NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Leading by just a goal, 1-0, heading into the break, the No. 7 Merrimack field hockey team scored four uncontested markers to pick up a pivotal 5-0 Northeast-10 Conference victory against Stonehill College on Monday afternoon at Martone-Mejail Field.
After rallying to a 5-3 win at Stonehill at the end of September, the Warriors (11-2, 5-1 NE-10) found themselves in another battle with the Skyhawks (7-7, 4-3 NE-10) on Monday afternoon, as both teams played neck-and-neck in the first half before the home side carried a one-goal advantage into the break.
But after netting three scores in the span of nine minutes, the Warriors managed to put the game away late to pick up an extremely important conference victory.
Merrimack has now swept both games against Bentley and Stonehill this season and has only one conference loss. With only four games remaining – including a huge road showdown at No. 4 UMass-Lowell on Oct. 16 – the Warriors still have a chance to catch the River Hawks in the battle for the No. 1 seed heading into the NE-10 Tournament.
"That was a very impressive win for us in an extremely critical game," head coach Anne Rounce said afterward. "Every game is important from here on out, and now we'll prepare for another big road game at a very tough Saint Mike's squad this Wednesday."
Senior midfielder Jen Otis (Penacook, N.H.) led the home side with two goals and four points, while junior Candace Waldie (North Andover, Mass.) enjoyed a three-point day, as well. In net, senior Kerri Bergquist (Mashpee, Mass.) was at her finest, making several impressive stops in both halves en route to a 12-save shutout, marking her fifth clean sheet of the season.
Merrimack netted the first half's only goal as Waldie tipped in a shot from Otis near the left side following a penalty corner to give the Warriors a 1-0 advantage at 9:24.
That would hold through the remainder of the first stanza, as Bergquist at one point stopped four shots in a row to keep the visitors off the board.
After a first half saw both teams even at 12 shots apiece, the Skyhawks continued to up the pressure early in the second half but were continually stymied by Bergquist.
Seven minutes later, Otis and Waldie teamed up again, this time with Otis blasting a shot past Stonehill goalkeeper Elizabeth Genovese (five saves) off a feed on a penalty corner from Waldie, running the lead up to 3-0.
Three minutes later, senior forward April Daugherty (Wakefield, R.I.) netted an unassisted marker – her 14th of the year – by burying a loose rebound, stretching the Merrimack edge to 4-0 with less than 17 minutes left.
Just before the 60-minute mark, Merrimack wrapped up the scoring as both Jessica and Jen Otis teamed up for a give-and-go pass at the top of the circle on a penalty corner before Jen buried the shot into the left side of the cage, wrapping up the Warriors' offense with a 5-0 lead that would hold the rest of the way.
Stonehill outshot Merrimack by one (26-25) and earned three more penalty corners (14-11), but at the end of the day, Bergquist was unbreakable en route to the team's pivotal conference win.
Next up, the Warriors hit the road for an NE-10 showdown at Saint Michael's on Wednesday, Oct. 10. First whistle from Colchester, Vt., is set for 1 p.m.