ALBANY, NY - The #22 Merrimack women's soccer team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, defeating Holy Family 5-3 in penalty kicks Friday afternoon after the teams were tied at one following 110 minutes of play.
With the win, Merrimack (16-3-2) will take on #10 Saint Rose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at 1 p.m. in Albany in a rematch of the Northeast-10 Championship, won by Saint Rose last Sunday in Albany. The Warriors are the third seed in the east region, while the Golden Knights are second. Holy Family was seeded sixth.
The opening ten minutes of play were wide open as Merrimack controlled the tempo early on with a couple of shots. Holy family countered at the 12 minute mark with a goal by Dawn Curry, which was set up after a perfectly placed through ball to Megan Tole who chipped the ball over Kiley Horne (Scituate, Mass.). Curry picked up the ball all alone and buried it in the empty net for the 1-0 Holy Family lead.
Jenna Zechner (Billerica, Mass.) had an opportunity less than five minutes later as she sent a shot from just inside the box towards the right post but the Holy Family keeper made a diving stop to her left to preserve the lead for her team.
Zechner was yet again robbed by the keeper from in close as she tried chipping the ball over the keepers head but she got enough hand on the ball to direct it wide of the goal.
Merrimack dominated most of the play in the first half as they ended the half with five shots on goal to Holy Family's two shots on goal. Merrimack also held the edge in corner kicks with three while conceding only one.
Merrimack tied the game 1-1 on a goal by Sarah Coakley (Medway, Mass.) at the 63 minute mark. Coakley sent a cross into the box towards the Holy Family goal that was deflected into the goal off of a defender.
Merrimack nearly scored again five minutes later after a Holy Family defender almost got credited for a own goal as the ball glanced off the post.
The game was pushed to overtime with the score tied 1-1 and Merrimack continued to put the pressure on the Tigers. With three minutes left in the first overtime, Sami Brady (Rockland, Mass.) had a great chance to end the game but her header went just over the cross bar.
The Warriors continued their strong defensive effort in the second overtime as Jessica Peacock (Hopedale, Mass.) turned away any chance of the Tigers getting a shot on net. Peacock and the rest of the defense only allowed three shots on goal in the final 65 minutes of play.
The game was pushed to penalty kicks as neither team could produce another goal. With the pressure of the NCAA Tournament starring them right in the face, all five Warriors scored on their penalty kick opportunities, including Danielle Dion (Grosvenordale, CT), who finished with her team's fifth and final tally. Jordan Schnopp (Dalton, Mass.), Peacock, Jamie Alnwick (Groton, Mass.), and Melissa Garabedian (Salem, Mass.) all converted on their kick to send the Warriors to the next round. Goaltender Kiley Horne stopped Melissa Benson on Holy Family's third attempt to preserve the victory for the Warriors.
"We played a great game this afternoon," said head coach Gabe Mejail. "Holy Family was equal to the task on the scoreboard but we created enough opportunities to deserve the victory."
The Warriors outshot Holy Family 15 to four on the afternoon and received nine corner kicks. Merrimack is in its fourth NCAA Tournament in the last six years.
The Golden Knights have only lost two matches in the last four years to conference foes, both to Merrimack, including a 3-0 defeat in North Andover on October 15.