ZUBKUS' OVERTIME TALLY SENDS WARRIORS TO NAT'L SEMIFINALS FOR THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON
Links: Box Score
EASTON, Mass. – Down by a goal with under eight minutes to play, freshman Nicole Bradley (Essex, Mass.) scored the biggest goal of her young career to send the game to overtime, and midway through the first sudden-victory session, sophomore Christine Zubkus (Dover, N.H.) found the back of the cage on a penalty corner, as the No. 7 and third-seeded Merrimack College field hockey team stunned No. 5 and second-seeded Stonehill, 4-3, sending the Warriors to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals for the third straight season on Saturday afternoon at W.B. Mason Stadium.
Score: Merrimack 4, Stonehill 3
Records: #7 Merrimack (14-5) | #5 Stonehill (18-4)
Location: W.B. Mason Stadium | Easton, Mass.
How It Happened
Playing against Stonehill, by sheer coincidence's sake, for the third straight time – the Warriors defeated Stonehill in their regular-season finale before falling in the NE-10 Semifinals to the Skyhawks eight days ago – Merrimack proved that the third time was the charm, both against Stonehill and in the NCAA Tournament en route to clinching a spot in Division II's field hockey equivalent of the Final Four for the third year in a row.
Merrimack roared out of the gate and dominated the first half, outshooting the hosts by an 8-3 margin and needing less than 10 minutes to get on the board, as rookie Maura Doyle (Merrimac, Mass.) received a feed from senior Candace Waldie (North Andover, Mass.) at the near post and scored to put the Warriors ahead at 9:13.
Nearly 15 minutes later, the Warriors doubled their lead thanks to the efforts of sophomore Katrina Squeri (Chelmsford, Mass.), who pounced on a goalmouth scramble and found the black on the far side of the cage at 23:06, sending the visitors into the locker room with a 2-0 lead at the break.
Saturday's contest wound up playing out as opposite as the previous meeting between the two schools; in last Friday's NE-10 Semifinal, Stonehill roared ahead to a three-goal lead in the first half before Merrimack dominated the second, only to fall by a goal.
on Saturday, the Skyhawks were the ones to start slow but charge all the way back in the second stanza thanks to a 9-2 edge in shots on target. That offensive burst led to three Stonehill goals in a span of 8:21 to start the half, as Merrimack's lead suddenly evaporated, forcing the Warriors to play from behind not even 10 minutes into the second half.
Devin Ingersoll scored on a penalty corner at 37:39 to put the home side on the board before the league's leading goal-scorer in Erika Kelly registered her 38th marker of the year on a penalty stroke to tie it up in the 42nd minute. Less than 90 seconds later, Ingersoll buried her own rebound to put the Skyhawks ahead, 3-2, with over 25 minutes left in regulation.
Instead of deflating, the Warriors dug deep and saw sophomore Madison Davis (San Jose, Calif.) make several key saves over the ensuing 20 minutes to keep Merrimack within striking distance.
Finally, in the 63rd minute, the Warriors were awarded one of their 12 penalty corners on the afternoon, and after a scrum in front, Bradley picked up the loose ball and pushed it past Stonehill keeper Elizabeth Genovese for the game-tying marker that sent the contest into overtime after three more big saves from Davis down the stretch.
In the sudden-victory period, Merrimack controlled play and attempted all three shots, including the game-winner from Zubkus off a feed from senior Jessica Otis (Pittsford, N.Y.) on a penalty corner at 78:04 that punched the Warriors' ticket to the National Semifinals.
What They Said
Head Coach Anne Rounce: "Today was the culmination of a total team effort. I'm glad that we battled back after a mental lapse and were able to come out on top. We had some nice passing patterns and truly guttled out this win. This is a special team and I couldn't be more proud of these girls."
NCAA Tournament Picture
2013 NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championship
Saturday, November 16
#7 Merrimack 4, #5 Stonehill 3 (OT)
#2 Millersville 1, #4 West Chester 0
Friday, November 22
USA Field Hockey Training Center, Virginia Beach, Va.
#7 Merrimack vs. #3 LIU Post (20-0, 10-0 NE-10), 12:30 p.m.
#2 Millersville vs. #1 Shippensburg (18-1, 10-0 PSAC), 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 24
L.R. Hill Sports Complex/Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.
Semifinals winners, 1:15 p.m.
A Closer Look
- After outshooting the Skyhawks 8-3 in the first and being outshot 9-2 in the second half, Merrimack finished the game with a slim 13-12 edge in shots attempted, with both sides putting nine shots on net
- Both goalkeepers put forth strong showings, while Davis finished the day with five saves – all in the second half – including three huge stops in the last seven minutes of regulation after Bradley's game-tying marker
- Doyle led all Warriors with three shots attempted, while she and sophomore Taylor Ledwith (Springfield, Mass.) each tied for the Merrimack lead with two shots on target
- Doyle's marker was the 10th of the season for the rookie, while Zubkus pushed her season total up to five with the game-winner;
- Both teams finished with 12 penalty corners
With the win, Merrimack advances to face unbeaten and third-ranked LIU Post (20-0) in the NCAA Semifinals next Friday, Nov. 22. The Warriors and Pioneers will face off in the first of two national semifinals that day (12:30 p.m.), with second-ranked Millersville and top-ranked Shippensburg slated to square off at 3:30 p.m. later in the afternoon.