Playing down a division happens from time to time, but having two Division II squads on the schedule is an icky thing for a Division I program.
You want to know how to get two Division II games on the regular season schedule of a Division I team? The recipe is pretty straightforward, actually:
- Play as an independent in a non-traditional area of the country, stuck in a spot with very few local teams to play and all other takers -- in the context of barnstorming -- are likely located in places that would stretch a travel budget; and
- Go through a coaching change in mid-July, having a schedule half complete at the time, and not hiring a new head coach until early August.
That's exactly the situation that the Bears had to deal with, and the result is two regular season games against two Division II: Rollins and Lees-McRea. This is not an ideal situation for a Mercer program that is breaking in a brand-new facility and trying to work its way out of the Division I basement, but it's the situation that the Bears need to deal with.
Let's tear this apart.
Victory Orange Slices for Everyone?
February 9: Rollins; March 2: Lees-McRae; March 9: @ Wagner; March 12: Marquette; March 20: @ Manhattan; March 31: High Point; April 14: @ VMI
The Division II games aside, I reckon that if Mercer is going to grab -- at least -- its second Division I win in the program's short history, it'll come out of this group. There really isn't a "best bet" among the bunch, although a victory over the Seahawks would run the Bears' win streak against Wagner to two and I really don't have anything more to add to that statement.
The two games against first-year Division I programs -- Marquette and High Point -- are opportunities for Mercer, but given how the Golden Eagles approached and performed in the fall and the virtual unknown that the Panthers will bring to the table come the spring, neither are automatic slam dunks for a program that is (1) conforming to a new head coach, and (2) still reeling from taking shots to the face over the last two seasons. Losing either game would be disappointing for Mercer -- "But we were here first!" -- but it isn't the end of the world (and if it is, shoot, that came out of nowhere).
And, of course, Mercer can take itself out of the Reverse Survivor title race with late games against Manhattan -- which hasn't exactly distinguished itself recently and is under the direction of a new head coach -- and VMI. These are real lacrosse games, people; feel the excitement pulsing through your bones!
Only Four Division I Games at Home
March 12: Marquette; March 31: High Point; April 6: Air Force; April 27: Jacksonville
Mercer's new facility -- both in terms of the field house and actual complex -- is among the nicest in the country. You'd think that with a complex like the Bears have that they'd want to really show it off. Unfortunately, Mercer isn't going to be able to do that in 2013 with only four teams -- none with an exceptionally high profile -- coming through Macon to take on the Bears. That's kind of sad in a lot of ways, both for Mercer and for southern lacrosse in general. If you're looking to build a following and create some buzz, a big opponent is huge for local support and momentum. Alas, with the delay that went into putting together Mercer's 2013 slate, it appears as if that opportunity was closed off early.