NORTH ANDOVER — The Merrimack men’s soccer team has been too close, too many times.
In each of the last three seasons, the Warriors have advanced to the NE10 semifinals and won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament, falling in the second round twice and advancing to the quarterfinals in 2014.
Despite deep playoff runs, the Warriors haven’t added any trophies. That’s something the squad is looking to change this fall.
“One of our goals is to win a title,” said graduate captain Josue Ruiz Maya. “We’ve been so close in the past and have had a lot of good tournaments but we haven’t had the success we’ve wished for. We almost got there, but we need to get to that next step to win a championship. We’re working towards that.”
The Warriors are off to a nice start. After Saturday’s convincing win over New Haven, Merrimack is 5-1 on the season with a plus-11 goal differential (13-2). On Saturday, the Warriors outshot New Haven 23-2 and didn’t allow a single shot on goal (13-0), dominating possession through the game’s 90 minutes.
Lars Sund and Jose Meza are tied for the team lead with three goals, but the Warriors already have had seven different players find the back of the net in six games, with four players registering more than one score.
“In the past I think we didn’t have enough depth,” said Ruiza Maya. “It was most of the time, 14 or 15 players that were involved. The difference I see now is we have more depth. Anyone on the bench can come in and make a difference in the game. That’s important and it can help us make that step.”
The Warriors are trying to sustain success despite graduating nine players off last year’s roster. Ruiz Maya said that the new players have adjusted quickly to NCAA soccer and matching last season’s intensity in matches was a key for the team in these early games.
“We have a really good mix of young players and experienced players,” Ruiz Maya said. “We knew we needed to match the intensity in every game. Just keep the flow of how we played last year. We lost a lot of starting players and I think that was one of our challenges. We need to just keep the way we are playing. Even if we lost so many players, keep the flow of our play. We need to keep playing the way we play and not lose that.”
Ruiz Maya returned for his graduate year after missing all of 2015 due to an injury. Instead of graduating with his classmates last year, he decided to return to Merrimack on a medical redshirt year.
“I’m really glad I came back,” he said. “I want to be able to show the freshmen and younger players what it takes for us to be successful. We feel like we’re looking good. We are pleased with our start, but we don’t want to settle. We want to keep winning.”
“We have a good leadership, and a good mix of young and experienced players. The seniors and captains, we try to guide them and take them under our wing so they feel comfortable. We just need to play the way we are supposed to play.”
Merrimack returns to Martone-Mejail Field on Wednesday to host Bentley (7 p.m.).