NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Danielle Dion (North Grosvenordale, CT) buried the game-winning goal in the final minute of the first overtime period to send the #14 Merrimack women's soccer team to the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament title match with a 2-1 win over Southern NH Friday evening at Martone-Mejail Field. The second-seeded Warriors improved to 16-2-1 on the season with the victory while the Penmen drop to 10-8-2 overall.
This marks the first appearance in the Northeast-10 Tournament finals for Merrimack since the 2003 season. The Warriors will seek to claim their sixth Northeast-10 Tournament crown and first since 1999.
Both squads failed to score in the first half despite the visitors holding a 10-3 edge in shots through 45 minutes. Merrimack earned a pair of corner kicks in the opening frame while conceding one.
Ariel Teixeira gave the sixth-seeded Penmen a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute with her sixth tally of the year. Teixeira netted a free kick from nearly 35 yards out with her left foot.
Laura Spang (Wakefield, MA) buried her first collegiate goal in the 74th minute to notch the score at 1-1. Gabriela Vega (Danvers, MA) nodded the ball backwards with her head at the top of the penalty box into open space. Spang ran onto the ball and hammered home a one-time shot from the left side of the cage for the equalizer.
The two sides remained tied at the conclusion of regulation. Southern NH owned a 17-7 margin in shots heading into the extra sessions.
Late in the first overtime period, Spang poked a loose ball inside the penalty box to give Merrimack one more chance on goal. Dion bolted through the box and used the outside of her right foot to slot the ball into the lower left corner of the frame for her seventh score of the 2011 campaign. Spang picked up her first career helper on the game-winner.
The Warriors advance to face #15 Saint Rose, the top-seed in the tournament, in the championship match on November 6 on the road.
The Penmen finished the contest with an 18-10 gap in shots while Merrimack claimed a 5-2 lead in corner kicks.
Kiley Horne (Scituate, MA) had her shutout streak snapped at five games and made six saves in 99:29 of work between the pipes for the Warriors. Maggie Weldon stopped two shots on the day for Southern NH.
"I thought we did a good job of responding after letting up the first goal today," said head coach Gabe Mejail. "We did well with staying patient since they gave us plenty of time on the ball late. This was a great win for us and we are excited for Sunday."
Merrimack entered the week ranked second in the regional poll and is battling Saint Rose for a top-two slot in the NCAA Tournament. A top-two seeding in the East Region bracket will assure the Warriors one more match at Martone-Mejail Field this fall.