Merrimack hopes to keep playoff hopes alive in must-win at St. A’s
The Merrimack women’s soccer program enters Saturday’s regular-season finale at Saint Anselm knowing it needs to win in order to earn a berth in the NE10 playoffs. Actually, Merrimack needs a win and a Bentley loss, but the Warriors are only focused on themselves.
Ed. Note — this story will appear in Saturday’s Eagle Tribune
“Yeah, it’s a big game,” said senior midfielder Andrea Rego. “It could be the last game for the seniors, so we’re going into it with the attitude of knowing that we’ll win and go to playoffs. That’s what we’re looking for.
“This is already a playoff game for it.”
Merrimack (8-8) is 4-1 in its last five games, setting the team up for a potential playoff bid. In a string of five losses prior to that 4-1 stretch, the Warriors fell in overtime to No. 18 Southern New Hampshire and Saint Rose, another top team in the NE10.
Much of Merrimack’s recent success has been at home, but the Warriors will need to get it done on the road today. The Warriors are 3-4 away from Martone-Mejail Field this season.
Kickoff against the Hawks is set for 1 p.m. in Manchester.
“We played against St. Rose and lost in overtime,” Rego said. “SNHU is ranked really high, and they beat us in overtime. I think that we have definitely been a little unlucky, but we competed with these top teams. If we win, and it goes our way, we’re going to compete and we know that we can play with anyone.”
Playing against those top teams, and suffering overtime losses, not only gives the Warriors the confidence that they can play with the best in the league, but it also has created a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
“It’s frustrating to look back and see those games, knowing that we could have won,” Rego said. “Not only would those be huge wins, but it would put us in better playoff position. I think those losses have just fueled us more. We also know that if we can get into the playoffs, we can do it again and in a weird way, I think it gives us a competitive edge. We know we can compete. We’ve been so close with so many top teams. We know we can stay with them.”
The Warriors had a rough start against some of the top teams in the league, starting the year 2-7 in NE10 play. Three of those games were against nationally-ranked opponents, including LIU Post, who was ranked No. 7 nationally at the time (and Merrimack won that game, 2-0).
“If we get into the playoffs, I don’t think teams will want to play us,” Rego said. “We’re a team, we play with our heart and we won’t give up. I know that.”
Rego said she knows her team’s never-say-die attitude will be on display today against the Hawks.
“Tomorrow, it’s not going to come down to who is the better team skill wise, it’s who wants it more,” she said. “Who has the heart to win? Whoever goes up for that extra head ball and wins it, that could be the difference. It will be the little things. That will make a huge difference. It’s all about heart and who wants to win.”