setting the stage
The Merrimack College women's soccer team returned to North Andover for the 2016 season with eight starters from the 2015 season still on the roster while returning all of its reserves and adding on plenty of depth. The 2016 squad consisted of six seniors, captained by Julia Heffernan and Megan Gada, with an evenly dispersed roster of 15 upperclassmen and 15 underclassmen that saw contributions from all 30 Warriors throughout the season.
Merrimack opened up the 2016 campaign by hosting the Merrimack Kickoff Classic to get their 18-game schedule underway, which featured 14 Northeast-10 Conference contests. The four non-conference matchups for the Navy and Gold would come in the Kickoff Classic, as well as in trips to Post University and LIU Post.
merrimack kickoff classic
The Warriors began the 2016 campaign on the first weekend of September by hosting the Merrimack Kickoff Classic at Martone-Mejail Field. The season-opening event featured the likes of Bentley, Molloy and Dominican, with the Warriors pitted in matchups against Molloy and Dominican across the weekend.
Merrimack began the season in impressive fashion, winning both games in the Classic by scoring a total of seven goals across the two games while not allowing a single one. The Warriors opened 2016 with a 2-0 win over Molloy, and followed that with a 5-0 rout of Dominican to open the year 2-0.
national television debut
In the midst of the 2016 season, the Warriors would make their national television debut when they traveled up to Southern New Hampshire to take on the Penmen in early October. The game was broadcast locally on NESNplus and across the country on NESN National.
For the second consecutive season, the Navy and Gold would defeat the perennial NE10 contender in Southern New Hampshire by a score of 1-0. The game-winner and lone goal of the game would come off the foot of Sarah Boucher to lead the Warriors to a big conference win in their first-ever nationally televised contest.
standout senior seasons
Merrimack's six-athlete senior class in 2016 put together a standout season as a group, with some seniors registering career seasons. The group of Julia Heffernan (pictured), Megan Gada, Cayla Bucci, Alyssa Eaton, Bianca Giacalone and Eva Mazzoni each contributed to the Warriors in their final campaigns.
A key contributor to Merrimack's front line in 2016, Giacalone's senior season was highlighted by setting a new career-high in goals with four on the year, while also tying her career-high with eight points. Playing in a career-high 17 games with nine starts, Bucci would net the first points of her four years with her first-career goal in Merrimack's 4-0 win over Post.
Gada and Heffernan would each captain the Warriors from the backline, with Gada making the move to back to help fulfill the team's needs, leading the Warriors defense to a sub-1.30 goals-against average. Gada would also add the fifth assist of her career during the year, while Heffernan would net her first-career goal while helping shut down Southern Connecticut to lift the Warriors to a 1-1 tie with the Owls. Heffernan garnered NE10 Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts in the game.
Along with Heffernan and Gada, Eaton would be one of just six Warriors to start in every game during 2016, becoming a mainstay on a veteran Warrior backline that was responsible for much of the success experienced by Merrimack during the year. After battling through injury, Mazzoni would play in nine of Merrimack's final 10 games, helping the Warriors post a winning record in that stretch.
The quality season for the women's soccer class of 2016 would culminate on a rainy Friday in late October, with all six Warriors being honored in a pregame ceremony ahead of a matchup with Saint Anselm at Martone-Mejail Field. After playing 45 scoreless minutes in hurricane like conditions, the game would have to be postponed two days due to the weather.
With the game being restarted from the beginning on the following Sunday, the Senior Day aura was still in the air as the senior-stacked defense held Saint Anselm scoreless in the contest. Two goals from the Warriors offense would help this impressive senior defense register the eighth shutout of the season for Merrimack, which ranked third in the NE10.
a look ahead to 2017
The Warriors will return nearly all of their scoring production next season, including their three top scorers from 2016 in Victoria Carter, Sarah Boucher, and Amber Gustafson. Each Warriors scored double-digit points last season, with Carter leading the way with 17 points on fix goals and five assists. Boucher matched her career-best numbers in 2016 with five goals and two assists for 10 points, while Gustafson provided a spark with three goals and four assists for 10 points in her first year at Merrimack after transferring.
The Navy and Gold also bring back all of their goalkeeping in 2017, highlighted by what will be the senior campaign for Molly Meehan after a career year as a junior that saw her establish herself as one of the top goalkeepers in the league. Erin Fulton will also return after a rookie season that saw her make six appearances, going 2-1 with a 1.73 goals-against average and her first-career shutout.