Mercer women’s lacrosse team looks to continue its success in a new conference
Mercer women's lacrosse program joins the Big South Conference
“When I got here, we were second to last in all of DI. So pretty much as my dad said to me, you can only go up from here,” said Mercer women’s lacrosse head coach Samantha Eustace.
The Mercer women’s lacrosse team has definitely made some big strides since the program began in 2015. Now they are coming off of a three-peat of Southern Conference titles. This season, the team is transitioning to the Big South Conference as the SoCon is no longer sponsoring women’s lacrosse, but the Bears are already acclimated with their new competition.
“We play a lot of the Big South teams on a yearly basis as is. High Point is big competition for us. We’ve actually started our season the last couple years opening up with them. So we’re excited to renew that rivalry,” Eustace said.
The Bears have a vigorous schedule as they face top programs UNC, USC, the University of Oregon and the University of Florida, but this isn’t anything unaccustomed for Coach Eustace and her teams.
“We do try to get a pretty tough non-conference schedule. And there definitely are different coaching philosophies along that. Some coaches want some easier teams. They think that’s going to help with confidence boosting. And I kind of take the opposite approach and think that our team can really benefit by being able to compete against those programs,” Eustace said.
The Bears have all but four starters returning from their 2021 championship team, including SoCon tournament MVP Izzy Cryne.
“I think what’s lucky for us is we have top talent in each section. Our defense, we have a very veteran defense that’s returning. We have some new people coming from our defense unit into midfield. We’re not dominant on just one end of the field. I think we’re pretty well balanced,” Eustace said.
After years of success, expectations are always high for Coach Eustace and the Bears.
“I want us to compete when we’re playing our opening weekend. I want us to compete with UNC and Florida and the tough teams. And I want to win the Big South. And really, for our program to take that next step, we want to try to win that first-round NCAA game.”
The Bears open up their season on Feb. 18 as they host the University of Oregon and then face the University of Southern California on Feb. 20.