setting the stage
After the most successful season in program history in 2015 that saw the program reach its first NCAA Championship game, the Merrimack College field hockey team geared up for the 2016 season with 16 returners from the National Runner-Up squad, including four 2015 All-Conference selections highlighted by senior captain Sarah Sparks. Led by a senior class of six Warriors, the roster featured an even split of 11 upperclassmen and 11 underclassmen entering the 2016 season
For the first time since the 2013 season, the Warriors nabbed the top spot in the 2016 NE10 Preseason Coaches' Poll, receiving 10 of a possible 12 first-place votes after their historic 2015 season. They would also enter the season ranked fourth nationally in the NFHCA Preseason Poll.
The Warriors began the fall with a rematch of the 2015 National Championship with #1 ranked East Stroudsburg at Martone-Mejail Field, followed by two non-conference game with Northeast-10 Conference teams before playing 12 straight conference contests to take them through the season.
responding to early season adversity
The top-ranked team in the NE10 and fourth-ranked team in the nation would face some adversity early on in the 2016 campaign after an unexpectedly slow start to the season. After some close and heartbreaking losses early in the schedule, the Warriors would eventually find away to turn it around and begin to string together some wins.`
That turnaround for the Navy and Gold would begin in late September in the fifth game of the season in an NE10 contest at Saint Michael's. After taking a 1-0 lead in the final 10 minutes of the game, the Warriors would see the Purple Knights tie the game up with just 15 seconds remaining in regulation. In a situation that could have demoralized the team, Merrimack would bear down and eventually win the game in overtime on the game-winner from Mary McNeil to net the Warriors their first win of the season, while also handing head coach Anne Rounce her 100th career victory.
The dramatic overtime win would spark a stretch for the Warriors that saw them record four wins across six games, including their first home win in a dominant 3-0 shutout of Franklin Pierce. That stretch also featured a staggering 10-4 win on the road at Southern Connecticut which featured the most goals in a game for the program since at least 2000, and saw Rylie Hammond net a career-high four goals in the contest.
a furious finish
Following their bounce back with a stretch of some quality field hockey after a slow start to the year, the Warriors would really find their stride in the final quarter of the season and finish at a rampant pace. The Navy and Gold strung together four straight wins to close out the regular season, including three wins over top-10 ranked teams. They would finish the year with back-to-back wins over top-five teams, beginning with a 4-1 victory over #5 Stonehill at Martone-Mejial Field
Merrimack would follow that up with another 4-1 victory, this one over #3 Saint Anselm on the Warriors' Senior Day and regular season finale in late October.
Standout performances during the Warriors' winning homestretch nabbed Elizabeth Egan, Taylor Simpson and Katharina Ohmen weekly NE10 honors, while Ohmen and Simpson also each earned national weekly honors towards the end of the season.
The Warriors would go on to advance to the NE10 Semifinals for the second consecutive season after registering a 1-0 shutout victory over ninth-ranked Adelphi on the road in the NE10 Quarterfinals.
seniors leave their mark
The Merrimack Field Hockey Class of 2017 helped the program reach unprecedented success in their careers, helping the Warriors advance to the NE10 Championships in three of their four seasons, as well as reaching the NCAA Semifinals twice as both freshmen and juniors. They also played a pivotal role in guiding the program to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship Final in 2015, where the team was an overtime goal away from winning a National Title.
merrimack field hockey class of 2017
Nicole Bradley (Essex, Mass.)
Maura Doyle (Merrimac, Mass.)
Elizabeth Egan (South Dennis, Mass.)
Hannah Magerman (Franklin, Mass.)
Kaitlin McCauley (Newburyport, Mass.)
Sarah Sparks (Falmouth, Maine)
On top of the Warriors' Senior Day victory and all the team success the program found during the four years of the class of 2017, the seniors also left their mark on the program individually as well. After registering six during her senior campaign, Elizabeth Egan finished her career with the most defensive saves in the history of the program with 18. She also joined the top-15 in career games played with 70. Sarah Sparks finished right behind her classmate in the record books as she ended her career with 14 defensive saves, tied for second all time. Sparks would edge Egan in career games played though, finishing in a tie with fellow senior Nicole Bradley for 13th all time with 72.
The Warriors would land three student-athletes on NE-10 All Conference squads, with Mary McNeil earning First Team Recognition, Rylie Hammond nabbing Second Team honors and Katharina Ohmen garnering a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Ohmen took home All-Rookie honors after a breakout season in goal for the Warriors. She has posted an 8-5 record in 13 games with three shutouts, including in Merrimack's NE10 Quarterfinal win. She ranked top-five in the conference in both goals-against average and save percentage, as her 1.34 GAA ranked fifth while her .822 SV% ranked third in the NE10.
Hammond earned All-Conference honors for the third time in her three years at Merrimack, as she was named to the All-Rookie team as a freshman, and also earned Second Team recognition as a sophomore. As a junior, Hammond led Merrimack with 26 points and 11 goals, including the lone goal the Warriors' 1-0 NE10 Quarterfinal win at Adelphi. Her 11 tallies as well as her four game-winning goals she netted in 2016 were both tied for fourth in the conference.
The 2015 NE-10 Rookie of the Year, McNeil garnered First Team recognition for the second straight year in just her second season as a Warrior. She has racked up seven goals and seven assists for 21 points in 16 games in 2016. Her goal and point totals ranked third on the team, while her seven assists are most on the team and tied for second in the NE10. The sophomore also earned All-American status for the second time in two years at Merrimack, but garnered a spot on the First Team for the first time in her career.