NORTH ANDOVER — The 2015 season represented a return to normalcy for the Merrimack women’s soccer program. The year before, the Warriors suffered through a 7-9-2 season, their first sub-.500 season in the history of the program.
In 2015, the Warriors were back in a big way, finishing 12-6-3 and advancing to the Northeast-10 semifinals as well as the ECAC semifinals.
(Ed. Note — This story also appeared in The Eagle Tribune, which you can read by clicking here)
The Warriors are now looking to take even a bigger step on the comeback trail, working towards their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011 and hoping for a Northeast-10 championship along the way.
“We don’t dwell on (2014),” said senior captain Megan Gada. “Maybe internally, some people still think about it a little bit and can use it as motivation. I know for me, I just tried to move on. As a team, we wanted to use that experience to learn from our mistakes, and we had a good season last season, so we’re trying to build off of that.”
Merrimack, which was selected sixth in the Northeast-10 coaches poll, is off to a 3-1-1 start and the Warriors will host league rival Franklin Pierce on Tuesday (7 p.m.)
The Warriors’ total goal differential is 12-4.
Merrimack has attempted 20 more shots than opponents has a shooting percentage more than double what it has allowed.
Through five games, junior Victoria Carter leads the team with nine points (3 goals, 3 assists), while senior Bianca Giacalone has a pair of goals.
“Our offense has been really good in some of our early games,” Gada said. “Looking at the film of those games, it’s good to see what we have done right and try to re-create that in future games. You also see some areas where you need to improve (on film).
“Defensively, a lot of times hard work just shuts down other offenses, so if we go out there wanting it more, we can shut anyone down and we know that.”
This season represents a slight change for Gada, personally. She has moved to center back after playing in the midfield for the first three years of her collegiate career.
The transition has been relatively smooth, she said, although she has a greater appreciation for the position.
“I’m learning as each game goes,” she said. “Moving to back, I definitely appreciate how hard our backs work, like Alyssa (Eaton), Julia (Heffernan) and everyone. They get in there and they work their butts off, making sure we don’t allow goals.
“I’ve played center-back before, but never in a college setting, so I’m getting used to it and I’m learning as we go.”
Gada said the change was something she discussed with the coaches during the summer.
“I was preparing for it,” she said. “Whatever helps us win.”
This season’s team has been very close in the early parts of the season. Gada said training camp went great, and the new players were integrated into the team quickly.
Gada said a tight-knit group has been a staple of the Merrimack program since she was a freshman. That was a culture previous captains handed to her and co-captain Julia Heffernan, and it’s something they want to see continue.
“The camaraderie has been great with our team,” Gada said. “It’s really important for us to work as a team. We play our best when we’re all on the same page. We work as a team and then we’ll win as a team. We’re trying to keep that up and carry it over game to game.
“When we’re going through a rough patch, I would like to think we stick together and just keep playing. There’s no reason to get down. We’re keeping our heads up as a team and we keep it going.”
After hosting Franklin Pierce Tuesday night, the Warriors hit the road for a game at LIU Post on Saturday (noon) before returning home next Wednesday (Sept. 28, 7 p.m.) against Adelphi.