Mercer senior Eoin Collins scored the game-winning goal with 53 seconds left to lift the men's lacrosse team to a 9-8 triumph over Furman and a share of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship on Saturday night at Mercer University Stadium.
Mercer (7-5, 4-1 A-Sun) completed an unbeaten home schedule with the win while also moving into a tie with High Point atop the league standings. The Bears' win also solidified the team's spot in the upcoming Atlantic Sun tournament.
The Bears can now earn the No. 1 seed and hosting rights for the A-Sun Tournament with a Jacksonville loss at Richmond on Sunday. Furman fell to 1-11 (1-3 A-Sun).
Mercer rallied from down a goal with less than five minutes to play as senior Cole Branch tied the game at 8-8 with 4:42 to play to set the stage for Collins' game winner. Branch finished the evening with three goals on 12 shots while Collins booked two scores on nine shots.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Nugent notched 14 saves in the victory, including two crucial stops in the final 90 seconds. Nugent's overall ledger improved to 7-5 on the season while his Furman counterpart - Jake Gavin - saw his record drop to 0-8.
A physical game saw the teams knotted at 3-3 in the second period before Collins closed the half's scoring with an unassisted score with 3:51 on the clock. Furman scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half to get back in front and eventually took a 6-5 lead into the final quarter.
Senior Zack Ward scored just 48 seconds into the fourth quarter the knot the game at 6-6, and Branch added another tally less than a minute later to give the Bears a 7-6 edge. Furman came right back with two goals by Kenny Meinsen to get ahead once again, but Branch and Collins came up with the timely scores to secure the win.
Furman finished with a slim 47-45 advantage in shots, but Mercer junior Justin Evans won 12 of the game's 21 faceoffs and also the Bears also finished with a 29-25 lead in ground balls.
Mercer's defense forced Furman into 15 turnovers, led by junior Justin Wood's three caused turnovers. Junior Sam Grayson, freshman Colin Massa, junior Matt Lucas and sophomore Clay Rivers all also caused at least one turnover in the winning effort.
Mercer will now finish its season with a non-conference neutral site game against Bellarmine on April 26 in Atlanta. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.