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NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. – Behind free-position goals from freshmen Morgan Walsh (Duxbury, Mass.) andAnnette Ruggiero (Peabody, Mass.) in the final minute to complete the comeback victory, the Merrimack College women’s lacrosse team survived a scare, 9-8, from the Pace University Setters at Martone-Mejail Field on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors scored five of the final six goals of the game to execute to come-from-behind effort.

Links: HighlightsBox Score | Annette Ruggiero Interview

The Basics
Score: Merrimack 9
| Pace 8
Records: Merrimack (3-1, 1-0 NE-10)
| Pace (1-1, 0-1 NE-10)
Martone-Mejail Field | North Andover, Mass.

What They Said
Head coach Michael Daly: “I’m very proud of how the girls competed late in the game to come away with this win. All the credit in the world goes to Pace for how well they performed and how much I respect the quickly growing program they have. Bottom line is we got the one, but we still have a lot of ways that we can improve over the remainder of the season.”

How It Happened
It was a thriller in the rain, as both the Warriors and the Setters battle consistent rain drops throughout the contest, which lasted nearly two hours.

The second half began with Merrimack trailing by two goals and it did not look like the Setters were going to relinquish the advantage. Less than four minutes into the second stanza, Cassandra Pacelli scored to make it a 7-4 game. The Warriors played the first 16:46 of the half without scoring, before Hunter McCarthy (Avon, Conn.) ended the drought with her second tally of the game. The goal was set up by freshman Valerie Dayton (Belmont, Mass.), who intercepted an errant Pace clearing attempt. McCarthy scored less than one minute later to pick up her third of the contest and make it a one-goal game.

At the 10:48 mark, freshman Emily Ankabrandt pushed the Pace advantage back to two at 8-6. The clock passed on, the two-minute mark coming and going with the Setters keeping the Warriors offense off the scoreboard.

The tide changed with 1:44 to play in the game. Senior Christine Keenan (Byfield, Mass.) made a beautiful run into the offensive zone, drawing two defenders, and dished off to fellow fourth-year player Giulia Palombo (Sandwich, Mass.) who narrowly got her shot into the net after the Setters goalkeeper got a piece of her attempt.

Pace would win the ensuing the draw control, but turned the ball over. Walsh attacked the left-side of the Setters defense and was fouled, setting up the free position. She attacked the crease, scoring with a high shot to tie the game at 8-8. It was the first time all afternoon, other than 0-0, that Pace did not lead. Ruggiero won the next draw control, and drove into the middle of the zone. She drew a free position as well, and displayed no misgivings on what she was going to do with the ball. The rookie made a hard drive to the net and scored her eighth of the season and the eventual game-winner.

The first half did not start out well for the Warriors, as Pace began the game on a 3-0 run over the first 9:45 of the game. The Setter are playing in their inaugural season in the Northeast-10 Conference, with the contest against the Warriors being the program’s first-ever league game.

Sophomore Meghan Wiseman (Arlington, Mass.) opened up the scoring for the Warriors with 17 minutes to play in the half. Thirty-four seconds late, Pace answered with a goal from Stephanie Chadwick. The Navy and Gold responded with its second of the game, courtesy of Aubrie Stouffer (Souderton, Pa.), and the game was at 5-2 with 13 minutes remaining in the opening half.

The Warriors went on a 2-0 run to end the half. Merrimack’s leading scorers, Stouffer and McCarthy, tallied the final goals of the half and it was 6-4.

Inside The Numbers

  • The Warriors led for less than one minute in the contest, but it was the most important minute of the game. For Ruggiero and Walsh, each tally was their first of the game, as the Setters defense kept the rookie duo quiet for much of the game
  • McCarthy notched her fourth straight hat trick to begin the season. Dayon and Stouffer join the redshirt freshman with multi-point games
  • The clearing game had a significant impact on the outcome. The Setters were only successful on 13-of-22 attempts to move the ball from the defensive zone to the offensize zone, while the Warriors finished 9-of-11.
  • The goalkeeping battle featured two freshman. Alexa Petzold (Ridgewood, N.J.) totaled four saves on the afternoon, while her counterpart, Alissa Silvestri, notched nine stops
  • Senior defender Olivia Coakley (Bridgewater, Mass.) posted four ground balls to lead the team, while Ruggiero totaled four draw controls and seven different Warriors notched caused turnovers

Up Next
Merrimack will continue its three-game homestand and home contests in five of the next six games on Tuesday afternoon when the Warriors welcome Franklin Pierce into Martone-Mejail Field for a 4 p.m. first draw control.

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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