NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After breaking a scoreless tie in the 62nd minute, the Merrimack College field hockey team was on the verge of a major upset against fifth-ranked Stonehill, but the Skyhawks managed to send the match to overtime thanks to a last-minute goal before Erika Kelly won it for the visitors less than 90 seconds later to edge the Warriors, 2-1, in the 2014 season finale Wednesday.
Score: #5 Stonehill 2, Merrimack 1 (F/OT)
Records: Merrimack (9-8, 5-6 NE-10) | #5 Stonehill (14-3, 8-2 NE-10)
Location: Martone-Mejail Field | North Andover, Mass.
Conference record only | Top-six qualify for postseason
LIU Post (9-1)
American Int’l (6-3) Won head-to-head vs. ASM
Franklin Pierce (5-5) Won head-to-head vs. BU
Merrimack (5-6) Loses three-way tiebreaker with FPU, Bentley (FPU 1-0 vs. STO)
Saint Michael’s (4-6)
Merrimack eliminated from NE-10 Championship field
How It Happened
Playing for its postseason life, Merrimack put together one of its most admirable and complete efforts of any game this season, and justifiably so against one of the nation’s top teams, and nearly pulled off what would have been a remarkable upset win.
Stonehill carried the pace of play over the first 20 minutes, but thanks to the stellar efforts of junior goalkeeper Madison Davis (San Jose, Calif.), the high-flying Skyhawks – who owned the third-ranked scoring offense in the country coming into the day – were kept in check.
Merrimack got its legs and began to generate some offense of its own in the final 10 minutes of the half, including a blast from freshman Taylor Simpson (York, Maine) off a penalty corner feed that Stonehill goalkeeper Elizabeth Genovese just got a piece of thanks to a sprawling right-pad save.
The two sides went into the locker room scoreless, but it was Merrimack that looked the part of a top-five team at the start of the second, sending chance after chance at Genovese.
Following a lull in the action midway through the second stanza, things ramped up down the final 15 minutes, as each side went blow-for-blow as far as scoring chances went, but both ‘keepers were up to the task as the game headed into the home stretch.
With Merrimack holding possession in the Stonehill third, junior Christine Zubkus (Dover, N.H.) rolled a bouncing cross from the far side of the pitch that ricocheted through traffic and got all the way to the back post, and waiting there was Simpson for the go-ahead tally at 61:39, putting the Warriors ahead with less than nine minutes to go.
Against that Skyhawk offense, Merrimack knew the challenge would be steep, but the Warrior backline withheld the charge valiantly all the way into the last minute of regulation. With under 50 seconds on the clock, Kelly dribbled into the left side of the circle, spun and fired at Davis, who made the save. An unlucky bounce by a Merrimack defender sent the ball back to a wide-open Elizabeth Thornton, whose shot from straightaway rolled through traffic and into the cage to tie the match at 69:12 and prompt overtime.
Playing in third overtime contest of the year, Merrimack quickly found itself down a player after a five-minute yellow card was issued 33 seconds in. That advantage led to a Stonehill takeaway, as Kelly carried the ball from near midfield into the circle and ripped a laser into the left side of the cage in the 72nd minute to win it for the Skyhawks.
Inside The Numbers
Davis was the star of the show for Merrimack, turning in a career-high 16-save performance while Genovese made eight stops for the visitors
Merrimack was outshot by a 27-15 margin, while the Skyhawks were awarded 11 penalty corners compared to nine for the Warriors
Simpson was Merrimack’s top offensive threat after leading the way with five shot attempts – all on target
Simpson also finished with her team-leading 15th tally to finish her rookie season with 34 points, most on the squad