After returning to the NCAA Final Four for the third year in a row last November, the Merrimack College field hockey team has its sights set on even greater heights this fall with the start of the 2014 campaign just over a week away.
Senior captains Katie Bishop (Conway, N.H.) and Abbey Stacey (Sidney, Maine) join junior captain Sydney Bowker (Schenectady, N.Y.) to lead the way on the field, while seventh-year head coach Anne Rounce turns to a relatively young but versatile and hard-working squad that is hungry and ready to make more noise at the conference and national level.
Last season, a potent Warrior attacking unit ranked seventh nationally in scoring average (3.23) and goals per game (3.3) and was the third-most charitable unit in the country, averaging 2.55 assists per game while ranking fifth in points per game (9.15).
The Warriors can rest comfortably knowing that four of their top-six scorers return from last fall, all of which registered double-digit point totals on the year. On the flip side, they’ll be aiming to replace the combined 80 points contributed from Class of 2014 graduates Candace Waldie and Jessica Otis.
Sophomore Nicole Bradley (Essex, Mass.) enjoyed a breakout rookie campaign, starting all 20 matches while finishing with 13 points (5g, 3a). Those efforts earned her a spot on the NE-10 All-Rookie Team, and the second-year Warrior figures to be near the top of Merrimack’s scoring chart again this year.
Also up front, fellow all-conference rookie team member and sophomore Maura Doyle (Merrimac, Mass.) ranked third on the team after an impressive debut season with 23 points (9g, 5a) in 20 games, including two game-winners. Classmate Kaitlin McCauley (Newburyport, Mass.) posted an eight-point season in 14 games as a freshman and figures to be much improved this fall.
Rounding out the group of forwards returning are Bowker and classmate Lindsay Dobecki (Scarborough, Maine), while newcomers Taylor Simpson (York, Maine) and Rylee Hammond (Phillipston, Mass.) figure to make an impact in 2014.
A pair of juniors highlights a deep midfield unit, as third-year Warriors Christine Zubkus (Dover, N.H.) and Katrina Squeri (Chelmsford, Mass.) return following impressive sophomore campaigns. The former posted five goals and nine assists – ranking third on the team in helpers – while the latter’s stat line was opposite, finishing with nine markers and five assists for 23 points. Should the team be in need of clutch scoring this season it should look no further than those two; Zubkus (3) and Squeri (2) combined for five game-winners last fall.
Sophomore Hannah Magerman (Franklin, Mass.) appeared in 12 games as a rookie and found the back of the net once last season; she joins freshmen Riley Kane (Rye, N.H.), Kylee Duteau (Gardner, Mass.) and Mikayla Panneton (Andover, Mass.) to round out the midfield unit.
After ranking eighth nationally in scoring defense last fall, Merrimack returns most of its backline after the unit yielded just 1.66 goals per game in 2013.
Headlining the group of returnees is Bishop, an NFHCA/Longstreth All-American and NE-10 All-Conference selection who anchored the defense alongside 2014 graduate Sarah Dunbar a year ago. She and fellow co-captain Stacey should provide plenty of leadership from the defensive third of the field.
Second-year Warriors Elizabeth Egan (South Dennis, Mass.) and Sarah Sparks (Falmouth, Maine), the former of which was an all-conference rookie team selection, return after appearing in 17 and 16 games, respectively, as freshmen. Junior Brie Cook (Sunderland, Mass.) boasts plenty of experience as well after appearing in 12 contests a year ago.
After a breakthrough sophomore campaign, 2013 NE-10 All-Conference selection Madison Davis (San Jose, Calif.) enters training camp as the projected starter following a season that saw her rank seventh nationally in goals-against average (1.43) and 14th in save percentage (.742), while her .765 winning percentage ranked fifth in the land.
Senior Gina Rosinski (Derry, N.H.) saw time in net last year and joins freshman Kayla Raneri (Reading, Mass.) to provide depth between the pipes.
A 17-game regular-season slate awaits the Warriors, and the journey begins next Friday (Sept. 5) when the team tackles conference rival Stonehill on the road. Last fall, Merrimack ended Stonehill’s season in dramatic fashion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as the two squads met four times in total last season.
The Warriors boasted a 6-2 home record in 2013 and will welcome Franklin Pierce on Tuesday, Sept. 16, for their first tilt at Martone-Mejail Field in 2014.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN