NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior Vanessa Kent scored the lone goal in the seventh minute as No. 4 UMass-Lowell defeated No. 6 Merrimack 1-0 on Sunday to capture its third consecutive Northeast-10 Conference Tournament Championship at Martone-Mejail Field.
The title was UMass-Lowell’s eighth in the last 10 years. With the win, UMass Lowell improved to 18-3 and awaits NCAA Tournament pairings, to be announced on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Show Monday at 2:00.
Senior Sarah Wilcox was named the Most Valuable Player, leading the backline, which posted its 11th shutout of the season. Kent and junior Rachel McCarthy joined her on the All-Tournament Team.
The match echoed last year’s NE-10 championship game, in which UMass-Lowell defeated Merrimack 3-2 after losing the regular season meeting 2-1.
“This was a great game. We knew it was going to be a battle from the beginning,” head coach Shannon Hlebichuk said. “Merrimack is a great team and we knew opportunities were going to be hard to come by. We knew we had to capitalize and we were able to get one right away.”
UMass-Lowell attacked from the outset and it paid off in the seventh minute. Freshman Jenna Freitas gained possession of the ball and slid a pass across the goal mouth to Kent, who got the goal.
The River Hawks almost scored in the second minute on a similar play. Sophomore Bianca Jones slid a pass across the crease to sophomore Chelsea Chronopoulos, who was just short in getting a stick on it.
Kent almost got a second goal in the ninth minute, but her shot was deflected by junior Sarah Dunbar.
Merrimack showed its offensive mettle in the second half, which brought out UMass-Lowell’s backline of Wilcox, junior Kayla MacDonald, sophomore Carrie Dresser and freshman Jessica Walsh, who focused on each Warrior attack.
The River Hawk back four lifted a significant amount of pressure from goalkeeper Melanie Hopkins, who had no saves.
“We’ve been telling the kids all week to play with confidence, that they belong here,” Hlebichuk said. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it. We told all of them if they stuck to the game plan, good things would happen.
The Warriors pressed forward and nearly leveled the score in the 67th minute when senior April Daughtery’s shot went just wide of the cage.
Penalty corners were even at four and the Warriors didn’t have a corner in the second half.