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November 21, 2013

Merrimack grinds its way to field hockey final four

Over the course of any season, certain losses will stick in the craw of any athlete. For Candace Waldie and the Merrimack College field hockey team, that would be a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Long Island University-Post back in October.

“They’re a great team but that was a really close game and I know we want another shot at them,” said Waldie, a former North Andover High great.

The Warriors will get another shot today (12:30 p.m.) when they once again stand across the field from the Pioneers in the NCAA national semifinals at the USA Field Hockey Training Center in Virginia Beach, Va.

This is Merrimack’s third year in a row in the Final Four. There are 27 teams nationally in Division 2.

Merrimack (14-5) gave Post (20-0) its biggest scare of the season on Oct. 6 in New York. The Warriors tied the score on a Waldie goal in the 52nd minute before Carlee Dragon won it for the Pioneers on a penalty corner in double OT.

“We have a lot of experience being (here),” Waldie said, “but at the same time, it’s still exciting. I wouldn’t say there are nerves, but this is the first year all of the divisions will be in the same place, so it definitely feels like a bigger event. It’s the first time we’ve had to fly to a Final Four, so it’s a new experience but at the same time we know what to expect and we’re ready. We won’t be surprised by anything we see.”

UMass Lowell, the longtime power in the NE-10, left the conference this year for America East (Division 1) and the Warriors were picked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll.

Still, with heavy graduation losses, a third straight Final Four wasn’t going to be easy.

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