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Merrimack field hockey team still hungry after winning title

By John Vellante
November 6, 2011

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Her squad was picked to finish sixth in the Northeast-10 Conference preseason coaches’ poll, but coach Anne Rounce knew the Merrimack College field hockey team was better than just middle-of-the-pack. The last two months, Rounce and the Warriors have been the best team in the region.

After a season-opening loss to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Merrimack ripped off 17 straight wins, including a perfect 10-0 mark against NE-10 foes, to claim its first regular-season conference championship.

The Warriors finally lost, 3-2, to defending national champion UMass-Lowell in the NE-10 tournament championship, but that defeat did not sway the NCAA Division 2 selection committee.

Merrimack received the top seed in the North Region, earning a first-round bye, and advances to a national semifinal matchup against either UMass-Lowell or American International on Friday at Bloomsburg University, in Pennsylvania.

“We were returning all but three seniors and all but two starters, so I knew in my heart that we were better than what we were perceived to be,’’ said Rounce.

“We had a lot of injuries last year and learned a lot of hard lessons. Obviously, not too many people thought we’d come back as strong as we did.’’

A trio of Warriors, April Daugherty of Wakefield, R.I., Jen Otis of Penacook, N.H., and Kerri Bergquist of Mashpee, have really taken their games to the next level.

Daugherty, the NE-10 Player of the Year, has a team-leading 50 points (22 goals, 6 assists). Otis was second in scoring (13-5-31), and Bergquist started all 19 games in goal, compiling a 17-2 record and .90 goals-against average, with nine shutouts. She was the conference’s Goalie of the Year.

But, as much as the trio contributed, Rounce insists the credit needs to be spread.

Daugherty, Otis, and Bergquist “are all very special players and leaders on and off the field, but they’re not the only ones,’’ said Rounce. “This was a total team effort that started with our defensive unit. It’s very difficult to single out any one player. In my mind, we have a lot of special players.’’

Those would include junior Jamie Spano of Reading and sophomore Candice Waldie of North Andover, who have combined for seven goals while assisting on five others.

Rounce said Spano “has shown tremendous growth,’’ and Waldie has a “love and passion for the game that is contagious.’’

Rounce, now in her fourth season as head field hockey coach at the North Andover college, said she has no preference on whether her team plays UMass-Lowell or AIC in the national semi-finals.

“I have great respect for both programs,’’ she said, “and whichever team we play, we will be hungry. AIC is an up-and-coming program and growing, as is Merrimack, and UMass-Lowell is the defending champion, so either/or is going to be tough. We’ll stay focused and just take one game at a time.’’

Campus corner

Salem State University women’s tennis coach Joe Dunn Sr. was named Little East Conference Coach of the Year after guiding the Vikings to their first conference title and a berth in the NCAA Division 3 Tournament. Salem State went 12-2 overall and 7-1 in Little East competition. Lauren Turenne of Reading and Carly Muniz of Gloucester earned first team All-Conference honors in singles. Turenne also gained All-Conference in doubles, teaming with Michelle McEwen of Billerica to go 12-0. . . . With all five starters and 13 veterans returning from a 20-10 season, UMass-Lowell is the preseason coaches’ pick as the top Northeast-10 Conference men’s basketball team. The River Hawks, ranked No. 10 in the Division 2 Sporting News poll, received 12 first-place votes while defending champion Bentley picked up four. “It’s an honor to be chosen No. 1 by the coaches, but the coaches don’t decide the games, the players on the court do,’’ said UMass coach Greg Herenda. “This league is so tough and so balanced that at least seven teams can win it this year.’’ . . . Brown freshman field hockey player Meghan O’Donnell of Winchester was the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after bagging seven points (3 goals, 1 assist) against Holy Cross and Pennsylvania. . . . Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata of Wakefield went 5-0 with 1.40 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in October and was the Hockey East defensive Player of the Month.

Around and about

The Intercity League will induct 22 members into its Hall of Fame Saturday at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham. Among those to be honored: Joe Armstrong, Dave Caiazzo, and Paul Leahy, all of Malden; John Brickley and Dr. Richard Morelli of Melrose; James Cavanaugh, Ellis Lane, and Jim Melzar, all of Reading; Dennis Drinkwater, John Moore, and Bud Keohane, all of Wakefield; Arthur Hartung, Tony Pappalardo, and Charlie Patterson, all of Stoneham; and Hank Landers, Dave Marsters, Dave Polcari, and Eddie Rideout, all of Medford. Tickets can be purchased by calling Orazio Azzarello at 617-839-1488 or by e-mail at . . . The New Hampshire foursome of Tim Prather of Nashua, Mike Shupe of Greenland, John MacDonald of Wolfeboro, and Brian Strong of Rochester, won the recent Massachusetts School of Law Alumni Golf Tournament at Stow Acres. Proceeds benefit the Shadow Fund, established to help individuals afford medical treatment for their pets.

John Vellante can be reached at