The 2018 season brought about a familiar sight: Merrimack in the Northeast 10 championship match, on the verge of an NCAA tournament berth.
While the Warriors ultimately fell to Adelphi, the early November game also brought about a new era for soccer in North Andover, Mass. Come the 2019 season, Merrimack will jump from Division 2 to Division 1 and join the Northeast Conference, even if NCAA tournament eligibility won't arrive until the 2022 campaign.
As the changes take root, a local Development Academy standout will experience it all. Ian Sparks (Burlington, Mass.), a center defensive midfielder for Seacoast United's U-19 team, recently verbally committed to Merrimack. He plans to enroll next fall.
"I think the change will be a challenge at first, but Merrimack has been a good program for so long," Sparks said.