Emileigh Mercer wonders if she always has been a goalie at heart. But her record-setting career as the goaltender for the Bowdoin might never have happened were it not for her two brothers -- and a lucky choice at her local post office.

“My brothers would only let me play ice hockey with them if I agreed to get in goal,” Mercer said 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 Division III national championships and her career won-lost record of 39-1 remains the best winning percentage for any goalie in 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 said. “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 as an athlete and a person.”

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 hardcore.
-- Former Bowdoin GK Emileigh Mercer

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 said. “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 hardcore.”

The Polar Bears were among the favorites to return to the national final in 2008, but suffered an unexpected loss on Halloween night to Tufts, Mercer’s only career loss in goal. Less than a month later, Bowdoin advanced to its second consecutive national championship game, only to find those same Tufts Jumbos standing between them and a second consecutive title.

In 30-degree weather, the two teams played one of the most exciting championship games in history, with Bowdoin winning its second championship 3-2 in double overtime.

“The entire game was a back-and-forth, nerve-wracking mess until [teammate] Lindsay McNamara’s amazing overtime goal,” Mercer said. “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.”

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 on a number of public health research projects and that triggered my passion for affordable and accessible healthcare solutions,” Mercer said. “I want to move on from research and pursue a joint MBA/MPH degree that will allow me to work in healthcare policy and other arenas where I can influence how we provide healthcare 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 passed away 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, Wellesley College first-year 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 athletic-academic balance is stressed, just like Bowdoin,” Mercer said.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Champion Magazine.  Click here to visit the Champion Magazine website.

Photos courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics.

CAREER GOALIE WINNING PERCENTAGE (ALL DIVISIONS)
Name, Team Years Record Pct.
Emileigh Mercer, Bowdoin (Division III) 2005-08 39-1 .975
Kathy Fosina, Old Dominion (Division I) 1988-91 99-5-1 .948
Ashley Graves, Trinity (Conn.) (Division III) 1991-92 30-2 .938
Alicia Grater, Maryland (Division I) 2006-09 44-3 .936
Trisha Leitzel, Bloomsburg (Division 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, Cortland State 1992-94 4,785 38 0.56