For the second year in a row, Merrimack lacrosse will have a shot to raise the Division 2 trophy at Gillette Stadium.
Last season, the Warriors fell to Limestone. With a year of experience behind them, they have a chance to avenge that defeat against Saint Leo.
The Warriors blew out NYIT in the second round before steadily leading throughout against upstart Seton Hill in the second contest.
After winning the NE-10 for the first time in seven years, taking down an energetic Saint Anselm squad, the Warriors still have one major hump to get over.
Becoming national champions.
After missing the chance last season, the opportunity to win it in Massachusetts again is a second opportunity.
“Having to look across the field and see Limestone lift the trophy was one of the hardest things all of us have seen,” said junior midfielder Bailey Walsh. “The positive thing is, we have that in our heads. It’s not taking no for an answer now. We try to take the positive, having that taste in our mouth, we know what it takes. If we take a step forward, that could be us.”
Saint Leo has made an equally impressive run, taking down a Tampa team that was a favorite to make it deep into the postseason, but Merrimack brings in more experience than any other playoff squad.
“It’s nice to have the experience,” Walsh, a Derry, New Hampshire native, said. “We’ve relied on our upperclassmen and the guys who have been here a few years. Getting to the final four the past few years has been nice, but getting to the championship, we have a taste. We know what it takes to get there and it’s in the back of our heads.”
The Warriors have never faced Saint Leo, so this will be a new look. They had faced NYIT earlier in the season before their playoff contest against the Bears, but Seton Hill was also a new experience.
All season long, Merrimack has thwarted underdog attempts, also defeating an upstart Saint Anselm team in the NE-10 conference championship, who had upset Le Moyne to get to that point.
“It’s like our situation last week when Saint Anselm beat Le Moyne,” Walsh said. “We know they were riding in high with confidence. The first five minutes are big for us. We might have to take a punch but we want to give it back, we have to win the first five minutes. They’ll come out with heavy checks, but they don’t have the experience of a final four and we do.”
* ESPNW NWHL Correspondent
* Newburyport Daily News Sports Reporter
* NWHL and MLL Broadcaster