In a span of two years, the Merrimack College field hockey team has enjoyed a transformation that few teams have known.
In the first three yaers of head coach Anne Rounce‘s tenure on campus, the highest single-season win total for the Warriors was a 13-8 campaign back in 2009. But in each of the last two, the Navy and Gold have raised the standard for excellence in both the Northeast-10 Conference and the North Region thanks to consecutive 17-win campaigns, each of which saw Merrimack claim the NE-10 regular season title and advance to the NCAA Final Four.
After a breakout fall of 2011, Merrimack recorded more history a year ago, finishing the year 17-4 overall as part of a season highlighted by a second straight league regular season crown, the program’s first-ever victory in the NCAA Tournament, and a return trip to the national semifinals.
Merrimack boasted six National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-Americans in 2012, even more all-conference honorees and the NE-10 Goalkeeper of the Year.
And while graduating the most successful senior class in school history will challenge the Warriors, Rounce and the Warriors should feel confident knowing the returners from last year’s squad are more than capable of not only replicating the results of the last two years, but taking the next step toward the program’s ultimate goal of a national title.
While boasting arguably the greatest goalkeeper in program history over the past four years in 2012 alum Kerri Bergquist, there was no doubt that offense was the name of the game for last year’s squad.
Averaging a league-best 3.71 goals per game last fall, Merrimack’s relentless offensive unit ranked as one of the best in the country thanks to a number of options on the attacking end. The Warriors wreaked havoc on opposing defenses throughout the season, averaging 24.6 shot attempts per contest to rank atop the league. Merrimack’s 78 goals scored and 52 assists were also the best in the conference, and a number of individuals were responsible for that.
Leading the way, however, was then-junior Candace Waldie (North Andover, Mass.), who enjoyed a historic season of her own in 2012. The local product led the country in points per game and ranked atop the league with 24 goals, 13 assists and 61 points, a new single-season school record. The forward reeled in all-conference and All-American honors in the process and, entering her senior season, should be one of Merrimack’s most viable threats.
But Waldie was not alone last fall, and classmate Jessica Otis (Pittsford, N.Y.) adds more than enough firepower from her wing midfield spot to pose a formidable two-headed offensive threat. The speedy outside midfielder tallied 19 points (7g, 5a) last fall and was one of Merrimack’s two First-Team All-Americans.
A rookie last year, sophomore Katrina Squeri (Chelmsford, Mass.) played well beyond her years at points and was the only underclassman on the team to break the double-digit scoring threshold, finishing with an impressive six goals in 18 games at midfield. She and classmate Christine Zubkus (Dover, N.H.) will factor into the offense once again this season and could both be primed for breakout falls.
Adding depth for the Warriors’ offensive unit will be sophomores Lindsay Dobecki (Scarborough, Maine), Taylor Ledwith (Springfield, Mass.), and Sydney Bowker (Schenectady, N.Y.), who each saw playing time last fall. Additionally, a promising cast of freshmen will look to break into the mix as well, featuring Eva Colarusso (Arlington, Mass.), Nicole Bradley (Essex, Mass.), Maura Doyle (Merrimac, Mass.), Hannah Magerman (Franklin, Mass.), and Kaitlin McCauley (Newburyport, Mass.).
Despite the reputation for the high-octane offense, Merrimack’s defensive unit was more than formidable and stood as one of the best in the entire conference. Allowing just 1.28 goals per game – the second-best mark in the league – thanks in part to seven defensive saves and only 12.8 shot attempts allowed per contest, the Warriors’ backline was equally responsible for last year’s successful run to the Final Four.
One of Merrimack’s top two-way defenders came in the form of All-American rising senior Sarah Dunbar (Hubbardston, Mass.). The 13-game starter appeared in every contest and anchored one of the top defensive units in the conference with her team-leading four defensive saves. But Dunbar added plenty of offense as well, finishing the year with two goals and four points, the highest total for any defender on the team.
A starter in every game last fall, junior Abbey Stacey (Sidney, Maine) added a defensive save as well and played a key role on defense despite her underclassman status last fall. She and classmate Katie Bishop (Conway, N.H.), who added two more defensive saves, aided Dunbar and senior Lindsay Grover(Barnstable, Mass.) – who appeared in 19 games in 2012 –on the backline.
Also returning on defense is sophomore Brie Cook (Sunderland, Mass.), who will join newcomers Sarah Sparks (Falmouth, Maine) and Elizabeth Egan(South Dennis, Mass.) on a unit that should certainly not miss a beat from last season’s success in 2013.
While both sides of the ball will be aided by the return of most, if not all of the components that guided Merrimack to another NE-10 regular season crown last fall, between the posts lies the biggest question mark.
With the graduation of Bergquist, Rounce will turn the reigns over to either junior Gina Rosinski (Derry, N.H.) or sophomore Madison Davis (San Jose, Calif.), or potentially both. Only Rosinski has seen previous playing time – two games and 25:56 total time in the fall of 2011 – between the two netminders, but both possess the skillset to succeed, giving the team confidence to win from the net out this season.