NORTH ANDOVER, MA – The #4 Merrimack field hockey team defeated #5 UMass Lowell 2-1 Tuesday evening at Martone-Mejail Field to capture a share of its first-ever Northeast-10 Conference regular season title. The Warriors improved to 15-1 overall and 9-0 in the league while also extending their program-record winning-streak to 15. The River Hawks sink to 13-3 on the year and 8-1 in conference games.
With its first win over Lowell since 2006, Merrimack has sealed the top seed in the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament and will host the semifinals and finals October 29-30.
Merrimack took an early 1-0 lead just 4:21 into the contest. Jessica Otis (Pittsford, NY) tallied her sixth goal of the year for the opening score. Otis corralled a cross from Candace Waldie (North Andover, MA) from the right side inside the penalty area. The sophomore fired the ball into the left corner of the cage with a sweeping shot.
April Daugherty (Wakefield, RI) doubled the Warriors' advantage with 13:15 remaining in the first half. The junior knocked in a loose ball in front of the net after Katie Zubkus (Dover, NH) smacked a cross into the middle from the right wing. The marker was Daugherty's team-leading 19th of the campaign while Zubkus picked up her fourth assist.
Merrimack nearly tacked on a third goal late in the opening half as Daugherty had a rebound attempt ricochet off of the left post.
The Warriors headed into halftime owning a 2-0 margin while also outshooting Lowell 14-8 in the first frame. The hosts held a slight 6-4 gap in penalty corners earned.
The River Hawks cut the deficit to one goal with 11:39 left to play. Rachel McCarthy converted a penalty stroke, lifting the ball into the top right corner for her 19th tally of the season.
Merrimack's defense prevented Lowell from registering a shot on goal in the final 10 minutes of the game. The Warriors covered a pair of penalty corners and also blocking a shot.
Down a player, the home side pinned the ball in the River Hawks' defensive end for the waning minutes of the match to secure the victory.
Kerri Bergquist (Mashpee, MA) registered five saves on the night to claim her 15th win of the year. Melanie Hopkins stopped six shots in goal for Lowell in the game.
Merrimack finished with 17 shots and the River Hawks recorded 14 shots in the contest. With six penalty corners in the second half, Lowell ended the game with a 10-6 edge.
"This is a great accomplishment for this group and I am extremely proud of the way they played tonight," said head coach Anne Rounce. "It was great to see all of the support behind the team with so many fans cheering us on. We definitely fed off of the crowd's energy and we are thankful for their support."
Merrimack will close out the 2011 regular season October 23 as it hosts Adelphi on Senior Day.