NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Making its first-ever appearance in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship game, the nationally-ranked Saint Anselm College men's lacrosse team posted an 11-7 loss to Merrimack College on Sunday at Merrimack Stadium.
The Hawks, ranked 17th in the country according to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, fall to 11-5 on the year with the result. Merrimack (15-1), the second-ranked team in the nation, won its first NE10 title since the 2010 season. The field for the NCAA Division II Men's Lacrosse Championship will be announced on NCAA.com this evening at 7:30 p.m. in a televised selection show.
Freshman Matt Ward potted a goal and added two assists for a team-leading three points of offense (1-2=3). Freshman Griffin Shoemaker and senior Ryan Hesseltine each cashed in with a goal and an assist as seven Hawks scored goals in the loss. Hawks netminder Nick Richard joined junior Anthony Busconi on the NE10 All-Tournament Team.
With the score deadlocked at two through the first quarter, Merrimack fired off seven of the game's next 10 goals to capture the four-goal victory.
The Warriors and Hawks played to a 2-2 draw after the first 15 minutes of action. Hesseltine scored for Saint Anselm only 3:28 into the contest before Merrimack potted back-to-back goals to capture its first lead of the afternoon. Ward's 32nd goal of the year evened the game shortly before the second half, capping off an extended stretch of offensive pressure thanks to a Merrimack penalty.
Before a timeout with 2:50 left in the first half, the Warriors scored four-straight goals to build a 6-2 advantage. The Hawks did not exit the second quarter quietly as Busconi scored a goal with two seconds left in the first half, halving the Warriors advantage entering halftime. Through the first 30 minutes of play, the Hawks held a 22-to-18 advantage in shots but lost seven of the game's 10 faceoffs.
Merrimack maintained an advantage on the Hawks in the third quarter, matching the Hawks with two goals before a late strike by Kyle Stenberg with 32 seconds left in the stanza created a 9-5 lead for the hosts entering the fourth quarter. The Warriors continued to control the faceoff "X", winning 12 of the game's 16 draws heading into the final 15 minutes.
The fourth quarter was nearly a copy of the third quarter with Merrimack and Saint Anselm matching goal-for-goal down the stretch. The Hawks brought the score to within four, 11-7, following a Sweeney score with 2:09 left on the clock but Merrimack was able to maintain its early lead through to the game's conclusion.
Stenberg was his team's leader with five goals scored. Sean Black was second with three goals and an assist for four points (3-1=4). Blake Boudreau, ranked within the top-10 nationally in faceoff percentage, won 16 of the game's 21 draws and led the team with eight ground balls.
Merrimack netminder Peter Brown, who ranked last among qualifying NE10 goaltenders in save percentage (.493) entering play, made eight saves through the first half of play to stymie the Hawks offense. He finished with double-digit saves for the first time all season, recording 12 saves in the win.
Saint Anselm backstop Nick Richard made six saves on 17 shots, drawing the loss. Busconi led the Hawks with five ground balls. Hesseltine ranked second on the squad with four ground ball pickups.