BLOOMSBURG, PA- The #3 Merrimack field hockey team saw its historic season come to an end Friday evening, falling to #5 UMass Lowell, the defending national champions, in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament held at Bloomsburg University.
The Warriors finish the 2011 campaign with a 17-3 overall record, the best season in program history. The River Hawks improved to 19-3 on the year with the win and advance to take on West Chester in the national title game.
Merrimack made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and became the fourth team in school history to reach the Final Four.
Lowell struck early as Melissa Effertz knocked in a loose ball in front of the cage off of an assist from Rachel McCarthy two minutes into the contest.
The River Hawks doubled their lead 10:11 into the game with Bianca Jones tallying her first goal of the day off of a feed from Sarah Wilcox. Wilcox dribbled into the penalty area before dishing the ball to Jones in front of the goal.
Wilcox set up Jones for her second marker of the match just 2:14 later to give Lowell a 3-0 advantage. Jones' second goal was nearly identical to her first has Wilcox dribbled into the penalty area and passed to Jones on the right post.
The River Hawks owned a three-goal edge at halftime while outshooting Merrimack 9-4 in the first frame. Lowell held a slight 3-2 margin in penalty corners through 35 minutes.
The Warriors netted their first goal of the game with 18:24 remaining in the second half. Sarah Salatto (Guilford, CT) buried her sixth score of the season to cut the deficit to 3-1. Katie Zubkus (Dover, NH) found Salatto on the left side of the cage to record her sixth assist of the year.
Merrimack fired eight shots in the second period while limiting Lowell to four. With a 5-2 advantage in penalty corners in the second stanza, the Warriors concluded the game with a 7-5 gap.
"The team worked really hard all season to get here and I am proud of them. They deserved to be here with all of the energy and determination that they poured into the program this season," said head coach Anne Rounce. "This team certainly proved themselves this season and accomplish many of our team goals. We will strive and work hard to get back here."