2017-11-09 / Sports

UNE comes back to top St. Joe’s in NCAA first round

Associate Sports Editor

BIDDEFORD — The No. 19 University of New England field hockey team erased a 1-goal deficit to beat visiting St. Joseph’s 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

With the game tied 1-1, UNE junior Brooke Lemerise would knock a pass from Vonde Saunders into the cage with 1:35 remaining to send the Nor’easters to the second round of the playoffs.

“I was still in shock when it hit the back corner, I turned and looked for the rest of the team. I was so happy, we worked so hard, coach always says that we work hard to get to this point of the season. It’s really paid off,” said Lemerise.

UNE got control early in the first and won the possession battle. The Nor’easters also had six penalty corners in the first half, but the Monks’ defense held up and the two clubs were scoreless at the break.

The Monks would get on the board less than two minutes into the second when former Thornton Academy standout Libby Pomerleau scored to make it 1-0.

UNE continued to battle, and got the game-tying goal with 13:27 left when Saunders scored on a Kersey Boulay pass. UNE would catch fire from there and dominated the rest of the way, which eventually led to Lemerise’s game-winner.

“For the last couple of games we’ve been coming from behind. We know what it’s like even when we get scored on first,” said UNE senior and Lyman native Olivia Madore. “We don’t put our heads down, we just light the fire. We never give up.”

“It happens — and that’s the blessing about NCAA’s, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said UNE coach Danielle Collins after the win. “Everyone is here for a reason and for us it was about finding our groove. Props to St. Joe’s, they played really well and came ready to play. But that’s what they are, they’re young and they listen to what coach says and they just go. Their speed and eagerness kept them in this game with us.”

St. Joe’s coach Rupert Lewis was disappointed in the loss, but proud of his young team’s performance.

“Overall, I’m very impressed and proud of how we competed. We have a young team and they surely competed against a more experienced UNE team,” said Lewis.

Despite the loss, the St. Joe’s program has turned around recently after a stretch of down seasons. The Monk’s made it to the second round of the NCAA playoffs last year, and qualified for the tournament this year.

A big part of the turn around has been thanks to Pomerleau, who is a Limerick native. She was St. Joe’s leading scorer this year, accounting for 21 of the Monks’ 47 goals.

“I think going so far and winning the first round of the NCAA tournament (last year) really gave me exposure. It helped me blossom as a player, I worked on my fitness a lot this summer, I got prepared for this season,” said Pomerleau. “Having the extra year on the field, my confidence was up so that helped me going forward this season and trying to do my part on the field.”

The Nor’easters will head to Middlebury, Vermont to take on No. 2 Middlebury College. This will mark the fourth straight year that UNE has reached the second round, and Collins hopes her team will finally get over the hump and reach the third after falling in the past three tries.

“I pad our schedule to make it as hard as possible. We’re competing against team’s that have been in the top 20 consistently all year, so we’re at that level,” said Collins. “For us, it’s been what we’ve done all season, I think the mentality of this team and what we’ve done all season has accumulated well to this point. We’re able to do this instead of plateauing, we’re peaking.”

— Associate Sports Editor Alex Sponseller can be reached at asponseller@journaltribune.com or at 282-1535 ext. 323. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

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