Merrimack Reloaded for Run at NE-10, NCAA Crowns in 2014

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. For most programs, the graduation losses of a team's top-two scorers and starting goalkeeper all of which were All-Americans might be too much to overcome.

For Merrimack College and seventh-year head coach Mike Morgan, it is business as usual. The mantra, once again, is reload and not rebuild, as the Warriors eye another promising season when the 2014 campaign opens up this Saturday at home.

With the return of six of their top-nine scorers, as well as a plethora of promising freshmen and transfers and three Preseason All-Americans, the Warriors are in prime condition not only to match their 11-win mark from last spring, but surpass it.

"Expectations for this season coming in are that this is a top-10 team again," Morgan summated. "This is a team that can certainly compete in the NE-10, if not the NCAA Tournament. I think for us, it's more about work ethic and the process. The expectations from our staff and from our guys are that we have to continue to work hard, and if we do, I think we're going to be one of the more talented teams in the country.

"At the end of the day, no one's going to give anything to us. I think that last year, the way things ended [just short of the NCAA Tournament] motivated us. Expectations are that guys are going to show up and play hard each day and be prepared to play in tough games. We put the work in so hopefully it transcends into wins."

The question will likely not go away in its entirety until the season officially begins and someone other than 2013 graduates Corey Lunney and Greg Melaugh find the back of the net, but it will be there to start the year: how will the Warriors replace last year's dynamic scoring duo this spring?

That answer, low and behold, might be easier answered than one might have expected; while Lunney (59 points) and Melaugh (50) accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's total scoring last season, Merrimack should fare just fine in the goal-scoring department thanks to the return of six of the team's top-nine scorers.

Leading the way up front is Preseason All-American Jamie Shand (Massapequa, N.Y.), who represents the team's lead returning scorer after a 47-point (22g, 25a) campaign a year ago. The junior will have plenty of options to turn to, with senior Paul Jones (Guilderland, N.Y.) and junior Kyle Guilbert (Walpole, Mass.) expected to be right there with him after each posted 18- and 17-point campaigns, respectively, in 2013.

While no individual may leap off the charts like Lunney and Melaugh did, Merrimack might be in better shape thanks to a more balanced offense this spring. And the Warriors should benefit from the services of an infusion of talent from transfers and freshmen: junior Andrew Vivian (Slingerlands, N.Y.), who joins the Warriors from Drexel, should help spread out the offense even more, while freshmen Tucker Schwarz (Tallahassee, Fla.), John Bassett (Clifton Park, N.Y.), and Max Allen (West Caldwell, N.J.) will all contend for time and should have an impact throughout the year.

Merrimack's midfield unit remains almost entirely intact from a year ago and, thus, should not miss a beat when the season opens up on Saturday.

Led by Preseason All-American and 2013 NE-10 All-Conference selection Mike Perdie (Wading River, N.Y.), the Warriors bring back all of its top-four scoring middies from last spring, and the unit should be just as if not more involved in the offense in 2014.

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