Third-year head coach Tony Economopoulos leads a veteran squad into their first season of SoCon play and has built a 2014 slate that features nine home games and road tilts against Southeastern Conference powers Vanderbilt and Georgia.
“Our 2014 schedule is a very balanced and competitive mix of games that should definitely challenge our squad this year,” Economopoulos said. “With nine seniors on our team, I feel like we are up to the challenge this schedule presents including the tough road games against Vanderbilt and Georgia. I think the non-conference portion of our schedule should help us as we enter our first year in the Southern Conference and if we stay healthy I feel like we have a great chance at having a very successful first season in the SoCon.”
The Bears look primed for a breakout debut season in the SoCon as they return eight starters, including A-Sun All-Conference performers Lauren Gassie and Washida Blackman, back from last year’s squad that went 10-8-3 overall.
Mercer begins its 2014 campaign with a very challenging opening weekend with road games at Vanderbilt on Aug. 22 and Western Kentucky on Aug. 24. The Bears haven’t played Vanderbilt since 2009, but are looking for their second win over an SEC program in as many seasons after downing Alabama on the road 2-1 in 2013.
Mercer opens up the home portion of its 2014 season with matches against Gardner-Webb on Aug. 29 and Alabama A&M on Aug. 31.
The Bears then travel to take on in-state rival Georgia Southern on Sept. 5 before welcoming American Athletic Conference member Houston to Macon on Sept. 7. Mercer has won four-straight contests over the Eagles and takes on Houston for just the first time in program history.
Things don’t get any easier for Mercer from there as it travels to Georgia on Sept. 12 before hosting Presbyterian on Sept. 14. Georgia finished last season ranked No. 48 in the ratings percentage index (RPI) with an overall record of 12-7-1 while Presbyterian went 9-9 last season to set a school record for most Division I wins in a single-season.
Following a road contest at in-state foe Georgia State on Sept. 19 and a home game against Division II member USC-Aiken on Sept. 21, Mercer begins Southern Conference play with a pair of home tilts against UNC-Greensboro on Sept. 26 and Virginia Military Institute on Sept. 28. UNC-Greensboro finished third in the SoCon last season with a 10-6-4 overall record and a No. 96 RPI.
Mercer then departs for its first conference weekend on the road when it takes on Wofford on Oct. 3 and defending SoCon champion Furman on Oct. 5. Furman went 17-4-2 overall and finished with an RPI of 46 before falling to South Carolina in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The Bears then return home for their final two contests in Macon in 2014 when they host fellow former Atlantic Sun Conference member East Tennessee State on Oct. 10 and Western Carolina on Oct. 12. Mercer defeated ETSU on the road 3-2, but also lost to Western Carolina at home 2-0 last season.
Mercer concludes its 2014 regular season schedule with road games at The Citadel on Oct. 17, Chattanooga on Oct. 24 and Samford on Oct. 26.
The first and second rounds of the 2014 SoCon Championship will be hosted by higher seeds while semifinals and finals will be played in Cullowhee, N.C. on the campus of Western Carolina on November 7 and 9, respectively.