Led By Fiery Offense, Mercer Could Surprise in 2021

(Photo Courtesy of Mercer Athletics)

The Mercer Bears haven’t had too much to cheer about in their 10-year existence as a program. Sure, they have had some memorable wins and made the SoCon Tournament during the league’s first season of play in 2015. But other than that, things have been pretty ho hum in Macon. And the 2019 season was one of their lowest points in program history, going 1-12 overall and being one of the worst teams in the nation.

But during the shortened 2020 season, the Bears made a massive turnaround and were one of the most improved teams in college lacrosse. They ended the shortened season 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 their improvement wasn’t just seen in the win column. 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). They also boasted a .369 shooting percentage and putting .583 percent of their shots on goal, and having a nearly 90% success rate in the clearing game.

While Mercer clearly turned things around in the shortened 2020 season, there are some major questions surrounding this squad heading into the upcoming spring, and the biggest one concerns the heading coaching situation. Chad Surman will be serving as the head coach on an interim basis following Kyle Hannan’s resignation. How will that transition be? Can Surman keep that energy going from last season?

Looking beyond those questions and purely at the talent this team brings back, there is a certain level of promise that hasn’t been seen at Mercer in years. That alone should provide some optimism that the Bears can start the 2021 season with a similar energy they left 2020 with, and possibly finish the season just as strong.

Last season, Ashton Wood gave this fiery offense a ton of possessions to work with, winning nearly 70% of his draws. And while having Woods back is a huge plus, what’s even bigger is getting back junior attackman 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. 

Goldsmith is the face if this Bears offense and everything runs through him and that should be the case again this spring. However, Mercer also brings back a number of heavy contributors that should see their roles increase. Michael Quinn (12G/12A) and Will McCarty (12G/10A) will both be back for a fifth season, and and Carl Klepper (11G/4A) looks to continue his play after a stellar freshman campaign.

Beyond their high flying offense and success at the faceoff dot, the Mercer defense also saw a great deal of improvement last season, allowing 8.17 goals per game and being ranked as the fourth-best scoring defense in DI, and should be a pretty solid unit once again in 2021. And that statement can certainly become reality with Colin Kelley manning the cage. As a freshman last season, he took over the stating job after the first game of the season and never looked back, posting a 48% save percentage.

The Bears will also return a very young defensive core from last season, as sophomores Wesley Chairs (7GB/9CT) and Drew Mayts (15GB/4CT) and junior Danny Walsh (11GB/6CT) will be back and looking to lead the way on the back end after churning out a successful campaign during the shortened 2020 season. Additionally, the Bears return a number of role players on the back end who should also be able to step up and make significant impacts when needed.

And if this exact unit was able to hold a top-10 North Carolina Tar Heel squad that featured one of the best offenses in the nation to their lowest scoring output of the season, they should be able to hold their own in the SoCon.

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