Mercer’s soccer teams set the bar high for the school’s other teams to reach in the first year in the Southern Conference last fall. Both soccer teams are looking for more success this season.
Tony Economopoulos’ women’s team won the school’s first Southern Conference tournament title last year and reached the NCAA tournament. The Bears have a lot of new faces, but their head coach said the goals remain the same.
He points to his senior leaders, including Maggie Cropp and Sarah Daane, as keys, along with a strong freshman class.
“I feel very confident that we can jell, and so far the culture has been very positive,” Economopoulos said Monday. “It will be a tough task for them, but there is no better way than to play and get experience.”
Brad Ruzzo’s men’s team won the school’s first regular-season Southern Conference championship but lost to Furman in the tournament championship game.
The Bears have plenty of returners from last year’s team, including juniors Jordan Duru and Ian Antley.
“It’s always a work in progress,” Ruzzo said. “Every year is a new team, a new personality, a new culture. Certainly, we have gotten some great building blocks and foundation to date. We’re excited for the season. It looks good for us.”
The women’s team opens its season Friday at Tulsa, while the men open Aug. 28 at South Carolina.
A GOOD MIX
The Mercer volleyball team is coming off an 11-20 season and opens this season Aug. 28 at Southern Miss. Head coach Damian Elder likes his mix of young players and leaders, including Hannah Noon and Tori Penrod.
“I reflect not only season to season, but almost every day,” Elder said. “I think the mix is trying to fix some of the things I did wrong last year and having a different group of student-athletes to put on the court that are in some positions a little more dynamic and in some positions a little more experienced and a group of freshman that I feel really strong about, maybe not differently than the groups before. But I think we have a really neat mix of experience and freshmen who have been ready in practice every day to help us get better.”
TWO DIFFERENT TEAMS
Ryan Bailey has two different kinds of teams to work with this year as Mercer’s cross country head coach.
The women’s team has its top seven returners, led by All-Southern Conference pick Kami Orrender, back from last year, while the men’s team lost its top five runners from last year’s team and is led by Mark Brannen and Nicholas Ashmead, both sophomores,
“Both of them have made great strides, and they made great strides in the spring season,” Bailey said of Brannen and Ashmead. “They came back in really good, tip, top shape. On the women’s side, it’s exactly the opposite story to the men. We didn’t lose any of our top seven from last year. They’re all returning.”
The seventh annual Mercer Basketball Coach Clinic, featuring Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman and UAB head coach Jerod Haase, has been set for Oct. 4 at Hawkins Arena.
Haase led the Blazers to an NCAA tournament upset victory over No. 3 seed Iowa State in March for the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 2005.