» 5/2/12 - COMMENTARY: The truth, in media, can hurt
For subscription information, click here.
» 5/13/13 - Fleet-footed, furry and funny
» 5/13/13 - The long road home
» 5/13/13 - A match made on the links
This article appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Champion magazine.
By Jim Wright
Emileigh Mercer wonders if she always has been a goalie at heart. But her record-setting career as the goaltender for the Bowdoin field hockey team might never have happened were it not for her two brothers … and a lucky choice at her local post office.
“My brothers would let me play ice hockey with them only if I agreed to get in goal,” says Mercer of her childhood playing days in Newton, Mass. “I started out as a sweeper for my sixth-grade field hockey team, but as soon as the coach learned I was already a goalie in ice hockey, they nominated me to put on the pads.”
In both her junior and senior years at Bowdoin, Mercer helped her team win back-to-back Division III national championships, and her career won-lost record of 39-1 remains the best winning percentage for any goalie for any division in NCAA field hockey history.
How did a mailbox play a role in her college choice?
“I really loved both Bowdoin and Middlebury College, so I filled out both college applications and took both to the post office,” Mercer says. “I closed my eyes and dropped just one of the envelopes in the mailbox and it was the Bowdoin application. Deep down, I think I knew that the tight-knit, supportive and joyful Bowdoin community would be the best place to grow academically and athletically.”
Emileigh Mercer of Bowdoin makes a kick save against Middlebury in the 2007 Division III title game. Drew Hallowell / NCAA Photos
Mercer saw limited playing time as a freshman and sophomore at Bowdoin, although the Polar Bears advanced to the national semifinals both years. As the starting goalie in 2007, Mercer and her teammates had a magical run to their first NCAA field hockey title, finishing the season undefeated at 20-0.
“Determination, dominance and power is how I would describe that team,” Mercer says. “I don’t think I saw a single shot until about five games into the season. My teammates put their bodies on the line to stop goals and ended up with split lips and cracked chins … and they didn’t care! They flaunted it. It was so hard-core.”
The Polar Bears were among the favorites to return to the national finals in 2008 but suffered an unexpected loss on Halloween night to Tufts, Mercer’s only career loss in goal. Less than a month later, the Polar Bears advanced to their second consecutive championship game, only to find those same Tufts Jumbos standing between them and a repeat crown.
In 30-degree weather, the two teams played one of the most exciting championship games in history, with Bowdoin winning, 3-2, in double overtime. “The entire game was a back-and-forth, nerve-racking mess until (teammate) Lindsay McNamara’s amazing overtime goal,” Mercer says. “Still, nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than remembering running down the field and jumping on the pile at the end of that game.”
CAREER GOALIE WINNING PERCENTAGE (ALL DIVISIONS)
Name, Team (Division) Years Record Pct.
Emileigh Mercer, Bowdoin (III) 2005-08 39-1 .975
Kathy Fosina, Old Dominion (I) 1988-91 99-5-1 .948
Ashley Graves, Trinity (CT) (III) 1991-92 30-2 .938
Alicia Grater, Maryland (I) 2006-09 44-3 .936
Trisha Leitzel, Bloomsburg (II) 1999-02 70-6 .921
CAREER GOALS-AGAINST AVERAGE (DIVISION III)
Name, Team Years Minutes Goals GAA
Jeanne Bizzoco, TCNJ 1994-95 2,586 10 0.27
Denise Brown, TCNJ 1987-90 n/a n/a 0.27
Stephanie Lowe, Mary Washington 1992-95 n/a n/a 0.39
Emileigh Mercer, Bowdoin 2005-08 2,333 17 0.51
Amie Jones, SUNY Cortland 1992-94 4,785 38 0.56
Although her greatest success was in field hockey, Mercer also played 40 games in goal for the Bowdoin ice hockey team and still is among the top 10 Polar Bear goalies in both career save percentage and goals-against average.
Today, Mercer works as a clinical research coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “At Bowdoin, I worked with incredible professors on a few public health research projects and that prompted my passion for affordable and accessible health care solutions,” Mercer says. “I want to move on from research and pursue a joint MBA/MPH degree that will allow me to work in health care policy and other arenas where I can influence how we provide health care to our country’s citizens.”
Mercer remains closely connected to the Bowdoin community, including two fundraising events involving former teammates. One is a scholarship program in memory of field hockey teammate Taryn King, who died in 2006. Last fall, an ice hockey teammate, Kristen Cameron, was paralyzed from the neck down by an uninsured drunk driver, so a benefit was organized to raise money for her care.
This fall, first-year Wellesley head coach and former Bowdoin field hockey teammate Julia King asked Mercer to join her as goaltender coach. “It is an exciting opportunity for me because Wellesley is a campus where the idea of a balanced student-athlete is stressed, just like at Bowdoin,” Mercer says.