(Photo Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics)
Following the 2019 season, which saw Merrimack win a second consecutive DII national title, the Warriors made a jump that hadn’t been seen since Bryant made the same move in 2012. That move being the Warriors’ jump up from DII to DI.
Moving up to DI, where they joined the NEC, after winning two straight national titles at the DII level created a certain level of excitement and buzz around the Andover-based program and how competitive they could be in their new home, especially once they become a full member and able to compete in the postseason in 2024. However, the first two years of the DI era for Merrimack lacrosse haven’t been as kind as they would like.
First off, the Warriors saw their inaugural season as a DI program cut short six games in. They went 1-5 in those six contests, but only fell by an average of 1.8 goals. In 2021, competing in their first full season as a DI, Merrimack went 5-5 (4-4 NEC) and finished fifth in the conference standings. They took their losses by an average of 4.4 goals, which included a one-goal, 11-10, loss against eventual NEC Champion Bryant.
With two years to go until the Warriors can compete in the postseason, the DI adaptation continues for this program. Heading into 2022, Mike Morgan leads Merrimack into its third season as a DI program looking to build upon the successes found last season, and keep taking the necessary steps forward to be a consistent competitor within the NEC, especially once 2024 rolls around.
In 2021, the NEC featured some stellar offenses with LIU (14.09 goals per game) and Bryant (13.62) being top-15 nationally while St. Joseph’s (12.38) and Hobart (12.22) were each top-25 scoring offense at seasons’ end. Merrimack sat right behind that group as the fifth best offense in the conference and 30th-best in the nation, averaging 11.40 goals per game. The Warriors also averaged 6.33 assists per game and 17.10 points per game.
Those numbers are up from what the Warriors were producing in 2020 prior to the season being cut short. And being able to improve in the first year of the post Charlie Bertrand era is a good sign for this Merrimack offense going forward, as they should be able to improve further or, at least, hover around the same numbers during the upcoming 2022 season. That is especially true with how much production this Warriors’ offense will return this spring.
Merrimack will see each of their top five point-getters back from a year ago, including the Rooney brothers who took the reigns and led this offense last season. Jack Rooney, a junior attackman, transferred in from Furman and led the Warriors’ offense with 34 points off 25 goals and nine assists. Tommy Rooney, a senior midfielder, was Merrimack’s second-leading scorer last season with 33 points off 25 goals and nine assists. The elder Rooney transferred in from Siena prior to last season.
In addition to the aforementioned sharp-shooting brothers, Merrimack returns attackmen Christian Thomas (21G/6A) and Sean Black (5G/19A) for an extra season, while senior midfielder Drew Hailey (14G/4A), who played in all 10 games but only started the first three, also returns after being the Warriors’ fifth-leading scorer last season. Black was the only first team All-NEC selection from Merrimack last season, and the team’s only All-NEC pick on the offensive end.
Max Morrill (11G/2A), Grant Laman (5G/3A), and Aiden Glover (4G/1A) will also be returning after each saw multiple starts at the midfield spot last season. The trio will surely
With the core of this offense, which is filled with guys who have and can play and succeed at multiple positions on the field, returning, it’s not naive to think this unit can possibly take a big step up in 2022. That looks even more like a real possibility when you consider the sheer amount of talent back and the fact that this unit did progress a decent amount last season. The Warriors averaged 12 goals per game during their final five games after averaging 10.8 goals per game in their first five contests, which included two single-digit outputs.
Merrimack also saw its shooting percentage during the back half of the season, shooting approximately 33% per game during the final five games of the season after seeing that number be around 27% during the first half of the season.
Defensively, the Warriors deployed a fairly green unit last season with defenseman Nicholas Perez-Blanco (14GB/18CT), who led the team in caused turnovers and was a first team All-NEC selection, being the only one of two heavy contributors with any starting experience heading into the year. LSM Christian Glover (23GB/10CT) was the only other key player on the back end with much experience, having appeared in 20 games in his first two seasons in North Andover.
Perez-Blanco and Glover headlined a defense that saw two freshman get the starting nod the majority of the season, while a duo of sophomores also made a significant impact. NEC All-Rookie defenseman Joseph Jorgenson (11GB/8CT) started all 10 games as a freshman at close last season while Riley Reed (11GB/3CT) saw action in every game with seven starts as a sophomore. Sam Walsh (6GB/5CT) started half of the games (3) at close as a freshman during 2020 and saw similar time as a sophomore this past season, playing in seven games and starting the first three.
The youthfulness of this defense even extended into the cage with Furman transfer Andrew Jenet starting the first game of the season as a sophomore before freshman Henry Vogt took over the following game and started the rest of the season. Vogt made 103 saves with a .531% save percentage and earned All-Rookie honors in the NEC.
Additionally, Merrimack will also return their top two SSDMs in juniors Jack Barron (23GB/7CT) and Michael Ferrara (7GB/3CT). The pair look to be key options for this rope unit again in 2022 after putting together strong sophomore campaigns this past spring.
Merrimack’s defense wasn’t the best last season, allowing 11.8 goals per game, which includes allowing 20 goals against Bryant in early-March. However, with the experienced leaders, as well as the young talent, the Warriors bring back on the back end this coming season, there isn’t much reason to doubt how much this unit can improve.
Another area of the field in which Merrimack deployed a good amount of youth last season was at the faceoff dot. Allyn French, who served as the primary option as a freshman in 2020, starter the year as the starter but was sidelined with a knee injury after just three games. Freshman Karl Sutter stepped into that primary role, going 70-for-132 (.530%). French went 23-for-47 (.489%) in the three games he appeared in.
Assuming French is able to comeback 100%, him and Sutter could create an exciting one-two-punch at the dot that posses a lot of potential. And if just one of them comes through with an uber strong season, this Merrimack offense could possibly progress and explode more than expected due to those extra possessions.