The Skyhawks are the No. 7 seed in the East Regional and will play Friday afternoon at No. 2 seed Bridgeport.
EASTON – Two years after making its first appearance in the NCAA Division 2 tournament, the Stonehill College women's soccer team has earned a return trip.
The Skyhawks, the No. 7 seed in the East Regional, have received an at-large berth in the field of 56 teams and will travel to the second-seeded University of Bridgeport for a 2 p.m. game on Friday.
Stonehill received an automatic bid in 2016 by winning the Northeast-10 Conference tournament for the first time since 1995, then lost to American International College, 3-1, in the opening round in Connecticut.
After going through a rebuilding season in 2017 when the Skyhawks finished 7-11, they have put together a 13-6 record this fall and are one of four NE-10 teams in the NCAAs.
"When it happened in 2016, after we got through it and made our history, we kind of said that hopefully it's not another decade before we can do it again,″ said coach Alex Wilson, now in her sixth season. "With the building year we had in 2017, coming into this year we knew we had two classes that had experienced the tournament and two that hadn't and I think it was just the right mix.
"Going twice in three years is pretty fantastic coming from never doing it before, so we're really excited.″
Stonehill finished third in the NE-10 at 10-4 behind Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire, but lost in the opening round of the conference tourney to Assumption, 2-1.
The Skyhawks had solidified their NCAA resume by going on a seven-game winning streak late in the regular season.
Freshman Camryn Thompson leads the team with nine goals and 24 points and was named the NE-10 rookie of the year, the first time a Stonehill player has earned that award. Kaitlin Brown (1.22 goals-against average, eight shutouts) was named the goalkeeper of the year.
Brown was joined by defender Tess Erwin on the all-conference first team and Thompson, who has tied the program record for points by a first-year player, made the all-rookie team and joined midfielder Courtney Campo of Quincy on the all-conference second team.
Sophomore Kayla Henry is second on the team with 20 points (seven goals, six assists) while Elizabeth Nerger of Marshfield and Nicole Garfield have four goals apiece and Nicole Geraghty of Bridgewater has three goals and three assists.
There are 11 juniors and seniors who were on the team that made it to the NCAAs two years ago, and combined with a talented group of 17 freshmen and sophomores, Stonehill put it all together this season.
"As a staff, we talked about the incoming class and the returners and thought we had some good depth,″ said Wilson. "We produced the goalkeeper of the year and we have the rookie of the year. That was fantastic to get those major awards. It just speaks to the quality of the team and how we were able to perform every game, which allowed that individual to stand out.
"As we continued to grow every single game, we realized this is working and we've got a good group here.
Stonehill will face a Bridgeport team that is 14-4-1 and went 8-1 in the East Coast Conference, winning the tournament over LIU Post. Bridgeport is in the NCAAs for the 10th time in the past 12 years and won the East Regional two years ago.
The Purple Knights are led by Maegen Doyle with 23 goals and three assists and Nara DaCosta with 10 goals and three assists.
"Having that experience, (the upperclassmen) know they don't want to just make it here,″ said Wilson. "They want to get the first win for the program.
The Stonehill-Bridgeport winner advances to the second round on Sunday against either third-seeded Mercy College (12-3-1) or sixth-seeded Saint Rose (13-4-3).
By Jim Fenton