Warriors catch UMass Dartmouth for fourth place in conference with 1-0 victory
MANSFIELD, Conn. - Senior midfielder Tamar Merheb (Bethel) scored her first goal in a month and senior back Megan Godwin (Manchester) contributed her first assist since her freshman season to lift the Eastern Connecticut State University women's soccer team to a 1-0 Little East Conference verdict over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Saturday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
At right: Senior back Megan Godwin contends with UMass midfielder Tori Pierce Saturday in the Warriors' 1-0 LEC win. (Photo by Haley Heslin).
In a match which featured minimal scoring chances by either team, Eastern (8-7-0, 3-3 LEC) gained a share of fourth place in the conference standings with UMass Dartmouth (10-6-1, 3-3 LEC) by extending its unbeaten streak against the Corsairs to 18 (17-0-1) since 1995.
The Warriors close out the conference regular season Saturday by hosting Plymouth State University (1-5 in the LEC), while UMass Dartmouth hosts Western Connecticut State University (currently 4-1 in the LEC prior to Saturday afternoon's home contest with Keene State College) Saturday.
The top six teams in the final conference standings qualify for the LEC playoffs which get underway Nov. 5. The top two seeds gain first-round byes, while the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed.
Less than three minutes after sending a prime scoring chance over the crossbar from 12 yards, Merheb recorded her first goal of the year since Sept. 25 when she corralled Godwin's short volley from the middle of the box, and sent a high shot over the head of UMass senior keeper Michelle Miller inside the right post in the 29th minute.
The 1-0 decision is the fourth straight and ninth this season for Eastern, which has won five times by that score. UMass Dartmouth has been shut out in its last five losses, four of those matches ending in a 1-0 decision.
Eastern freshman Chelsea Santos (Windsor Locks) was not tested in recording her fifth shutout in nine starts. She lowered her goals-against average to 0.87. Santos' only save was an easy one and came seven minutes after Merheb's go-ahead goal on a bouncing shot by junior forward Maura Gonsalves - the Corsair's second-leading scorer.
Eastern's starting defense of Godwin, junior Whitney Mantel (Stamford) and sophomores Alyssa Valenti (Tolland) and Gia Karahalios (South Windsor) limited the Corsairs' three double-digit scorers to four shots, only one of which was on goal. UMass was also limited to one corner kick in each half.
Other than Merheb's two chances, Eastern's only legitimate chance at scoring came midway through the first half on a play off a corner kick by senior midfielder Nicole Leonard (Rutherford, NJ). Freshman Hailey Lehning (Woodbury), who shares the Eastern scoring lead with Leonard, had the ball on her foot at the right post, but it was cleared out of danger by the UMass defense before she could get a shot off.
The Corsair's most dangerous scoring bid came with ten minutes left in the first half when senior midfielder Jillian Van Ness took the ball away from an Eastern defender in the Warriors' defensive third. She then made a crossing pass to junior forward Shelby Friedland - who had entered the match just minutes early. Alone in the middle of the box, Friedland had an open goal with Santos on the left post, but she slid the shot just wide of the right post.