun Tournament MVP honors.

The 2013-14 season has been one of many milestones for Hall, who broke the A-Sun conference record for career assists on March 6 and scored his 1,500th point on Feb. 27. As a senior, Hall has scored 20 or more points 11 times and registered 10 or more assists on four occasions.

Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff The team celebrates in Hawkins Arena Sunday after being selected as the 14th seed to play the third seed Duke on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest region.

Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff
The team celebrates in Hawkins Arena Sunday after being selected as the 14th seed to play the third seed Duke on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest region.

Selection Sunday was an exciting day for the team and all Mercer fans as no one was quite sure as to who they would play.

“We knew that we would probably be a 13-15 seed, so we had an idea of the caliber of team we might play, but there was no real way of knowing,” said Gollon. “Coach Hoffman, though, predicted it to be Duke in Raleigh long before it was announced.”

Although Duke is a very high ranked team, the Bears are approaching the game the same way mentally and physically as they would any other contest.

“We are preparing the exact same way we do for any other game,” said Hall. “We are not in awe of Duke just because of their name. We just are going to go out there and play our game.”

Gollon also commented on their preparation.

“We won’t prepare any differently for Duke than we would any other game. They are a very good team, but we’ve played good teams in the past and we always prepare the same. We have to continue to be confident in our abilities and play ball the way that we know how.”

The 12:15 p.m. tip-off will be nationally broadcast on CBS.

Click here for more photos from the A-Sun championship game and Selection Sunday.

Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast Uuniversity meet on the Eagles’ home turf Sunday in a basketball game determining the champion of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Possibly more important to both schools: the champion team of A-Sun gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

The Bears have a feeling of deja-vu; this time last year Mercer fought FGCU at home in Hawkins Arena for the same chance to go into the NCAA brackets. FGCU won the game and took the NCAA bid, making an amazing run all the way to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 15 seed.

Some Mercerians said FGCU deserved support in the NCAA tournament last year, but support for FGCU during the 2013 NCAA tournament was hard to stomach for Mercer fans. The Bears watched FGCU celebrate a championship win that could have been Mercer’s, and on their home court to boot.

“I want them to lose on their court,” said Mercer student Taylor Feeney.

Mens basketball coach, Bob Hoffman, is confident the team is ready to win the championship on enemy territory.

“It don’t matter where it is or where it’s on,” said Hoffman after the Bears narrowly won against USC Upstate in the A-Sun semifinals Thursday. “Let’s play on the beach or that parking lot they have out there that people are playing on.”

Despite Hoffman’s confidence, Mercer is making sure the team gets as much support from home as possible. The Office of the President, SGA and Campus Life pooled resources to foot the bill to bus students from Macon to Fort Myers, Fla. Mercer is covering the buses, tickets, food and hotel rooms at the Hyatt Place in Fort Myers. Latest estimates put the total cost of the trip at $15,000.

“Remember: you are in enemy territory,” said Todd Thomas, assistant director of intramural sports to a room full of students volunteering to travel. “Don’t get in a shouting match with the [FGCU] students, just ignore them.”

True, the Bears fans will be outnumbered almost 45 to 1 at a school that’s notorious for being rowdy.

“You guys can make or break it,” said Dean of Students Dr. Doug Pearson to the students. “Stay classy.”

 

The Mercer Maniacs Twitter feed (@MercerManiacs) has no qualms with trash talk.

 

“Trying to remember when FGCU was founded…. 1997?? N’Sync is older than them.”

 

“We’re the rednecks? When FGCWho started, their classes were in trailers.”

 

Mercer and FGCU battled twice before in the regular season, both winning at home. Between those two games, Mercer scored a total of 129 points with a 38 percent shot efficiency; FGCU scored 130 with a 40 percent shot efficiency. FGCU appears to have a slight advantage over Mercer based on the numbers, but there is no clear favorite for the game.

The Bears are one of only 19 teams to have already won 25 games this season, are ranked among the nation’s top 25 in both field-goal percentage and points per game, and have won eight of their last 12 games away from home.

Perhaps the Mercer men’s basketball team will be the talk of the nation after the game on Sunday. For live updates on the game from a student perspective, follow @MercerCluster or watch the game live on ESPN2.