RINDGE, N.H.- Owning a 1-0 lead on a Robbie Sabadoz (Ottawa, Ontario) goal, only 30 minutes separated the eighth-seeded Merrimack men's soccer team from upsetting the No. 1 team in the nation. Franklin Pierce, the top squad in the tournament, fought back to avoid elimination and picked up a 5-1 win Tuesday evening at Sodexho Field in the Northeast-10 Conference quarterfinals. The Ravens advanced to the semifinals of the Northeast-10 Conference tournament to play Le Moyne.
The Warriors capped off the season with a 9-8-1 overall record after finishing with a 5-7-1 mark in the conference. Franklin Pierce improved to 15-1-1 on the year after claiming the Northeast-10 Conference regular season crown with an undefeated record in the league.
Merrimack and Franklin Pierce played a scoreless first half. The Warriors' best scoring chance was turned in by Ben Paradis (Tiverton, R.I.) Paradis picked up the ball unmarked at the top of the penalty box and turned and rifled a low hard shot towards the left pipe. The senior midfielder's attempt rolled across the endline on the unfortunate side of the post as the score remained 0-0.
The Ravens edged the Warriors in the first half with a 6-5 margin in shots. The two squads split the four corner kicks evenly, 2-2.
Sabadoz gave Merrimack the 1-0 edge 14 minutes into the second stanza. Paradis beat the Ravens' goalkeeper to a loose ball on the left side. Paradis crossed the ball towards the goal in hopes of something good to happen. Sabadoz recognized the open space in front of the net and made a delayed run. The junior striker knocked the ball into the wide open goal for his ninth tally of the season.
"I found myself open and just ran to the open net and thankfully Ben played a great ball to me," said Sabadoz, a co-captain of the Warriors. "With the keeper out, it was an easy finish."
Victor Goncalves netted an equalizer in the 68th minute, heading in a cross from Tom Reilly.
Franklin Pierce quickly grabbed the lead just moments after tying the score at 1-1. Michael Busto volleyed the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box. Reilly earned his second assist on the night by flicking the ball towards the back post off of a corner kick from the right corner.
Shaun Taylor added the Ravens' third goal of the match with 15 minutes left to play. Taylor made a run behind the Merrimack defense and Amory Houghton played a through-ball to Taylor who poked the ball past the Warriors's rushing netminder. The ball sneaked into the net as it rolled just out of the reach of two defenders giving chase.
Houghton netted a fourth goal for the home team by slotting a loose ball into the net. Paul Latif registered a helper on the score. Samuel Kelley notched the match's final goal with less than four minutes remaining to play.
Franklin Pierce outshot Merrimack 13-7 in the game, including a 7-4 margin in shots on goal. The Ravens earned all three corner kicks in the second half.
Mattias Drummond (Partille, Sweden) made a pair of saves for the Warriors in 90 minutes of work between the sticks. Vinny Papageorgiou turned away three shots to help the home team advance to the semifinals of the Northeast-10 Conference playoffs.
"I look forward to next season since we'll be a more experience team. We have a lot of potential as a team and we just need to work hard to reach the next level," added Sabadoz.