In what ended up being their only exhibition match before their trip to Columbus, Ohio for a matchup with Ohio State University’s lacrosse team, the Mercer Bears’ newly-minted Division I lacrosse team completely devastated Georgia Tech’s club team 16-2 last weekend. In front of a crowd that was standing-room only and numbered 723, the only Division I lacrosse team in Georgia showed their supremacy with a big win. With this kind of result, the Bears are looking ready to challenge the nation’s best, starting on Feb. 12.
The Bears had five different players that had more than one goal. However, the most valuable player of the match was freshman John Avent. The attacker from Newnan picked up four points on the day with a goal and three assists. He also opened the scoring at the 8:11 mark of the first quarter, ensuring that Mercer never trailed on the day.
Attackers Colton Mattei and Alex Baird each had two goals along with a bevy of shots. A promising sign for the Bears was the explosive midfield play from freshmen Joey Ugast, Sam Grayson and Taylor Coughlin. Each added two goals to the sixteen goal rout of the in-state rivals.
With the team attacking well, there was no question that they could score the goals to compete against Ohio State and Duke this season. However, the defense needed to step up to defend attacks. They only allowed two goals, including shutting the Yellow Jackets down in the first and third quarters. The defense pitched a shutout until the three minute mark of the second quarter. Mercer answered with a 5-0 run in the third.
Regardless, the Bears forced 18 turnovers and they only allowed 23 shots on the day, failing in comparison to the high-octane offense that Avent led. The Bears combined for a total of 56 shots on the day. While this number seems to be great news, it is troubling that the Bears were only able to score every 3.5 shots. There is no guarantee that they will have another 56 opportunities against the nation’s top defenses.
While it is great news that the 7-0 start was from seven different players, there is no guarantee that all seven will see the same success in every game. It is good news that enough players on the field do have an eye for the goal.
Dillon Volk, the freshman goalkeeper from Port Charlotte, Fla., received the win as he accounted for eight saves. He will share time with the other goalies but his play against Georgia Tech might have earned him more playing time.
The game against Suwanee was canceled due to a multitude of players on the Suwanee team having the flu.
Mercer opens the season against Ohio State on the road, a Big Ten team that actually plays an exhibition with Duke beforehand and has a game two days prior against Detroit. Ohio State is a tough, experienced team that looks to perform well this season. Sophomore attacker Logan Schuss was an honorable mention All-American last year with 31 goals and 25 assists. The stout Mercer defense will be looked toward as they try to slow down the Buckeyes’ fervent attack, as Jeff Tundo had a silent 20 goals and 15 assists behind the explosive play of Schuss.
On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the Bears play their first-ever home game as a Division I team, welcoming VMI. The Keydets will prep for that game with a trip to Navy on the Saturday before. While VMI did go a dismal 2-13 last year, they gained valuable experience behind their star junior attacker Colin Bosse (21 goals) and Kelly McMinn, a goalie who saves 50 percent of what is thrown at him.
A solid and young base will help Mercer in the years to come, both with playing and recruiting. This inaugural season features a schedule with only four homes games and nine games on the road.