(Photo Courtesy of Mercer Athletics)
The Mercer Bears were one of the most improved teams in 2020. They went from being one of worst teams in the country last season with a 1-12 record, their worst since going 1-13 in their second season as a program (2013), to starting with a 6-1 record, which is good for their best start in program history most wins in a season since 2014 when they went 8-6. And they certainly could have added onto to that in SoCon play, which was supposed to open last Saturday before the season got cancelled.
Mercer’s fiery offense was the main highlight of their squad this season, and rightfully so. The Bears outscored their opponents 115-62 through seven games and averaged 16.4 goals per game. Those numbers are good for top-10 rankings nationally in scoring offense (6), points per game (5), and assists per game (3).
The Bears were also highly efficient, sporting a .369 shooting percentage and putting .583 percent of their shots on goal.
And while most of their offensive success was attributed to the Bears clearing the ball an impressive .883 percent of the time, out ground balling their opponents, and getting more possessions due to Ashton Wood winning almost 70 percent of his draws at the faceoff dot, a majority of their offense ran through one man: sophomore Sean Goldsmith.
The 6-foot-4, 124-pound Jamestown, N.C. native ended the shortened season as the nation’s leading scorer with 42 points (34G/8A). Goldsmith is a pure goal scorer. Plain and simple, accounting for 29 percent of the Bears’ goals this season.
And while Goldsmith was the face of this offense, it wasn’t always all him. The supporting cast of Michael Quinn (12G/12), Will McCarty (12G/10A), Carl Klepper (11G/4A), and others contributed plenty to the Bears’ offense this past season, as well.
The Bears’ defense saw much improvement from 2019 to 2020, as well, allowing an average of 8.17 goals per game, which is good for the fourth-best scoring offense in the nation. And if freshman goalie Colin Kelley had the chance to be able keep up the same pace for the rest of the season, which got cancelled, who knows how well this unit would have be viewed by the end of April.
The first half of the season was very good to the Bears, but their toughest challenges were ahead of them as they were getting ready to enter SoCon play, which had not yielded positive results for the Bears in the past. Mercer hasn’t won more than two in-conference games since 2016 and has only made the postseason once in program history (2015).
If the Bears had the rest of the season and were able to carry that energy they had garnered in the first half of the season into conference play, who knows how they would have fired.
If they would have achieved even similar success in conference play as they had against non-conference opponents in 2020, that would be a huge plus for a program that has seemed to be on the cusps of becoming a consistent SoCon tournament team for many years but never seemed to get over the hump.
Ultimately, we will never get to see what was fully in store for Mercer in 2020. But having already reached the most wins in program history this season and having a player receive national attention, 2020 looked be shaping up to be a historic year for the Bears. Now they must set their sights on 2021, just as every program in the country must do.