UMass Lowell to Appear in National Championship Game as they Knock off Merrimack, 3-1, in National Semifinals

UMass Lowell to Appear in National Championship Game as they Knock off Merrimack, 3-1, in National Semifinals


For Immediate Release

November 11, 2011

Courtesy of the UMass Lowell Athletics Communications Staff

Bloomsburg, Pa. – UMass Lowell scored three goals in the opening 13 minutes and never looked back Friday afternoon in a 3-1 victory over Merrimack College in the NCAA Division II Field Hockey Tournament at Bloomsburg University's Sports Stadium.

With the victory, UMass Lowell (19-3) moves on to the NCAA Championship game for the fifth straight year and meets West Chester University (15-4) Sunday at 1:00. West Chester drew with the host Huskies, 2-2, before prevailing on penalty strokes, 4-2.

Freshman F Bianca Jones scored two of the goals, in the 11th and 13th minutes – both set up by junior M Sarah Wilcox – while sophomore F Melissa Effertz (pictured) opened the scoring in the second minute.

"We just clicked. We were disciplined in our formation and we knew what we had to do," said head coachShannon Hlebichuk. "We knew we had to score early in order to win it. I have to give (Merrimack) props, they're a good team."

Sunday's clash against West Chester will mark UMass Lowell's seventh overall trip to the NCAA Championship. The River Hawks won the title last year (1-0 over Shippensburg) and in 2005 (2-1 over Bloomsburg).

West Chester is in its first season in Division II after transitioning from Division I.

"I definitely think our experience in the NCAAs is something that helped us today," Hlebuchuk said. "We were confident. We were loose. Our kids didn't have a lot of nerves because we knew what we were up against. We were prepared."

The game was a rubber match of sorts as Merrimack won the regular season clash, 2-1, while UMass Lowell fought from a 2-0 deficit to prevail in the Northeast-10 Conference championship, 3-2.

Effertz opened the scoring in the second minute when she took a pass from sophomore F Rachel McCarthy and struck home from the side of the cage.

Jones scored her first in the 11th minute when she took a centering pass from Wilcox and flicked past junior GK Kerri Bergquist.

Two minutes later, Jones and Wilcox combined again when Wilcox beat a defender and slid a pass to Jones on the right side of the goal, who tucked it home.

UMass Lowell outshot Merrimack 13-12 overall and 9-4 in the first half. The River Hawks tightened up in the second half as Merrimack outshot them 8-4.

The Warriors pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute when junior M Katie Zubkus hit senior F Sarah Salatto from the right side, which Salatto tucked past sophomore GKMelanie Hopkins (Harwich, Mass.).

"We played a lot of defense," Hlebichuk said. "We had a 3-0 lead, but in the end we wanted to hold it down defensively. I think were strong in limiting their chances. The chances we gave them were low-efficiency shots. We made them take a lot of shots from the corners."

Hopkins and Bergquist each had five saves.