#6 Field Hockey Outlasts #4 Stonehill in Semifinals to Advance to NCAA Championship Game
Score: #6 Merrimack 1; #4 Stonehill 0
Records: #6 Merrimack (16-5); #4 Stonehill (14-7)
Location: Steph Petit Stadium | Bloomsburg, Pa.
How It Happened:
From the first whistle, the Warriors were on a mission to prove they were the better team despite the rankings and the Northeast-10 Conference title that Stonehill brought home this year. The first half would go by scoreless, but Merrimack dominated the game through the opening 35 minutes. The ball seemed to rarely leave Stonehill’s end of the field as the Warriors would outshoot the Skyhawks 9-4 in the first to go along with 8-2 margin in penalty corners, favoring the Warriors. Merrimack was unable to find the back of the net as Sara Freedman would make 5 stops in the first half, including a pair on dangerous close-range attempts from the Warriors that forced Freedman out of her net. The keeper kept the game knotted at 0 heading to halftime despite the Warriors’ offensive onslaught.
The second half would open in similar fashion to the first as Merrimack controlled possession and pressed the issue, giving Stonehill little room to maneuver on both offense and defense. The Warriors did not relent in this pressure and it eventually paid off as junior Nicole Bradley (Essex, Mass.) would net her third goal on the season, and potentially the biggest of her career, to give Merrimack the only goal they would need. The play formulated from a penalty corner sent in by freshman Mary McNeil (Canton, Mass.), delivering the ball to sophomore Taylor Simpson (York, Maine), who found Bradley just inside the box for the shoot-and-score.
Realizing their season was hanging in the balance, Stonehill would respond to Merrimack’s goal with their own offensive pressure, not previously seen in this contest. Stonehill’s Erika Kelly, the all-time leading scorer in NE-10 history, began to show how she earned that distinction with some fantastic individual efforts to try and put her team on the board. She would fire off three hard and high shots in the final 15 minutes of the game, including one that hit the crossbar, but senior goalkeeper Madison Davis (San Jose, Calif.) continued with the strong play she has displayed all year and made some fantastic stops on Kelly’s attempts to lead her squad to the NCAA Finals.
Inside The Numbers:
After outshooting Stonehill in the first half, the Skyhawks would return the favor with an 8-5 margin in the second half. Total shots in the game were 14-12 in favor of Merrimack, as well as 12-7 on penalty corners, also favoring Merrimack. Davis made a total of 7 saves in the game, including five in the second half, to post her fifth shutout of the season. In the two previous games these teams met this season, the squads would score a total of 13 goals, with eight coming from Merrimack and five from Stonehill. This game would require but one. This is the sixth time in school history a Merrimack Division II program has advanced to their respective sport’s national championship. Merrimack’s record in those championships is 2-4. The Warriors advance to the NCAA Finals where they will play East Stroudsburg (PA). The championship game is set for Sunday at 1:30 p.m.