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Men's Soccer: LEC Champion!

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 Warriors remain perfect in title games with 3-1 win over UMass Dartmouth

By Bill Mullins/Sports Information Staff

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WATCH:

NCAA Selections        (Monday, 1 p.m.) 

Post-game interviews

Jordan Munsell, Luke Capezzone, Mitch Power (7:19)

Head Coach Greg DeVito (3:14)

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team fought their way to a 3-1 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Saturday at Nevers Field in the championship match of the Little East Conference playoffs before a rowdy crowd of 500 fans.

At left: The scoreboard tells the story as the Warriors celebrate their fourth LEC title in six years.

While having an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament all but guaranteed, the Warriors removed all doubt as the victory gave the host's their third Little East Conference tournament championship in the last four seasons and fourth in six seasons under head coach Greg DeVito, and secured a bid this week's NCAA tournament. The  tournament appearance will be the sixth straight for Eastern (17-1-1), fifth in the NCAA.

Top-seeded Eastern, now 10-0-0 at home, becomes only the second team to  win consecutive LEC titles, following Keene State College ten years ago (2001-02).

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At left: Goalkeeper Jordan Munsell and defender Christopher Giustina keep their eye on the ball in the second half of Saturday's match.

"We came out with the intention to do what we always do," noted DeVito. "We knew that (UMass) was going to be ready. We knew they had good players and that they were going to be a tough opponent, said DeVito of the third-seeded Corsairs, who had succumbed to Eastern in overtime a week ago when the Warriors clinched third second straight regular-season LEC title, first in unbeaten (6-0-1) fashion. "We wanted to just come out and do our thing. It's been working so far, so we just stick with it."

Eastern, ranked fourth in New England and 25th nationally, carried a 1-0 lead into the late stages of the match before the Corsairs gained the equalizer in the 75th minute on sophomore forward Elton Borges' third goal of the year. It came on a header off a free kick by sophomore Josh Chao.stenslandumd72dpi_5644.jpg

It took Eastern just 43 seconds to re-gain the lead (for good), and a second goal less than three minutes later wrapped it up. Following a Corsair foul, Eastern senior midfielder Carl Stensland (Storrs) played a bouncing free kick into the box that was headed home by senior defender Mike Radlbeck (Westbrook), igniting pandemonium. The chances continued to come for the Warriors and they were finally able to ice the game on senior forward Matt Furman's (Montville) 14th goal of the season. After senior forward Cory Tobler (Portland) had a shot blocked from ten yards out, Furman buried the rebound.

Above: Carl Stensland and Aelaf Solomon of UMass Dartmouth battle for position in Saturday's LEC title match.

Junior midfielder Mitch Power (Douglas, MA) got the scoring started in the seventh minute for Eastern. Following a UMass Dartmouth foul just outside of the 18-yard box, Power lined up a free kick and drove it past the outstretched arm of UMass (12-7-0) senior keeper Mike Phelan and into the lower left corner of the net. Prior to the goal, Eastern's Tom Vear (Monson, MA) was sprinting towards goal with two defenders on his back before being tripped up to set-up the free kick opportunity.

In keeping with the recent history of the series the game was feisty and physical throughout. Within the first 20 minutes of the match, ten fouls had already been called and the first of three  yellow cards issued to UMass Dartmouth, the second of which came in waning minutes and signaled the departure of  junior midfielder Anthony do Santos.

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At left: Tom Vear and Mike Radlbeck block the path of UMass Dartmouth's Jordan Sindo in the second half Saturday.

The 75th minute led to a flurry of activity. It began with Eastern Tobler and UMass Dartmouth senior back  Brady Paradis battling for possession on the Eastern side of midfield where Tobler was called for a foul as he fell to the ground. After a quick re-start, Chao played the ball to  Borges, who was left unmarked at the right post and knocked in a shot from in close, low and to the right of Eastern senior keeper Jordan Munsell (Waterford).

As the second half started and progressed Eastern continued to press forward and maintain a lot of possession in the UMass Dartmouth end, but wasn't able to generate many scoring opportunities nor were they able to put any more shots on net before UMass Dartmouth was able to put home the equalizer.

Until scoring the go-ahead and insurance goals, the best Eastern goal-scoring chance in the second half came on a cross by junior midfielder Zach Kice (Denver, CO), but the attempt by Furman from around the 6-yard box caromed well high and wide of the net.

For his efforts, Power was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was highly involved in both the midfield and offensive play throughout the tournament as he set an aggressive and physical tone for the Warriors. Eastern's fourth LEC title  is second only to Keene State's six championships.

Eastern has put in a bid to host an NCAA tournament. The pairings, locations and schedule  will be announced Monday. Eatsern has never hosted an NCAA tournament match in men's soccer.

Notes:
- Eastern advanced to Saturday's final with a 2-1 overtime win over Plymouth State at Nevers Field on Thursday, while UMass upset second-seeded Keene State College, 3-1, on the Owls' home field.
-The goal by Matt Furman was the 39th of his career, moving him into sole possession of fifth on the school's all-time list.
-Eastern's win broke the 43-year old school record for victories in a season, set by the 1969 NAIA New England champions under E-Club Hall of Fame coach Tom Nevers, who was in attendance Saturday.
-Eastern now leads the all-time series against UMass Dartmouth, 32-10-6.
-Since the arrival of Head Coach Greg DeVito in 2007, Eastern owns a mark of 7-1-2 in LEC tournament play. DeVito is 87-27-12 overall
-For the match Munsell posted two saves, Phelan one.
 Phelan was also the starting goalkeeper for UMass Dartmouth in the 2009 LEC championship match.

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