HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s lacrosse team wrapped up a five-game home stand on Saturday with a 10-9 loss to Mercer at Vert Stadium. The loss broke High Point’s six-game winning streak, which was tied for the longest in the nation. The Bears scored the final five goals of the game to push past HPU in the battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Sun standings. Sophomore Tyler Cook notched a hat trick for the Panthers in the loss.
“I felt like we gave up a lot of opportunities there at the end in terms of middle of the field turnovers and Mercer capitalized on them,” said HPU head coach Jon Torpey. “I thought we played well on defense at times and were able to get some good opportunities in transition and had solid goalkeeping but really we just got out of our game there for a while, which hurt us.”
High Point didn’t trail in the game until Mercer’s Cole Brach tallied his second goal of the day with 5:32 left in the game to put the Bears up 10-9. Branch’s goal capped off a five unanswered goal streak to close out the game for Mercer, who outscored HPU 4-0 in the final quarter of play.
HPU rattled off three shots in the final 30 seconds of the contest but were unable to get an equalizer past Mercer goalie Mike Nugent. Nugent picked up the win in the cage for the Bears making 14 saves while redshirt-juniorAustin Geisler made 15 saves in the net for High Point.
The Panthers jumped out to a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game when freshman Cole Carns scored his first collegiate goal. HPU and Mercer then traded goals, which included two from Cook, until the contest was tied 3-3. Graduate student Stevie Kirkup broke the tie with a man-up goal following a Mercer unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 13:24 left in the second quarter to send HPU into the half up 4-3.
Cook notched his third goal after the break and freshman Michael LeClair, the reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Week, followed with another to push the Panthers lead to three, 6-3.
After two Mercer goals, High Point went on another three goal unanswered run including two goals by sophomore Dan Lomas, which gives him a team-leading 22 on the season, and pushed the HPU lead to 9-5. Matt Thistle, who holds the team-lead with 22 assists on the year, assisted both of Lomas’ goals.
Panthers were held scoreless after Lomas’ last goal with 5:25 left in the third quarter. Mercer tacked on a goal with 39 seconds left in the third to pull back within three before outscoring HPU 4-0 in the final quarter of play to pull out the 10-9 victory.
HPU finished the game with a 35-31 advantage in shots but were outshot in the final quarter 11-8. Both teams won 10 faceoffs and Mercer was 17-of-22 on clear attempts while HPU was 14-of-19.
High Point will look to bounce back as the team hits the road for its next game, Saturday, March 29 against Furman in Greenville, S.C. It will be the Palladins, who are 0-8 on the season, first Atlantic Sun Conference matchup.