NORTH ANDOVER — When Edward Hellier transferred to Merrimack College this past fall, he wasn’t sure lacrosse would still be a possibility for him.
After starting one game for Goucher College in Maryland last season, the South Portland, Maine native transferred to Merrimack, but it was more about academics than lacrosse.
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When he arrived on campus, he wasn’t sure if he would even have a chance to make the team. The sophomore went through the tryout process after connecting with head coach Mike Morgan, and now a few months later, he’s one of the top goalkeepers in the Northeast 10 and leads the Warriors into the NE10 semifinals later today (11 a.m.) at Le Moyne. Regardless of the results this weekend, the Warriors appear to be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
“Once I got accepted, I emailed Coach Morgan,” said Hellier, who was First Team All-State as a senior at South Portland High School two years ago. “I just asked if I could tryout and he told me I could. I came back for a second tryout after that and we got to work from there.”
Two years ago, the Warriors lost goalkeeper Dom Madonna to Syracuse University via a transfer. Since then, Merrimack was looking to lock down its next starter.
Hellier said he wasn’t even aware of the situation at Merrimack, but if he had the chance to play, it was something he’d obviously embrace. His roommate, Brendan Donnelly, was a freshman attack on the team last season; he transferred before the spring season began.
“If I could play, then awesome,” Hellier said. “I love playing lacrosse. If I didn’t get that opportunity, I’d just be a part of Merrimack.
“(Donnelly) is a big reason why I’m here. He got me around the guys and introduced me to Coach. It’s worked out great, because I get to play, and I love that, and I’m doing it with a great group of guys.”
The Warriors are also having a lot of success. Finishing the season 13-2, and last week earning the nation’s No. 1 ranking, Merrimack is looking for its first NE10 Tournament title since 2010. An NCAA Tournament berth would be Merrimack’s third straight.
“It’s been a crazy ride for me,” Hellier said. “Once it’s all over, I might look back on it and reflect, but right now I’m trying to enjoy the ride. I’m having a lot of fun.
“From the start of the year, we all had one goal in mind. We thought we were one of the better teams in the country and we’ve put in the work. Now it’s just about executing the game plan.”
Merrimack enters the NE10 semifinal looking for some redemption on Le Moyne, which is one of the Warriors’ only two blemishes this season. The Dolphins beat the Warriors, 12-11, in double-overtime this past March.
“We’ve all been waiting for this,” Helleir said. “We weren’t happy with the way things went that first game. Double OT speaks for itself. We’re two close teams and when we get together and play, it’s always going to be a good game.”
Hellier has played 85 percent of Merrimack’s minutes this season. He’s 12-2 on the season and his only non-start was against AIC, a team Merrimack beat easily (28-1).
Hellier has a 55.6 percent save percentage and a goals-against of 7.94. Hellier’s goals-against is almost a full goal better than Merrimack’s team goals-against last season (8.91).
“Confidence is the biggest thing for me right now,” he said. “Knowing we can beat anyone and play with anyone. If we all do our jobs, we’ll usually have a good outcome. We like to think we’re a different team than we were when we played Le Moyne last time, they’re different too, I’m sure, but we’re confident.”
Two weeks ago, the Warriors beat then-No. 1 Limestone. That’s another confidence-booster.
“That was huge for us,” Hellier said. “Not just beating the No. 1 team, but beating a team that good by five goals (18-13). We were down early but fought through it, fought hard and we fought back. We took some punches in that game. No matter what, we just need to stick with it.”
The winner of Merrimack-Le Moyne will advance to the Northeast 10 Championship game on Sunday. Time and location of the championship game is to be determined, pending results of the semifinals on Friday.