Going into only their second season as a team, the Mercer men’s lacrosse team looks to improve upon an inaugural 1-12 season. In their first season, the young squad comprised of mostly freshman at the time played teams that have won national championships in lacrosse in the past. This year, the Bears look to take their Division I playing experience from last year into their season this year and hopefully achieve the program’s first winning season.
Although the inaugural season was not what the Lacrosse team had hoped, there were some bright spots. Now sophomore Cole Branch, scored a tremendous 27 goals and accumulated four assists during the season, leading his team as well as ranking nationally in multiple goal scoring and shooting categories. Another significant goal scorer for the Bears was John Avent who amassed 12 goals.
Avent and Branch look forward to helping their team once more this season, and with the addition of some new talent he thinks the team will be a successful one. “We have had a lot of new talent come in this year, and every one of our returners has improved since last season. Our chemistry is getting better every day and I cannot wait to see how we match up to our opponents this year. Last year, I was our leading scorer, but I only had four assists all season. My personal goal for this year is to become more of a playmaker than a finisher,” said Branch. Branch is looking to spread the wealth this year and one of the teammates he is looking to help out is a newcomer.
One of the most highly touted recruits joining the Bears this year is Zack Ward. Ward transferred to Mercer in the fall from Salisbury University, the Division III National Champions. The sophomore looks to add another option in the attack, and the combination of him and Cole Branch should prove to be a deadly one. Ward looks to use his experience to better his new squad.
“I believe that coming from a successful program is definitely a benefit to our program’s future success. I look to use my experience to adjust to my new team and help in any way I can,” said Ward. Zack Ward should be an instant boost to the success of the lacrosse program.
Another interesting statistic from a year ago states: goalkeeper Justin Bateman started and played 12 of the 13 matches for the lacrosse team amassing 138 saves with a 44.1% save rate.
Maturity and age was an issue for the Bears last year, but Head Coach Jason Childs is looking to take his team’s youth and make it something positive going into his second season at the helm of the team. “I think one of the things that hurt us last year was our youth,” said Coach Childs. “I want that to be something to help us this year.”
Sophomore captain Sam Grayson was an integral part of the team’s midfield last year, and he’s looking to take that experience into this next season in order to help better the team and lead his squad towards success. Grayson pointed out some of the problems from last year’s squad and what they need to fix going into this next season.
“I think the main thing we need to improve on this season is coming together as a team. Last year, we were mostly all individuals playing our own game on the field. It was more of an “I” sort of thing as opposed to a “we.” This year, we’ve become a family and we are focusing on putting our talents together to take us to the next level. The whole attitude of the team has changed to a very positive outlook and I believe that is going to help us grow as a team,” Grayson said.
The lacrosse team has all the right parts in order to push the team to the next level. It’s just a matter of them fitting the pieces together, and proving themselves on the playing field versus top level opponents. Their season begins at home against a tough Ohio State squad on Feb. 11.