NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.- In a battle between two titans of soccer, the No. 14 Merrimack men's soccer team held onto a 1-0 lead for 67 minutes to earn its seventh win of the 2010 campaign. The Warriors handed No. 2 Southern N.H. its first loss of the season, downing the Penmen 1-0. Merrimack improves to 7-1-0 overall and 3-1 in the Northeast-10. Southern N.H. falls to 7-1-1 on the year and 3-1-1 in the league.
Merrimack jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 22 minutes remaining in the first half. Ben Paradis (Tiverton, R.I.) slipped the ball to Robbie Sabadoz (Ottawa, Ontario) who was making a run across the top of the penalty area. Sabado took a touch towards goal then shot a wormburner along the ground on frame. The ball slid past the outstretched goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The goal was Sabadoz's team-leading seventh score of the 2010 season.
The Penmen nearly tied the score just minutes later. Southern N.H.'s Ruben Resendes shot the ball off of a free kick on goal. The Warrior's netminder, Kevin Joyce (Mansfield, Mass.) smothered the ball and didn't allow a rebound.
Joyce stood tall between the pipes as he withstood a barrage of shots. Southern N.H. took 22 shots in the game, including 17 in the second stanza, but Joyce turned aside all 13 that were on frame. Joyce heroically came up early in the second half, making saves on two point-blank headers. The senior netminder earned his seventh victory of the year and his fourth clean sheet.
Franklin Pena (Revere, Mass.) nearly put the home team up two goals midway through the second 45. Pena was unmarked in the penalty area but saw his header sail wide of the cage.
With less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors were forced to play a man down when the referee issued a red card. Merrimack amped up the defensive effort and turned away every chance for the visitors to ensure the win, sending the Warrior Field faithful into a fury of cheering when the clock struck zero.
The Merrimack backline played a solid 90 minutes, holding one of the top teams in the nation scoreless. Nicholas LoCoco (Gloucester, Mass.), Nelson Santos Da Graca (Gothenburg, Sweden), Olof Lindhe (Stockholm, Sweden), Adam Leone (East Northport, N.Y.) and Derek Simpson (Ludlow, Mass.) all turned in strong defensive performances.
Southern N.H. outshot the Warriors in the game, 22-10, and 13-6 in shots on goal. The Penmen also held the advantage in corner kicks, earning 13 of the 14 awarded in the match.
The entire game was a physical battle between the two elite squads. The officials called 27 fouls and handed out 10 cautions and one ejection in the contest. The first half saw 20 infractions between the teams.