#8 Merrimack Athletics 2013-14 Moment: Men’s Soccer Returns to NE-10 Final

#8 Merrimack Athletics 2013-14 Moment: Men's Soccer Returns to NE-10 Final

The Merrimack College Athletic Department is unveiling the top-10 moments of 2013-14 over the month of June. Join us as we count down some of the most memorable moments of the past academic year!

Setting The Scene
It's never easy to follow up what many consider the most successful season in a program's history, but like it or not, the Merrimack College men's soccer team faced that scenario in 2013.

After making history the previous fall with its first NCAA Tournament appearance and NCAA Tournament victory, Merrimack returned to the pitch looking to return to that level despite graduating nine seniors from the previous season.

Despite the long odds at following up a season that special with something even better, the Warriors never let them stand in their way, and slowly but surely built another solid resume over the course of the regular season, entering the NE-10 Men's Soccer Championship with an 11-3-1 record and looking to wrap up some unfinished business from a year ago.

After a taking down Bentley in the league's quarterfinal round, Merrimack thought it had a date with third-ranked Southern Connecticut State in the NE-10 Semifinals, but due to the Owls using an ineligible student-athlete in the previous round, the Warriors were matched up against Franklin Pierce to set the stage for one of the most exhilarating playoff games in program history.

What Happened
Even before the NE-10 Semifinal matchup between Merrimack and Franklin Pierce began, the two had already developed a budding rivalry over the last two seasons.

It began in 2012, after Merrimack defeated Franklin Pierce in the regular season, and then again at home in the league semifinals before handing the Ravens yet another defeat in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Considering how difficult it is to beat the same team three times in three tries in just one season, the intensity of those games carried over into 2013, when the Ravens and Warriors battled to a scoreless draw in the regular season finale.

Less than a week later, the two were paired up in the postseason yet again, as each side refused to give an inch, again, over the course of regulation and then again over 20 minutes of sudden-victory overtime.

That would set the stage for an absolutely epic round of penalty kicks, with the winner advancing to the league finals. Merrimack's first shot rang off the post, allowing the Ravens to take a 1-0 PK lead. Sophomore Augusto Silva (Hudson, Mass.) tied it up in the second round before classmate Julio Leon Garcia (Caracas, Venezuela) pushed the Warriors ahead in PK's, 2-1.

Franklin Pierce would not go quietly, tying penalty kicks at 2-2 in the third round before freshman Oscar Zepeda Cagide (Jalisco, Mexico) quickly untied things with a goal on Merrimack's next attempt. That set the stage for junior Jose Silva (Northborough, Mass.), who came up with his biggest save of the season on the Ravens' fourth attempt, giving co-captain Ronald Ried (Schwendi, Germany) the opportunity to win it in the fifth and final PK round.

The sophomore back did exactly that, prompting a wild celebration in front of the 225 fans in attendance on a chilly November evening, sending the Warriors back to the NE-10 Final in what should be considered one of the best playoff games in recent conference history.

What It Meant
Head Coach Tony Martone: "It was another solid year for our program and I am very proud of my players' accomplishments on the field, in the classroom as well as within the Merrimack College community and beyond. That semifinal was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of in all of my time here. The fact that we made it to the NE-10 Final and lost to the eventual national champions is certainly something positive to build on."

Co-Captain Michael Buraczynski: "As a team, we were stretched thin and forced to evolve. To outlast all the teams before that final round is an experience in itself. Never will I forget the way the team fought to the very last minute. We have been blessed enough to make the finals the last two seasons in a league that can be arguably considered the best in DII. Nothing can defeat a team that buys into the fact that they are one and I will always remember this team and what we were able to accomplish."  

This is the first of 10 Merrimack Top Moments of 2013-14 installments.

10. Men's Ice Hockey Plays in Citi Frozen Fenway 2014
9. Men's Lacrosse Reaches Fifth NE-10 Final in Six Years
8. Men's Soccer Returns to NE-10 Final
7. Monday, June 16
6. Wednesday, June 18
5. Friday, June 20
4. Monday, June 23
3. Wednesday, June 25
2. Friday, June 27
1. Monday, June 30

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For continuing coverage of Merrimack College Athletics, visit MerrimackAthletics.com and follow the Warriors on Twitter and on Facebook.