Stonehill led at the half after a Merrimack own goal in the 44th minute, but the Warriors rallied to win with a pair of second half goals.
Warriors score two second half goals to advance to semifinal round
EASTON, Mass. (November 4, 2014) – The fifth-seeded Merrimack College men's soccer team scored twice in a 3:08 span early in the second half to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit and earn a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Stonehill College this afternoon in a Northeast-10 Conference Championship quarterfinal match at Skyhawk Field.
Merrimack, ranked No. 24 in this week's National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division II Poll, advances to Friday's semifinal round to take on the winner of tonight's contest between top-seeded Southern New Hampshire University and eighth-seeded American International College.
Stonehill opened the scoring this afternoon with less than two minutes remaining before the half. Skyhawks senior back Ben Zandonella (South Windsor, Connecticut/South Windsor) launched a free kick from midfield into the box, and Merrimack senior goalkeeper Jose Silva (Northborough, Massachusetts/Algonquin Regional) appeared to gain possession of the ball. Stonehill junior forward Drew Montano (Avon, Connecticut/Avon) charged into the box and towards Silva as the keeper caught the ball, causing him to drop it into the net for an own goal.
Stonehill took its 1-0 lead into the break and maintained the advantage for the first 12 minutes of the second half, before the Warriors struck for the equalizer in the 58th minute. Senior midfielder Michael Rincon (Medford, Massachusetts/Malden) carried the ball down the right side of the field before sending a low cross into the box and towards the far post. Freshman forward Juan Meza (Cali, Colombia/Colegio British School) was there to head the ball home and pull the Warriors even at 1-1.
Just over three minutes later, Rincon made a similar run down the right flank to create the go-ahead goal for Merrimack. This time, Rincon fired a shot at Stonehill junior goalkeeper Luke Besse (Hamilton, Massachusetts/Hamilton-Wenham Regional), who made the save but deflected the ball back into the middle of the box. Merrimack junior forward Augusto Silva (Hudson, Massachusetts/Hudson) collected the loose ball and buried his team-leading sixth goal of the season past Besse to put the Warriors in front 2-1.
Stonehill had a couple of solid chances to tie the contest in the closing minutes, but was unable to secure an equalizer. Zandonella had a clean look at the goal in the 87th minute, but his shot sailed wide. With just fifteen seconds left in regulation, freshman back Zach McCormick (Westfield, Massachusetts/Suffield Academy) forced Silva to make one final save on his header chance, and the Skyhawks were denied a corner kick in the final seconds.
Silva made two saves for the Warriors, while Besse recorded five stops in 62:58 of action before leaving with an injury. Senior captain Ryan Rincon (Flemington, New Jersey/Hunterdon Central Regional) took over for Besse and played the final 27:02 in net, registering a pair of saves in just his second appearance of the season.
The game was physical throughout, as the two teams combined for 28 fouls and four bookings, including a red card for Merrimack sophomore Ryan Wine (New Braintree, Massachusetts/Quabbin Regional), who will miss the Warriors' semifinal game with a suspension.
Stonehill finishes its season at 11-6-1 overall after posting a 9-4 record in NE-10 play. Today's match served as the program's first home NE-10 playoff game since 1994, when the Skyhawks hosted Quinnipiac University in the quarterfinal round.