---- — EASTON — Down by a goal with under eight minutes to play, freshman Nicole Bradley scored the biggest goal of her young career to send the game to overtime, and midway through the first sudden-victory session, senior Jessica Otis found the back of the cage on a penalty corner, as the No. 7 and third-seeded Merrimack College field hockey team stunned No. 5 and second-seeded Stonehill, 4-3, yesterday.
That sends the Warriors to the NCAA Tournament semifinals for the third straight season Saturday afternoon.
Playing against Stonehill, by sheer coincidence, for the third straight time — the Warriors defeated Stonehill in their regular-season finale before falling in the NE-10 Semifinals to the Skyhawks eight days ago — Merrimack proved that the third time was the charm.
Merrimack roared out of the gate and dominated the first half, outshooting the hosts by an 8-3 margin and needing less than 10 minutes to get on the board, as rookie Maura Doyle of Merrimac received a feed from senior Candace Waldie of North Andover at the near post and scored to put the Warriors ahead at 9:13.
Nearly 15 minutes later, the Warriors doubled their lead thanks to the efforts of sophomore Katrina Squeri. But Stonehill battled back to take the lead, setting up the late heroics..
In the 63rd minute, the Warriors were awarded one of their 12 penalty corners on the afternoon, and after a scrum in front, Bradley picked up the loose ball and pushed it past Stonehill keeper Elizabeth Genovese for the game-tying marker that sent the contest into overtime.
In the sudden-victory period, Merrimack controlled play and attempted all three shots, including the game-winner from Otis on a penalty corner at 78:04 that punched the Warriors’ ticket to the National Semifinals.
In the national semifinals next Friday in Virginia, Merrimack faces No. 3-seed LIU Post (20-0) at 12:30 p.m. The other game pits No. 2 Millersville vs. No. 1 Shippensburg, with the championship game set for next Sunday.