#4 Stonehill Ready for Battle in NCAA Semifinals

Senior All-American Erika Kelly led the Skyhawks to a second straight NE-10 title last week, now aims for a national championship. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Top-seeded Skyhawks and second-seeded and No. 6 Merrimack to meet in NCAA Tournament with National Championship bid on the line

Interactice NCAA II Field Hockey Championship Bracket

NCAA II Field Hockey Championship Host Website

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. (November 19, 2015) – Top-seeded Stonehill College, ranked fourth in the final regular season Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division II poll, makes its fifth appearance in the NCAA Division II national semifinals when it squares off against second-seeded and No. 6-ranked Merrimack College for the third time this season at Steph Pettit Stadium on the campus of Bloomsburg (Pa.) University on Friday at noon.

Admission for Friday's game is $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens and $2 for children 6 and under. All session passes are available for $15 for adults, $7 for students and senior citizens and $3 for children 6 and under. A free live video webcast and live stats will be available via www.ncaa.com with links also through stonehillskyhawks.com. Andrew Kappes and former Stonehill field hockey and women's tennis head coach Pam Arpe will have the call of the games for ncaa.com. Stonehill College will be hosting a free fan viewing back on campus in Easton, Massachusetts, at The Hill in Roche Dining Commons.

Stonehill (14-6, 9-3 NE-10) and Merrimack (15-5, 9-3 NE-10) will meet in the first national semifinal of the afternoon on Friday at noon. Top-ranked East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University (17-3, 9-1 PSAC) and 3rd-ranked West Chester (Pa.) University (17-4, 7-3 PSAC) will square off in the second semifinal at 3 p.m. The two semifinal winners will compete for the Division II National Championship at Pettit Stadium on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Stonehill, which captured its second-straight Northeast-10 Conference tournament championship a week and a half ago, is making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and seventh overall with its fifth appearance in the national semifinals after earning a first round bye for the second straight year as the East Region's top seed. It marks the first bid under first year head coach Susan Ciufo, a Bangor, Pennsylvania, native who played and coached collegiately at Drexel University. The Skyhawks also earned bids in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014, reaching the national semifinals in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2014 prior to this season. Stonehill fell to NE-10 rival LIU Post, 3-2, in last year's national semifinal in Louisville, Kentucky. Stonehill will serve as host of the 2016 NCAA Division II Field Hockey Championships at W.B. Mason Stadium next year.

Senior back Maggie Travers earn All-Tournament team honors at the NE-10 Championships last week, looks to keep the Skyhawks defense playing strong this weekend. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Stonehill enters the NCAA Tournament red-hot with four straight wins, having played its way into the tournament with its NE-10 Championship run last week, capped by a 2-1 victory over Assumption College in the championship match after rallying from a 3-0 halftime deficit to defeat Adelphi University 4-3 in overtime in the semifinals. The Skyhawks, winners of seven of eight overall, boast the top offense in Division II with 3.6 goals per game, ranking fourth in the NE-10 with a 2.09 team goals against average and seventh with 7.6 penalty corners per game.

Senior All-American Erika Kelly (Watertown, Massachusetts/Watertown), the Northeast-10 Player of the Year, is the catalyst of the top offense in Division II, leading the country in scoring with 65 points and 27 goals, while ranking third nationally with her 11 assists. She has recorded at least a point in all 20 games this season and 21 straight contest dating back to 2014, entering the national semifinals just two points shy of the NE-10 career scoring record with 217 points, trailing just UMass Lowell's Sammy Macy's (2007-10) record of 219.

Kelly's 98 career goals has broken Macy's previous NE-10 record of 91 as she seeks to become just the second 100 goal scorer in NCAA Division II history, while her 21 career assists rank seventh in program history. Her goal and scoring total from this season rank second only to her single-season records of 38 goals and 78 points during her sophomore season, while her assists are the fifth-highest single season total in program history.

Junior Sarah Morse (Westminster, Massachusetts/Oakmont Regional), the NE-10 Tournament MVP and a first team All-NE-10 selection, leads Stonehill with 12 assists – just two shy of the program record. She has also netted four goals, three of which are game winners, for 20 points, ranking second nationally for assists. Freshman Kacie Smith (Norwood, Massachusetts/Norwood), a third team All-Conference selection, has made an immediate impact for the Skyhawks, ranking second on the team with 35 points (4th NE-10) and 14 goals (2nd) with seven assists, while senior Lauren Giordano (Watertown, Massachusetts/Watertown) has chipped in eight goals, including three game winners.

Freshman Sara Freedman (Hopkinton, Massachusetts/Hopkinton), an NE-10 All-Rookie team selection along with Smith, has seen the majority of work in the Stonehill goal, posting a 2.09 goals against average and .742 save percentage with 5.2 saves per game and two shutouts in 1,171:13 over 19 games played (16 starts). Seniors Maggie Travers (Scituate, Massachusetts/Scituate) and Lauren Dymek (Hadley, Massachusetts/Hopkins Academy) spearhead the defensive backfield in front of Freedman, having each notched two defensive saves.

Freshman Kacie Smith has made an instant impact for the Skyhawks this year, posting four points in two games against Merrimack. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Merrimack is making its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth trip to the national semifinals. The Warriors, who have reached the NCAA Tournament four of the last five years, also appeared in 2011, 2012 and 2013 when they upset Stonehill in the first round in Easton, Massachusetts, 4-3 in overtime. Merrimack reached the final four with a 2-1 overtime victory against third-seeded and No. 5-ranked Adelphi in North Andover, Massachusetts, on Saturday night. Sophomore Rylie Hammond (Phillipston, Massachusetts/Narragansett Regional) scored both Merrimack goals, including the winner 6:54 into overtime.

Merrimack ranks third in the NE-10 with 2.9 goals per game, while ranking fifth with a 1.29 goals against average and leading the NE-10 with 12.95 penalty corners per game. Freshman Mary McNeil (Canton, Massachusetts/Canton), the NE-10 Rookie of the Year, leads the Warriors with 14 goals and ten assists for 38 points, netting four gamewinning goals. Hammond has added 13 goals, including a team-high six game winners, with three assists for 29 points, while sophomore Taylor Simpson (York, Maine/York) has chipped in ten goals and five assists for 25 points.

Senior Madison Davis (San Jose, California/Branham) has played all but 175-minutes in the Merrimack goal this season, posting a 1.25 goals against average (5th NE-10) and an NE-10 high .815 save percentage with 5.4 saves per game and four shutouts in 1,231:54 over 18 games. Junior back Elizabeth Egan (South Dennis, Massachusetts/Dennis-Yarmouth) leads the Warriors with four defensive saves.

Friday will mark the third meeting of the season between these two programs, with Stonehill seeking its first win of the year against Merrimack. The Warriors posted a 4-2 non-conference win in North Andover, Massachusetts, on September 17, and then handing the Skyhawks their last loss with a 4-3 decision at W.B. Mason Stadium on October 27. McNeil has recorded two goals and two assists for six points for Merrimack against Stonehill this season, while Hammond has potted the game winner in both games. Kelly has led the Skyhawks with two goals and an assist, with Smith contributing a goal and two assists.

Stonehill holds an 11-10 edge in the all-time series between these two programs, including a 2-1 mark in postseason play, but Merrimack has won the lone NCAA Tournament matchup with its first round win in Easton in 2013. Senior Christine Zubkus (Dover, New Hampshire/Dover) sent the Warriors onto the semifinals with the gamewinning goal eight minutes into overtime, while Davis finished with five stops in the 4-3 overtime win. Kelly chipped in a goal for the Skyhawks, who rallied from 2-0 halftime deficit to take a 3-2 second half lead before Merrimack forced overtime on its way to the win in its only previous NCAA Tournament matchup.

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2015 NCAA Division II
Field Hockey Championship 

First Round
Saturday, November 14
#6 Merrimack 2, #5 Adelphi 1 (OT)
#3 West Chester 2, #2 Millersville 1 

Friday, November 20

Hosted by Bloomsburg University
Steph Pettit Stadium, Bloomsburg, Pa.

#6 Merrimack (15-5, 9-3 NE-10) vs. #4 Stonehill (14-6, 9-3 NE-10), Noon
#3 West Chester (17-4, 7-3 PSAC) vs. #1 East Stroudsburg (17-3, 9-1 PSAC), 3 p.m.

National Championship
Sunday, November 22
Hosted by Bloomsburg University
Steph Pettit Stadium, Bloomsburg, Pa.

Semifinals winners, 1:30 p.m.