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Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Preview: Mercer

The NCAA D1 season is now underway! During the first couple of weeks of lacrosse season we’ll be finishing up the Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Previews! Like last year, we are going through all of the D1 men’s teams for 2014 (there are 67 this year!) and we are now moving on to the Mercer Bears, located in Macon, GA.

Mercer finished 4-8 last year, and three of their wins were against NCAA D1 teams (the first win was against D2 Rollins). Mercer got trounced by Duke, but then lost 9-8 in OT to #17 Towson, proving they could compete with Top 20 teams. Tight wins over Wagner and St. Joseph’s balanced tight losses to Marquette, Manhattan, and High Point. Losses to Air Force and Jacksonville pushed Mercer below .500 for the year.

For 2014, Mercer takes on a slightly easier schedule, even though they dropped their D2 game. They open with BU, and follow that up with games against Michigan, Detroit, and Richmond. All winnable games. The Bears then face UMBC, VMI, High Point, Lafayette, Air Force, Jacksonville, Furman, and Bellarmine. UMBC, Bellarmine, and Air Force should be their toughest games, but all of their match ups are conceivably winnable. Now that we are in Kyle Hannan’s second year as head coach, expectations are rising. Can Mercer deliver?

Mercer had one Senior on the team last year, and he played in zero games. This means the Bears return a lot of talent! The only player no longer on the roster is Jay Debole, who played in 8 games. Chris Baxa, Zach Ward, Cole Branch, Harry Baker, Tim Geran, Eoin Collins, John Avent, Keoni Rausch, and Justin Evans are all back. Mercer also has six freshman attackmen on their roster, and six freshman middies. Evans did well at the face off mark last year, winning over 50%. There could be some competition at this spot though as others saw success as well.

With 9 returning guys, and some young talent, Mercer is definitely stepping it up in terms of depth. Defensively, they’ve done much the same. Mercer has 8 freshman poles on the roster, and guys like Mike Emerson and Matt Lucas will need to lead the way. Matt Campbell and John Davidson could be fighting with younger guys for playing time. There is not a lot of experience here, but with so many young players on the roster, competition should be fierce and improvements should be seen.

Mike Nugent played all but 7 minutes in goal last year and returns as a sophomore to lead the defense. If new players do make their way into the rotation Nugent’s role will be even more important as he will need to take control of these young players. That can be a tall order for a sophomore, but Nugent had a solid 2013, so it’s not out of the question by any means.

Mercer should benefit from their relatively weak strength of schedule. If they can win some games, play together, and gain some confidence, they can make a run at the Atlantic Sun title. There is lots of returning talent in Macon, GA and a desire to win. I like Coach Hannan and Mercer to go .500 or better this year!

For more NCAA D1 Lacrosse coverage, check out Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview: Air ForceAlbanyArmyBellarmineBinghamtonBostonBrownBryantBucknellCanisius,
Colgate,  CornellDartmouthDelawareDetroitDrexelDukeFairfieldFurman,
GeorgetownHartfordHarvardHigh PointHobartHofstraHoly CrossJacksonvilleJohns HopkinsLafayetteLehighLoyolaManhattanMaristMarquetteMaryland, and Massachusetts.