Our next 2017 Scouting Report is on 2016's 54th ranked RPI team, the Mercer Bears!
(Check out all our 2017 Scouting Reports and my 'The Good, The Bad, & the Future' posts here .)
Profile: Georgia’s D1 team has made small steps since beginning play back in 2011 and winning one game in their first two seasons. BOSS Kyle Hannan has done a good job trying to make the Bears a contender in the SoCon in his four years at the program, including a 7-7 campaign in 2014, their best season to date. After back-to-back conference tournament appearances (Atlantic Sun in 2014, SoCon in 2015), the Bears fell just short of reaching the SoCon Tournament in 2016.
2016 Record: 5-8 overall and 3-4 in SoCon play. It’s their second straight 5-8 record, but this time, they didn’t make the SoCon Tournament, probably thanks in part to the addition of Air Force this year. All five of their wins came against teams that had two or three wins as well as double digit losses. They lost in overtime to Robert Morris, and also lost to Bellarmine by four and Air Force by two in conference play.
Roster: The Bears will lose seven players to graduation, including leading goal and point scorer Chris Baxa. The Owings, Maryland attackman had 22 goals and was tied for the team lead in points with 24, a mark also reached by freshman midfielder Lucas Wittenberg. Wittenberg was named to the All-SoCon Freshman team. They also lose starting goaltender Mike Nugent, who joined Baxa on the All-SoCon second team.
But the Bears have a good crop of young guns waiting to contribute. Look for rising senior attackman Chris Rahill (an Archbishop Wood grad) and rising junior middie Matt Quinn to take control of the offense along with Wittenberg. The Bears also have a duo of rising sophomore FOGOs in Will Beecham and Kiel Brennan. Beecham took the majority of the faceoffs last season and led the team with 48 ground balls. On defense, Mercer has good crop of defensive midfielders in Patrick de Hueck and Walker Ensor, along with defenseman Colin Massa. de Hueck and Massa recorded double digit caused turnover numbers with the Bears last season. And in goal, only rising sophomore Tyler Boardo was the only other goalie to be in the crease last season. He looks to be the leading candidate entering 2017, with William Trieschman and Brian Bedell also vying for that spot.
Conference: With newcomer Air Force winning the conference tournament in their first season in the SoCon, it will be a hard task for the Bears to make their first NCAA Tournament with an AQ. Along with Air Force, Richmond has been very strong since starting their program up. High Point had a lot of upside this season, and should also make noise. Bellarmine, Furman, and Jacksonville are all in the same boat as Mercer, but Jacksonville could possibly break away from that group sooner than later. VMI is trash.
What They’re Doing This Summer: Go Mercer!
Go Mercer!— Mercer Mens Lacrosse (@MercerLacrosse) June 30, 2016
But outside of their mainly dormant lax account, Toby got the Pokémon Go fever!
Also, BOSS Hannan is currently an assistant coach with the Atlanta Blaze of the MLL.
2017 Outlook: If Mercer can get one more conference win this season and get to 4-3, I think they can get to SoCon Tournament. I don’t see Air Force or Richmond as wins just yet. I think Mercer can hang in there with High Point, and I definitely think they can get wins over Bellarmine, Jacksonville, Furman, and of course VMI. But I see Jacksonville as a threat in the next couple of years.
Non-Sequitor: Mercer is the oldest private institution in the state of Georgia, being established back in 1833. Outside of former NBA head coach Sam Mitchell, Mercer’s most famous alum is none other than Nancy Grace.