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According to Mercer’s emergency alert system, the Bibb Sheriff’s Office reported an armed robbery in Tatnall Square Park at approximately 12:49 P.M. on Jan. 14. The suspect is a black male estimated to be between 5’8 and 5’10. He was last seen wearing an orange and black jacket and running towards Alexander II elementary school. The incident did not involve anyone related with Mercer University. The park is still open to visitors. No further information is known at this time.
On Jan. 10, Mercer Police reported that six shots were fired at students in Mercer Village. The shooter escaped, running towards Linden Ave. Nobody was injured, according to an email from Mercer Police. In an email, President Underwood referred to the shooting as a "frightening and dangerous incident." He also offered a $10,000 reward in the case. The shots were said to have been fired around 10 p.m., but the first Mercer University alert didn't go out until 10:45 p.m. For the full, updated article, click here. [Updated 1/11/2018 at 2:42 p.m.]
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Volleyball The past few weeks have not been pleasant for the volleyball team who has experienced a six game losing streak since early October. The Bears dropped their last game against Furman in four sets (23-25, 25-23, 13-25, 15-25). Coach Derek Schroeder said the team came out strong in the beginning but was unable to maintain dominance throughout the rest of the match. "We came out and really competed tonight early," Schroeder said. "We made some plans to win in set two. I'm disappointed we couldn't maintain it through sets three and four." The last win for the team was against Savannah State on Oct. 4, which may spell some fortunate news for ending this unfortunate slide since Savannah State will be their next match Oct. 25. Men’s Soccer This season has been nothing but hard fought battles for the Men’s team, as evidenced by their 5-7-4 overall record. Their last game against East Tennessee State University ended with a loss in overtime. At this point, the Men’s team is 3-4-2 in conference play. With the Southern Conference Championships coming up next month, they have just one more opportunity to bolster their conference record in preparation. Women’s Soccer It’s been a difficult past two weeks for the Women’s soccer team. Their promising season was cut short by a streak of losses that now puts their record at 9-9-1. The last five games in the season have either ended in a loss or a tie, most recently with Virginia Military Institute which ended 1-0. A VMI goal in the first half was all it took to decide the rest of the game as Mercer was held for the remaining time. "Obviously, this is not the way we wanted to end regular season,”said Head Coach Tony Economopoulos. “We came out with a lot of heart and desire and created many chances. Unfortunately we couldn't score which has been our Achilles heel all season. We left game up to own goal and that was the difference in the match. A great thing about the Southern Conference is every team gets into the tournament. So we look forward to our match Wednesday with The Citadel.” Women’s Tennis For the first time in the program’s history, the team was able to qualify three players for the main draw of the ITA regionals. Marie Mottet defeated the top seeded player in the tournament in three sets, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. At this time, information has not been updated about the outcome of the invitational, but the Cluster site will be updated as more information comes in. Men’s Golf The Men’s golf team managed to place 4th/11 in the APSU Intercollegiate Invitational Oct. 16 - 17. Players Spencer Ball and Stanton Schorr led the team with Ball tying for fourth in the tournament and Schorr tying for 19th. Jerry Ren finished 11th as one of Mercer’s two individual players in the tournament. "We played well overall today as we took fourth place here at Greystone Golf Club," said head coach Kirk Kayden. "We're still looking for the entire group to excel over a full round, but I'm confident that will come as we continue to progress.” Softball Mercer Softball closed out their fall pre-season with a perfect record. This is not a new phenomenon for them, they finished last year’s fall season with a perfect record as well. Not only did the team finish the season with zero losses, their last game was also finished with a perfect game, 10-0. The team usually plays these exhibition games to get the team ready for the spring season during which they play major SoCon competition. The team will also play two games against Georgia this year.
Men’s Soccer The Men’s Soccer team is still struggling to rack up wins as they continue into the season. At the moment, the team’s overall record is 1-3-2, having gotten their first win of the season against the Washington Huskies, Sept. 10. By no means does this indicate the team cannot make a recovery as their season continues. Their last five games have all went into overtime, meaning these matches have all been closely competitive events with setbacks in the last minutes of each game being the deciding factor. As far as the program goes, this latest set of games is the record for most consecutive overtime runs. Will Bagrou was the determining goal against Washington, scoring his fourth goal of the season just 52 seconds into overtime. The men’s team’s match against Presbyterian has been postponed due to weather conditions to an undecided date. The team will play again Sept. 23 against Georgia Southern in Statesboro. Women’s Soccer The women’s team has been faring slightly better than their male counterparts. The team’s record as of now is 4-4. One player of note is goalkeeper Jordyn Ebert who managed to make eight saves in the team’s game against Georgia State, Sept. 8. In the Bears’ match against Alabama A&M, Sept. 10, they managed to allow the Lady Bulldogs to only get off 7 shots in total and only 3 shots on goal. Mercer in comparison managed to get a season high 34 shots with 19 shots on goal. Head coach Tony Economopoulos said he gives credit to Alabama A&M for managing to make the competition competitive for his team, who despite outshooting the opponents by a factor of five, still had a challenge getting past the Bulldogs’ defenders. “They scored an early goal on us when we had a mental lapse, but for the most part we controlled possession of the match. We had 34 shots in the match. We challenged them at halftime to be more efficient in front of the goal and make better decisions in the final third. Obviously we were able to do that by scoring three goals,” Economopoulos said. If the team manages to keep a defensive edge like the one in their match against Alabama A&M in the future, they will be a worrisome force for SoCon rivals. Men’s Tennis Mercer tennis recently represented at the Southern Intercollegiate Tournament at the University of Georgia, with duo Ruben Vanopen and Nicolas Guillon taking home the doubles championship. The two players went against pairs from Georgia State in both the semi-finals and the championship in order to win the tournament. Head coach Eric Hayes said “it was a heck of an effort” from the two. “This is one of the toughest and oldest tournaments in the country,” he said. “Georgia State is a top 40 team in the nation and defending Sun Belt Champs. For us to beat them twice in one day was a strong effort and I am very proud of our guys.” Women’s Tennis The Women’s tennis team will be travelling to Columbia, South Carolina to play in the South Carolina Fall Invitational Sept. 15-17. Volleyball Mercer Volleyball’s record comes to 4-4 after a 1-2 performance in the Ole Miss Classic, Sept. 7-8. Despite the team not being able to take the Ole Miss Classic, there were some highlights. Paige Alsten was named SoCon Offensive player of the week due to her performance in the tourney. Alsten made 50 kills over the weekend to bring her season total to 122. Alsten leads the league in hitting percentage (.414) and also leads the league with 40 blocks. The final game against the hosting school was hard fought. Mercer and Ole Miss traded sets until the fifth where Ole Miss overtook the Bears 15-11 points. The Bears will be travelling next to Charleston to play in the Charleston Invitational, Sept. 15.
Marianna Bacallao is a senior Journalism and English double-major. She recently completed an internship with Georgia Public Broadcasting, where her work was featured statewide on programs like On Point, Here and Now, On Second Thought and All Things Considered. This is her third year being on The Cluster editorial staff, but her first serving as Editor-in-Chief. She has won the publication four individual awards from the Georgia College Press Association, and is looking forward to the amazing things her staff will do this year!
Caitlyn Patton is a graduate student originally from Durham, North Carolina, currently studying Electrical Engineering. She is enrolled in the School of Engineering's 4+1 Integrated Master of Science Program where she graduated in May 2020 with her Bachelor's degree and will graduate in December 2020 with her Master's degree, both in Electrical Engineering. She has worked two internship rotations with Duke Energy's Transmission division in North Carolina. She currently works as a hardware electrical engineering intern for Collins Aerospace in Sterling, Virginia, within the Simulation Solutions and Services unit. She is an IEEE Power and Energy scholar and is the President for Mercer's chapter for the Society of Women Engineers. She was also selected as the 2019 IEEE Women in Engineering Frances B. Hugle scholarship recipient, an award given to one female engineering student nationally each year. She has worked as a Layout Editor for The Cluster for the past four years and will continue working as a Layout Editor through the end of 2020.
The two games everyone is talking about on Mercer’s schedule are the two least important games of the year, said Coach Bobby Lamb. Mercer will travel to Auburn and Alabama this fall one year after playing against its first FBS opponent—Georgia Tech—since the team’s re-establishment. In the Preseason Coaches Poll, Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country while Auburn is ranked No. 13. “This team knows, ‘Hey, we have two shots on the big stage to prove our worth,’” Lamb said. “However, they’re probably the two least important games on the schedule, because every conference game is going to matter. Every conference game is going to come down to the fourth quarter. Our goal is to win a Southern Conference championship.” The Bears fell short of that goal last season, as they finished 6-5 (4-4 SoCon) and fifth in the conference. Mercer placed offensive lineman Brett Niederreither on the All-SoCon First Team; wide receiver Marquise Irvin, and defensive linemen Isaiah Buehler and Tosin Aguebor on the All-SoCon Second Team; and linebacker Will Coneway, defensive back Eric Jackson and defensive lineman Dorian Kithcart on the All-Freshman Team. Mercer kicks off August 31 at 7 p.m. in Jacksonville. Four key storylines will be worth monitoring this season. REPLACING SENIORS Mercer will have to replace 29 seniors—some of whom were part of the “Day Ones” group—including starting quarterback John Russ; offensive linemen Niederreither, Kirby Southard and Mitch Payne; running back Payton Usher; wide receivers Jordan Marshall and Josh Jones; linebackers Tosin Aguebor, Tyler Ward and Tripp Patterson; defensive backs Zach Jackson, Lendell Arnold and Jeremy James; and punter Tyler Zielenske. “Those guys were here for so long. It’s kind of funny. You see jersey numbers out there, and you think, ‘Oh, this is supposed to be Tosin Aguebor.’ But it’s actually Ahmad Arnold, because they have the same body type,” Lamb said. “Those guys will always be remembered as the guys who not only laid the foundation and started the program, [but] they stuck it out for five years. We had a lot of kids quit over the years, and a lot of kids who moved on and did different things. Those 30 guys really stuck it out and stayed the course. Their leadership will be missed.” QUARTERBACK BATTLE There has only been one starting quarterback since the program was re-established: John Russ. With Russ having graduated, there will be a new sheriff at the helm in the fall, but Lamb has not decided who that quarterback will be yet. “Right now, it’s a three-headed race,” Lamb said. “We’re not close to a decision. We’re going to let this thing play out.” Redshirt freshman Kaelan Riley, redshirt junior Tanner Brumby and true freshman Robert Riddle are the three quarterbacks currently in the mix. Brumby is the only quarterback on the roster who has taken a snap in college. “With [John Russ] not being here, there’s absolutely zero experience on the field,” Lamb said. “[Russ] took every significant snap in four years of his career, which is pretty incredible.” Lamb said because the team only had two quarterbacks on the roster in the spring, Riley and Brumby received a large workload in 15 days of practice. Riley stands at 6-foot-4, 222 pounds and is a “guy that can extend the play and make plays with his feet,” Lamb said. The head coach said he’s been very impressed with Riley’s leadership on the field. “He’s just got to see things happening,” Lamb said. “It’ll slow down for him in a bit the next couple of weeks.” Offensive Coordinator Casey Vogt said Brumby was the outside guy looking in, but the team gave him certain skills to work on over the summer, and he has improved in those areas showing he’s coachable and wants to win. Lamb described Brumby as a player who can run and push the ball down the field. The third and youngest quarterback in the mix, Riddle, received high praise from both Lamb and Vogt. The freshman joins Mercer out of The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “He’s done things out there that’s uncanny for a true freshman,” Lamb said. He said Riddle had a lot thrown at him in the first week of training camp but absorbed it all. Vogt also said Riddle was a bright learner and really sharp. “Coaching at this level now for 16 years, he’s really far along for a true freshman,” Vogt said. Lamb said the decision will be made a week before the team’s first game on Aug. 24. “It’s like they kind of alternate,” Vogt said. “Each one has a better practice than the next one; they just kind of keep going back and forth—all three of them—so that’s really good to see there.” RUNNING BACK DEPTH Injuries and a lack of depth depleted Mercer’s running back corps by the end of last season. With running back Tee Mitchell suspended for the year, Alex Lakes took on the lead role while backed up by Payton Usher and C.J. Kleckley. However, injuries took a toll. “We were moving linebackers over. We were having injury after injury after injury,” Vogt said. “We couldn’t keep them healthy.” But with Mitchell returning this year as well as the additions of Georgia Tech transfer C.J. Leggett and freshmen Tyray Devezin and Rashad Haynes, there’s a full stable of running backs. Lakes returns as the team’s second-leading rusher—449 yards—from last season, behind only quarterback John Russ. Mitchell tallied 1,135 all-purpose yards during the 2015 season before his suspension. Leggett, who began his career at Georgia Tech, played at Mesa Community College last season, tallying 323 yards and two touchdowns. Lamb raved about Devezin, a 225-pound back, saying he was “probably the most impressive freshman out there.” Haynes, who is 186 pounds, was described as the speedster of the corps by Lamb. “We went from basically zero running backs at the end of last year because everyone got hurt to five strong running backs,” Lamb said. “The running back position, it takes a toll injury-wise, but the ability to have [Mitchell] back as a guy who can really stretch the field really gives you some options on offense.” IMPROVING DEFENSIVELY The Bears ranked eighth in the Southern Conference in points allowed per game, 28.9, last season. Only Western Carolina—36.0 points per game—was worse in that department. Lamb attributes some of those defensive struggles to poor starts, specifically noting games against The Citadel and Samford. “We just have to start a little bit better,” Lamb said. “Our depth is going to help us. The ability to play a lot of players helps you in your depth. It’s just kind of a mindset. We have to be ready to go at the opening snap this year.” In order to improve defensively, Mercer will be anchored by a defensive line touting 2016 All-SoCon Second Team member Isaiah Buehler and 2016 All-SoCon Freshman Team member Dorian Kitchart. “We know what those two guys can do,” Lamb said. “They’re playing extremely well right now at a high level.” Six of the team’s ten top tacklers from last season have graduated, leaving an opening for others to produce high numbers. And that’s the feeling surrounding the program entering this season: Players have an opportunity to make an impact. Mitchell, returning to the team after missing a year, said it feels like he came back to an entirely new program. "It’s like everybody actually believes, ‘Hey, this is the year we can get over the hump,’” Mitchell said. “This is the year we can make a push for a championship. This is the year we’re closer together as brothers.’”
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