Daugherty Propels #7 Warriors Over #5 UML as Warriors Clinch NE-10 Regular-Season Title
Trailing by a goal, 1-0, after the first half, senior forward April Daugherty (Wakefield, R.I.) scored two goals three minutes apart to lift the seventh-ranked Merrimack field hockey team to arguably its biggest victory in recent memory, a 2-1 decision, on the road against No. 5 UMass-Lowell to clinch the regular-season Northeast-10 Conference title on Tuesday night at Cushing Field.
Winning on the road at UMass-Lowell for the first time since the 2005 season, the Warriors improve to 14-2 on the season and clinch the No. 1 seed for the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament with an 8-1 record in league play. The River Hawks, meanwhile, stumble to 13-3 overall and 7-2 within the conference.
By virtue of the victory, the Warriors complete their season-long mission to repeat as NE-10 regular-season champions. By earning that honor, Merrimack will enjoy a bye through the first round of the NE-10 Tournament and will host the semifinals and championship game next weekend (Oct. 27-28).
Last fall, Merrimack ripped off 17 straight victories en route to clinching its first-ever regular-season title in program history on the way to the Warriors’ first-ever trip to the NCAA Final Four.
Daugherty – who will graduate this year as the program’s all-time leader in virtually every offensive scoring category – put the team on her shoulders midway through the second half, tipping in the game-tying goal at 44:09 before netting the game-winner three minutes later.
“Tonight was not only a great team victory, but an even bigger victory for our program,” head coach Anne Rounce said afterward. “Saturday’s regular-season finale is another critical match, but I’m very proud of our girls tonight.”
Heading into the break down by a score thanks to Emily Painten’s goal at 16:38, Merrimack provided early pressure to start the second half but could not break through against UML goalkeeper Melanie Hopkins (four saves) until the 45th minute.
Senior Jamie Spano (Reading, Mass.) took possession on the left side of the scoring circle and carried the ball toward the goal before unloading a blast that soared toward the left side of the goalmouth. Waiting for the ricochet was Daugherty, who promptly tipped it past Hopkins to tie the match at 1-1.
Rejuvenated after the goal, the Warriors re-upped the pressure and found themselves with another scoring chance minutes later. Leading scorer Candace Waldie (North Andover, Mass.) carried the ball into the scoring circle and sliced toward the left side before sneaking a pass all the way through to Daugherty, who maneuvered around the goalkeeper and slid a beautiful backhand shot into the cage to put the visitors on top, 2-1, with just over 20 minutes to play.
The Warriors continued to apply pressure, reeling off the next four shot attempts to cut valuable time off the clock. UMass-Lowell earned back-to-back penalty corners with 10 minutes to play but could not capitalize on either, as senior goalkeeper Kerri Bergquist(Mashpee, Mass.) shined in the final minutes of regulation to keep the Warriors ahead.
After Sarah Wilcox received a green card to put the home side down a player with five minutes to play, the Warriors proceeded to run out the clock en route to the monumentally important victory.
Both teams would finish with nine shot attempts apiece – with three in the first half and six in the second half – while Bergquist turned aside four shots for the Warriors. Merrimack dominated the penalty corners by an 8-3 margin, while Wilcox posted a defensive save for the home side.
Next up, the Warriors conclude the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 20, facing Adelphi on the road in Garden City, N.Y. First whistle is set for 1 p.m.