Merrimack comes back to beat Bentley in NCAA first round
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Merrimack exploded for two goals and 20 shots in the second half, and despite a late goal by the visitors, the Warriors held on to down Bentley 3-2 in the NCAA first round on Saturday at Martone-Mejail Field, clinching the program's consecutive trip to the semifinals.
Improving to 17-3 overall, the Warriors will now match up against NE-10 Champion UMass-Lowell, while the Falcons see their season end at 11-8 overall.
Bentley took the initial lead with a goal at 20:35, but the Warriors scored three uncontested goals to move ahead 3-1. The visitors cut the deficit to one with less than five minutes to play, but Merrimack held on.
"It's a great day for the program and a very sound win over a very, very good Bentley team," head coach Anne Rounce said. "It's an honor to make it back to the Final Four for the second straight year, and we'll set our sights toward a strong week of practice to gear up for another tough match against UMass-Lowell."
Bentley controlled most of the first half before taking the lead, but Merrimack regained momentum, finishing with a 27-12 advantage in shot attempts and a 20-3 edge in shots in the second half alone.
Seniors April Daugherty and Jen Otis lit up the scoreboard for the home side, while junior Jessica Otis notched the game-winner with 13 minutes to go in regulation.
Senior goalkeeper Kerri Bergquist finished with five saves compared to seven for her counterpart Julia Powell.
The Falcons got on the board at 20:35, as Beth Maguire put the visitors on the board on her 10th marker of the season. Sally James sent a pass up through the middle to Maguire, who cut through the circle and scored on the left side of the cage to make it 1-0 with 15 minutes to play in the half.
The Warriors responded eight minutes later when Daugherty maneuvered through the left side of the circle, prompting Powell to leave her line to attempt to break up a potential breakaway. Daugherty dribbled around the keeper and slid a backhanded shot to the right-back corner of an open cage, tying the game at one.
The tie held through the remainder of the first half and nearly 10 minutes into the second before Jen Otis gave the Warriors the lead. Otis came up with a rebound after an initial shot by Jamie Spano was saved and shot into the goal to put Merrimack up 2-1 at 44:25.
Jessica Otis scored an insurance goal with less than 13 minutes to play. Midfielder Christine Zubkus – who finished with three shots – threaded a pass through the circle and to Otis, who slid a shot through traffic and into an open net on the right side to run up the lead to 3-1 at the 57:24 mark.
Maguire drew the Falcons within 3-2 after scoring on a rebound in front of Bergquist, but that goal proved to be too late, as the Warriors celebrated the win to cap off Homecoming weekend with the team's 17th victory of the season.