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Buoyed by LEC titles, the men and women open in NCAAs today
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- In 2013, it took losing to bring out the winning in the Eastern Connecticut State University lacrosse teams, which went on to capture Little East Conference championships for the first time in the same season and qualify for the NCAA tournament.
In the midst of their worst season in program history, the women (7-11) overhauled their offense and defense after bottoming out in a frustrating 17-8 home loss in the regular-season finale to Western Connecticut State University two weeks ago. These adjustments, in concert with a resolve which prevailed while losses mounted, propelled the club to an improbable three-game run through the Little East Conference playoffs.
Less than a week later - after reviewing tape and making major changes to their offensive and defensive schemes -- the No. 5-seeded Warriors turned around to stun No. 4 Western, dispatching the Colonials (15-7) as efficiently as they themselves had been vanquished in the regular-season finale. Three days later, top-seeded Plymouth State fell in a hotly-contested match (8-6) - an outcome which stopped the Panthers' eight-game winning streak. In the final at the University of Southern Maine - team which had tripped up the homestanding Warriors by a goal in the 2010 championship game as the No. 5 seed - Eastern scored four straight goals after the Huskies struck first - and went on to their fourth conference championship, 10-7.
The conference title was the first for the senior class, which had previously lost twice in the final and once in the semifinals.
"Coming from the bottom made it so much more unbelievable," noted senior Daniela Marchitto, the LEC Midfielder-of-the-Year. "Every single person on the team contributed to this win. After every conference loss this year, we knew that we could have won, so going into the conference tournament, we knew that we could play with them. Since it was 'do-or-die' in the tournament, it got us to turn it on."
The team had hit rock-bottom after the regular-season loss to Western, which penetrated the Eastern defense at will to score on nearly half of its shots to defeat Eastern for the first time ever. The Colonials scored six of the game's first seven goals and were never headed. On their offensive end, the Warriors were bottled up, forced to take low-percentage, hurried shots and failing on two-third of just 17 tries.
The loss to Western was Eastern's third in a row and seventh in their last eight games and dropped them to a program-lowest No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Although the only conference wins had come to two of the losing LEC teams, wins had been attainable in all three LEC losses prior to Western.
"We had potential and were talented, but we were not winning. There was a lot of frustration," admitted Marchitto. "But the coaches made crucial changes (after the Western loss). We adjusted our defense and set specific goals for the offense. The coaches realized what we needed. Our defense was so poor against Western, that it was easy to see what we needed to fix. After that, it felt like a new team. It was the same players, but a new team."
After seeing how effective the changes were in the LEC opener against Western, the team was excited to see if they would be as productive against Plymouth, the top seed. They were. "We came out on fire," said Marchitto. "It was a fight, but there was never a moment of doubt."
For the seniors, the first two trips to the LEC final in 2010 and 2011 resulted in disappointing losses. This time, losing was not an option. "Everyone knew we could win this," said Marchitto. "It was pure desire, there was no stopping us. Southern Maine overlooked us. They were praying that we would beat (top-seeded) Plymouth, and we used that (to our advantage)."
Even in the dark moments of the season, Marchitto says that the bench players kept everyone's spirits up, and wanted only for the seniors to go out as winners.
"The role the bench played was so big," she said. "Everyone came to practice with a great attitude and enthusiasm. It was a real team atmosphere. Everyone knew and accepted their role, and that helped. In the playoffs, Haley (junior goalie Heslin) really stepped it up. The season was hard for her because we weren't helping her out. But her attitude in the tournament was inspiring. Her confidence was different in the tournament. She wanted it so bad. She said it was for the seniors."
In their fourth NCAA appearance, the women were scheduled to face No. 10 nationally-ranked College of New Jersey Wednesday night at Ewing, NJ at 7 p.m.
The Eastern men (10-7) overcame a 3-7 start - including a 7-6 regular-season conference loss at Keene State college April 6 - to successfully defend their 2012 LEC championship with a 9-8 victory on top-seeded Keene's home field Sunday.
Regardless of who wins the regular-season match in this rivalry, however, the teams, more often than not, met again in the final.
"I told (Keene head coach Mark Theriault) after they beat us, that we'd see them again in three weeks (in the final)," remembers junior All-America midfielder Mike Devine, who scored the tying and winning goals late in the championship game. "He looked at me and said, 'yup.'"
In nine previous championship games between Eastern and Keene, the top-seeded team - the one which had prevailed in the regular-season showdown - had emerged with the LEC gold medal at its home venue.
The championship trophy was the eighth for the Warriors in the 13-year history of the LEC championships - twice as many as Keene.
In previous years, losing the regular-season matchup had been a death blow for that team. This time, it was not. After losing that match to Keene and another four days later to nationally-ranked Wesleyan University (13-9), Eastern ran the table through the regular season and the LEC playoffs in order to qualify for their eighth NCAA tournament, third in five years.
In similar response to the women's loss to Western Connecticut in the regular-season finale, sixth-year men's coach Justin Axel was quite certain that, given a few tweaks, his team was capable of winning the title on Keene's home field, if they were, in fact, capable to getting to that point.
After crushing UMass Boston at home in the regular-season finale, 20-0, Eastern never eased off the gas peddle, routing Western Connecticut, 23-4, at home in the conference semifinals. Coming off a four-overtime road win over UMass Dartmouth in the first round, Western was overwhelmed by the Warriors, who scored all 15 goals of the first half en route to the easy victory.
To the surpise of absolutely no one, the Keene re-match at the Owl Athletic Complex lived up to its billing. As has become common in this rivalry, Eastern fell behind early (4-1), but answered with four straight goals and never trailed through the early minutes of the fourth quarter until Tyler McKelvie and JT Gallow struck ten seconds apart to give the hosts their final lead, 8-7, with 12 minutes left.
Still trailing by that margin with six minutes left, Devine broke through for his first goal since late in the first half to knot the game. A minute later, he beat Keene goalie Alex Sharp with his 33rd goal of the season. "I hadn't really been getting my hands free very much in the game," admitted Devine. "But I just turned around and just shot it. I'm a shooter, I'm a muscle guy, I'm not real quick. I just shot it far third (of the net), and it went in... thank God." The Eastern defense, which successfully killed all six of the Owls' man-up opportunities in the game, did the rest.
Since the emotional game was characterized by short stretches of dominance by each team, Devine wasn't completely sure that the lead would necessarily hold up over the final five minutes, but he had faith in the defense. "I felt that our defense would step up," he pointed out. "Blake (freshman goalie Smaldone) played outstanding, and top to bottom, (defensemen) Stoop (Nick), Brown (Chris) and Tiger (Travis) all played great. They should get most of the credit. They kept us in the game. We kinda struggled early (offensively), but our defense is just a bunch of solid guys who we trust."
Everyone wearing Keene's color was stunned by the final outcome - only Keene's second home loss all year --which touched off a celebration by the Eastern players and its fans.
"There was not a word coming out of the stands," recalled Devine of the minutes after the final horn sounded. "They're wild up there, but once that buzzer hit zero, I think everyone was in shock... except for the 45 guys in our locker room. From the start, no one thought that we would repeat as LEC champions, because of the way we started the regular season. But the only thing that mattered was us 45 guys believing it."
The men bring a seven-game winning streak into their NCAA opener at Western New England University Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Golden Bear Stadium. The Golden Bears are ranked No. 8 in New England and earned the automatic bid as the Commonwealth Coast Conference champion for the second straight season.
No player on either Eastern or Western New England had been involved when the teams last met in 2007 in a 17-6 WNEU victory.
Fifteen are recognized with season-ending LEC awards in three sports
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass - Eastern Connecticut State University softball senior Arielle Cooper (Mystic) and head coach Diana Pepin and women's lacrosse senior Daniela Marchitto (Orange) were recognized with major awards in the Little East Conference season-ending awards program in the sports of softball, women's and men's lacrosse, with a total of 15 individuals in three sports being honored.
At left: Arielle Cooper
Cooper became the softball program's second straight Player-of-the-Year recipient (third overall) and 12th-year head coach Pepin was awarded Coach-of-the-Year honors for the fifth time in the last eight years, while Marchitto was selected women's lacrosse Midfielder-of-the-Year - an award instituted in 2011.
All-America junior midfielder Mike Devine (Cheshire) and senior faceoff specialist Josh Dubinsky (Woodstock) were named to the All-LEC first team, headlining a collection of six all-conference selections for the men's lacrosse team, with senior defenseman Nick Stoop (Crofton, MD) and junior attacks Mike Jordan (Cheshire) and Trevor Morrissette (Bedford, NH) and junior midfielder Tyler Fresen (Newington) garnering second-team All-LEC accolades.
All six of the softball teams All-LEC picks received first-team recognition. Cooper was named to the team for the third time in her career (second straight season to the first team), and was joined by senior first baseman Kelly Paterson (Southington), junior centerfielder Mattie Brett (Waterford), junior utility player Megan Godwin (Manchester) and sophomore DP Sam Rossetti (Shelton).
At left: Daniela Marchitto
Paterson was a second-team pick at the utility position as a junior while Brett and Rossetti were first-time honorees. Godwin was recognized as LEC Rookie-of-the-Year as a freshman. As a freshman at Endicott College in 2011, Brett was an honorable mention all-conference pick at shortstop. All except Rossetti started all 42 games for Eastern (28-14), which claimed its fourth straight LEC regular-season title and finished third in the LEC tournament.
Marchitto, a four-time all-conference pick and former Offensive Player-of-the-Year and Rookie-of-the-Year in soccer, earned first-team recognition in lacrosse for the third straight year. She was joined on the first team by senior defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) and senior midfielder Christina Rully (Orange), her former high school teammate. Marchitto was preceded by seven former LEC Player-of-the-Year selections since 2005, four on defense and three on offense.
After transferring from the Division II level, Meotti earned All-LEC laurels in each of her three seasons with the Warriors. She was voted to the second team as a sophomore and junior.
Rully was cited for the first time in her four-year career.
Batting primarily leadoff, Cooper put the finishing touches on a sterling career and brilliant final season. She currently leads all conference players in virtually every offensive category, among them batting (.538), slugging (1.076), total bases (142), on-base percentage (.629), runs (61), hits (71), RBI (43), home runs (16), doubles (13), and walks (34). Her marks for batting, slugging, total bases, on-base percentage, runs, hits and home runs represented program season records, and her final season batting average was 99 points above her previous-season best, set last year.
Below: Diana Pepin
Through post-season tournament competition, Cooper is ranked second nationally in on-base percentage, third in slugging, fourth in home runs, home runs per game and batting, and seventh in walks and runs per game.
Paterson batted a career-high .356 this season to push her career average over .300 to .309. She was second to Cooper with 42 RBI - more than twice as many as her previous high total in a season. Playing primarily first base, but also second, she completed her career ranked fifth all-time with 642 putouts and tied for sixth with a .984 fielding average.
Brett was second to Cooper in most offensive categories, batting .378 (73 percentage points better than her sophomore season) with 41 runs, 51 hits and 12 stolen bases (in 12 attempts).
In her first season as a starter, Rossetti also played first base and right field and batted .368 - third best on the squad - with five home runs and 35 RBI. Godwin started 20 games in the middle infield and 16 in left field. She posted career-highs in batting (.344), hits (42), RBI (26), runs (28) and on-base percentage (.434).
Marchitto is tied for fourth in the conference in goals (55) and is fourth in points (66) and leads the club in scoring for the second straight year. With Marchitto, Eastern (7-11) became only the second No. 5 seed to win the LEC playoffs, with road victories over three higher-seeded teams: No. 4 seed Western Connecticut, top-seeded Plymouth State University, and No. 2 University of Southern Maine. Marchitto needs two goals to become the third 200-goal career scorer in program history and her 252 points ranks her second.
Meotti ranks fourth in the conference with 57 ground balls and also leads Eastern with 36 caused turnovers and is second with 45 draw controls - all season-bests. In the LEC playoffs, Meotti led Eastern with 13 ground balls and ten caused turnovers, won four draws and chipped in two assists.
Rully has contributed six goals, six assists, 35 ground balls and 19 caused turnovers.
The women's lacrosse team faces 13-time national champion College of New Jersey Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Ewing, NJ.
As the No. 2 seed, the men's lacrosse team (10-7) defended its 2012 Little East playoff title with a 9-8 victory at top-seeded Keene State College Sunday - its seventh straight victory since a 3-7 start.
Devine was named to the All-LEC first team for the second straight season, third time in all, while Dubinsky repeated as a first-team pick at the specialist position. Fresen repeated second-team mention and Morrissette and Jordan gained recognition for the first time.
Devine has 33 goals and 16 assists and is one of 11 100-goal scorers in program history. Dubinsky has won 52.6 percent of his faceoffs (173-329) with a team-high 102 ground balls, recording more than 100 for the second straight season. Ranking second all-time with 328 ground balls, Dubinsky is third all-time in faceoffs won, with 469.
After managing only 14 goals and 23 points in his first two season combineds, Jordan leads the LEC in points (66) and goals (46) this year, with seven of his goals and four assists coming in two LEC playoff victories. Morrissette shares second on the team with Devine with 33 points and has 47 points, while Fresen leads all Eastern players with 24 assists and is second to Jordan with 52 points.
While Eastern never allowed a conference opponent to score double-digit goals, Stoop was the team's only All-LEC defenseman chose to the all-star squad. Playing on his first LEC playoff champion this year after missing all of 2012 with a back injury, Stoop picked up 21 ground balls and caused 12 turnovers this year. Stoop is in his second year as an active player after transferring from the Division I level.
The Warriors visit Western New England University in the NCAA first round Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The LEC baseball awards will be announced next Tuesday following the completion of this week's conference tournament.
By Jonathan Mizger/Sports Information Staff
Editor's Note: This question-and-answer session with lacrosse sisters Kelsea and Amy Burkhardt of Old Saybrook is the second in a four-part series devoted to sibling athletes at Eastern. The third installment is a question-and-answer with Monroe natives Drew Accomando of the baseball team and sophomore brother Dean of the lacrosse team. The final installment profiles the unique situation in the men's lacrosse program, which includes three sets of brothers this year: Drew and Angus Deane, Kevin and Sean Fechtmann, and Mike and Brendan Gillotti.
Above and below: Amy (2) and Kelsea (22) Burkhardt
The Burkhardts are 18 months apart in age, Kelsey celebrating her 21st birthday yesterday (May 6).A junior attack, Kelsea is wrapping up her third year in the lacrosse program, while Amy, a sophomore, is in her second season with the club. Amy's move to defense this year has made for some very, uh, 'competitive' 1 v. 1 bouts in practice this season. While they have their own personalities, they are more similar than different, according to head coach Christine Hutchison, who describes them as hard-working on the field and in the classroom, and as individuals who are willing to accept whatever role best helps the team.
Were you two inseparable growing up?
Kelsea: "No, we did a lot together."
Amy: "We were always together."
Kelsea: "Yeah, we were always together, like we did everything together but we were kind of forced to."
Did you two share a bedroom while growing up?
What kinds of things do you like to do together?
Amy: "We always went to the beach, family vacations, always went to the beach."
Kelsea: "We played outside a lot, when we grew up we played sports together."
What kinds of things do you have in common?
Kelsea: "We both play lacrosse and soccer."
Amy: "Same senses of humor, we both like the same kinds of things."
Kelsea: "We have different friends because we're different ages, but she's only a grade younger than me."
Amy: "We get along with each other's friends."
Kelsea: "We both babysit the same families."
In what ways are you alike, and in what ways are you different?
Kelsea: "I know I know exactly what I want to do, I'm more serious about school and you're like a wild child. She's definitely more outgoing."
Amy: "Kelsea's more tense and needs to get things done, while I'm like more relaxed."
Kelsea: "Yeah that's true."
How did you guys both get involved in lacrosse and soccer?
Amy: "We started at the same time. You started in the seventh grade and I started in sixth grade."
Kelsea: "Oh yeah, but we both didn't play lacrosse until high school, so I started my freshman year and when she was a freshman she started, too, but I think it's because we just liked doing that kind of stuff together. So then when she could play in high school because we didn't have a middle school team, I would talk about it so much and how much fun it was and how in high school it was a way to make your own group of friends. It was a totally different activity that you could do. We both just ended up loving the sport. And same in college."
Do you guys compete against each other a lot in sports and school?
Kelsea: "Yeah, we get competitive with each other."
Amy: "Yeah I think I'm definitely harder on Kelsea than anyone else on the team."
Kelsea: "We know that we can challenge each other and it won't be taken personally at all."
Amy: "Exactly, and be honest with each other."
In what ways would your parents or friends say you are alike or in what ways would they say you are different?
Kelsea: "People say that we are completely opposite. All of our teammates obviously know us both so well and they say 'you guys are polar opposites'."
Amy: "Not that Kelsea is quiet but I think you're more... I'm definitely louder and 'out there' and you're more conservative and sheltered."
Kelsea: "I don't know. I don't know why it seems like we're so different."
Amy:" I don't think we're different, but everyone else thinks that we are."
Do you think that your parents wanted the two of you to go to the same college, or did they leave it entirely up to you both?
Kelsea: "They definitely left it up to us, but they really love that we both go to the same school and they love that we play lacrosse together. They never persuaded us at all to do the same thing."
Amy: "They were always having tried to allow us to go in whatever direction we wanted to."
Kelsea: "I'm surprised she went to Eastern."
Amy: "Following in your footsteps."
Why did you both choose Eastern?
Kelsea: "Well I came here because I wanted to teach and it's best to get your teacher's certificate in Connecticut and so I could play lacrosse."
Amy: "I just ended up liking it here, among the schools that I applied to; Eastern had the best of what I wanted for the atmosphere. From the other schools I applied to, none of them really stood out as much as Eastern."
What do you guys do to each other that makes you angry?
Amy: "We just like to mess with each other."
Kelsea: "Yeah, she takes it too far sometimes. Sometimes it gets a little physical. I play attack and she plays defense so, if she's defending me she'll take me down; I have scars, literally, on my knee, right there."
Amy: "I just go harder on you. The way that I go play against Kelsea is the way that I would play against other teams."
Kelsea: "But you kind of back off with our teammates."
Amy: "When we have disagreements on things."
Kelsea: "Well, you like your space so when you are in a bad mood and I come over to you, you just like 'back off,' like you get mad at that sometimes."
Who is the better all-around athlete?
Kelsea: "Amy. She's definitely more athletic than I am. She just is. She is more naturally athletic than I am."
How much contact do the two of you have on an ordinary day at school?
Amy: "Other than lacrosse, when it's the fall semester, we don't really talk a lot. We have less contact. Lacrosse definitely forces us to be around each other."
What motivates you both to play sports or do well in the classroom?
Kelsea: "For sports, my team and having Amy on the team motivates me. From her competitive part, I always want to play at her level and so we can always play sports together. In the classroom, I want to be a teacher and you have to get a teacher's certificate to be a teacher."
Amy: "I guess I would have to say on the field definitely my team and Kelsea definitely drive me to work my hardest and play up to her level, as well."
Kelsea: "We're competitive with each other, so we like to raise the standards for each other."
Amy: I agree. In the classroom, definitely making my parents happy and I know that I can do it and putting everything into it."
The men visit WNEU at 4 p.m., and the women travel to TCNJ at 7 p.m.
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - For the first time, the Eastern Connecticut State University men's and women's lacrosse teams will compete in the NCAA Division III Tournament in the same year, and both will open up on the road on Wednesday.
The women (7-11) face 13-time national champion College of New Jersey (13-4) at 7 p.m. at Lion's Stadium in their fourth NCAA appearance - first since 2008. The men (10-7), who moved into the New England poll today at No. 8, bring a season-high seven-game winning streak into their eighth NCAA tournament and face Western New England University (11-6) at 4 p.m. at Golden Bear Stadium. The Golden Bears are ranked in a tie for No. 4 in New England.
Both the Eastern women and men qualified as the representatives from the Little East Conference by winning the LEC playoff final Sunday on their opponent's home field. Seeded No. 5, the women eliminated three higher-ranked teams on the road, culminating in a 10-7 victory over No. 2 seed University of Southern Maine. Seeded No. 2, the men upended No. 1 Keene State College, 9-8. Eastern and Keene were meeting in the final for the tenth time and it was the first time that the visiting team won the title.
Ranked ninth nationally, New Jersey is making its 29th straight NCAA appearance, having reached the title match 17 times. Since winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, TCNJ has compiled an 11-6 NCAA record, winning its opener every season. Eastern has lost its NCAA opener every year.
Western New England will be competing in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time, having won its opening game a year ago in double overtime at Conn College before being eliminated at RIT, 15-9. Eastern is 1-7 in seven NCAA showings. Eastern and Western New England have met six times previously, the Golden Bears having won the first in 1996 and the most recent (17-6) in 2007 at Springfield, MA.
Fifth-seeded Eastern crowned Little East champ for fourth time
With men also winning, programs nets titles for first time in same season
At left: Erin Conn, playoff MVP
GORHAM, Maine -- You could argue that the Eastern Connecticut State University women's lacrosse team did not have one of its best regular seasons in program history in 2013. But you can't argue that, come post-season tournament time, their timing was impeccable.
In a development thought by many to be impossible ten short days ago, the fifth-seeded Warriors avenged three regular-season conference losses with road victories over higher-seeded opponent in the 2013 Little East Conference playoffs, capping their run with a 10-7 triumph over second-seeded University of Southern Maine Sunday afternoon.
NCAA First Round: Wednesday at College of NJ, 7 p.m.
Later Sunday, the second-seeded Eastern men erased an early three-goal deficit, getting consecutive goals a minute apart from junior All-America Mike Devine (Cheshire) inside the final six minutes to upend No. 1 seed Keene State College, 9-8, at Keene, NH. The title is the second straight for the men and eighth overall. Although the men and women have combined for 12 LEC championships, this season marks the first time that they have accomplished it in the same season. It is the tenth time in 13 years that either the Eastern women or men have attained the LEC playoff championship.
The championship game was a re-match of the 2010 final, when Southern Maine (12-7) completed a sweep of the No. 4, No. 1 and No. 2 seeds with a 15-14 conquest of Eastern on its home field. This year, Eastern (7-11) atoned for regular-season losses in the playoffs with victories over No. 4 Western Connecticut (15-7) and No. 1 Plymouth State University (8-6) before completing its work by upending Southern Maine Sunday. Eastern had lost at Plymouth, 11-7 on Apriil 13, at Southern Maine a week later, 16-10, and at home to Western Connecticut, 15-7, six days prior to eliminating the Colonials on their home field.
The championship makes Eastern the conference's representative to the NCAA Division III tournament. The Warriors will open the tournament Wednesday at 12-time national champion College of New Jersey at 7 p.m. It will be the fourth NCAA qualification for the program -- all coming in the last eight seasons -- and third for the Warriors under seventh-year head coach Christine Hutchison. Ranked No. 9 nationally, TCNJ (13-4), a 17-time national finalist, is making its 29th straight NCAA tournament appearance, having claimed its most recent national championships in 2005 and 2006.
By winning its fourth title, Eastern pulls even with Plymouth State for total championships won in LEC competition. The championship game appearance was the tenth in 12 years for the Warriors, who have failed to advance to the ultimate game in only 2004 and last year, when the third-seeded team was eliminated in the semifinals by second-seeded and eventual champion Keene State College by one goal. Since winning the 2008 championship, Eastern had been beaten as the No. 1 seed in the 2009 and 2011 title games.
The three-game winning streak is the longest of the season for Eastern, which had lost five of six road contests through the end of the regular season.
It marks the third time in four years that the No. 5 seed has advanced to the title game, following Southern Maine in 2010 and Western Connecticut (which lost to Keene State) last year.
Sunday, junior attack Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) -- the tournament's Most Outstanding Player -- scored twice in three minutes after the Huskies had scored 17 seconds into action. junior Ashley Wolk (Barrington, RI) and senior Taylor Buchanan (Ellington) converted their first goals 32 seconds apart minutes later to propel the Warriors to a 4-1 advantage midway through the first half. Eastern's defense never allowed the Huskies closer than two goals the rest of the way.
After her two early goals, Conn was kept quiet by Southern Maine, which also prevented team scoring leader Daniela Marchitto (Orange) from taking a shot. Buchanan, however, stepped up by equalling her season-high with four goals -- on four shots -- and adding an assist. Buchanan, playing this season with a brace due to ACL surgery, had managed only two total goals in the last four matches. Following her early goal, Buchanan netted her second late in the first half to give the Warriors a 6-3 halftime cushion, made it 8-3 five minutes into the second half, and 10-6 with nine minutes left.
Senior defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) -- the team leader in ground balls this season -- picked up seven Sunday, also won three draws and caused three turnovers, while junior Haley Heslin (Hartford) made four stops in net.
Sarah Pelligrinelli, Rosie Forster and Jacki Kelly -- Southern Maine's top three goal-scorers this season with a combined total of 111 -- were limited to a total of four Sunday. The Huskies had won five of their last seven prior to Sunday, with a 13-12 LEC playoff win over Keene State in Friday's semifinals.
They upend higher-seeded foe again, move into final for tenth time
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Juniors Christine Lillis (Waterford) and Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) scored goals 12 seconds apart midway through the second half Friday afternoon, breaking a 6-6 tie and fifth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University held on for a stunning 8-6 victory over top-seeded Plymouth State University in a Little East Conference women's lacrosse tournament semifinal game at PSU's Arold Field.
The goals by Lillis and Conn gave the Warriors the lead back with 13:36 remaining after PSU had rallied from a 6-3 halftime deficit to tie the game. Both teams' defenses held their ground the rest of the way as Eastern pulled off the upset, avenging an 11-7 setback to PSU earlier this season.
The Warriors (6-11) advance to the LEC championship game Sunday at second-seeded University of Southern Maine (12-6) at 1 p.m.; the Huskies edged third-seeded Keene State College in Friday's other semifinal,13-12. Eastern will be making its 10th LEC championship game appearance, seeking its fourth title (first since 2008). The Huskies edged the top-seeded Warriors, 15-14, in the 2010 final at Mansfield, Conn., and posted a 16-10 win over Eastern at Gorham two weeks ago.
The road win against a higher-seeded opponent in the playoffs is Eastern's second this week, following Tuesday's 15-7 first-round verdict at Western Connecticut State University.
Plymouth State had its eight-game winning streak snapped and winds up its season at 12-3 overall. The Panthers were upset in the LEC semifinals for the second year in a row after capturing the regular season title with a 6-0 mark.
Conn and junior Taylor Shannon (Waterford) led the Warriors with three goals apiece, while senior Daniela Marchitto (Orange) and Lillis tallied one each. Conn also assisted on the game-winning goal by Lillis.
Sophomore Meghan McNabb scored two goals to lead the home team, while senior Caitlin Swanson, sophomores Amy MacDonald and Molly Gleason and freshman Emily Tilton added one each.
Junior Haley Heslin (Hartford) recorded the victory in goal for Eastern, making seven saves. Junior Lorin Field also made seven saves in the Panther goal.
The teams traded goals in the first three minutes of the game, Shannon scoring the first goal for Eastern and Tilton answering for Plymouth. The Warriors rattled off the next three goals, two by Conn and one by Shannon, to take a 4-1 lead with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half. The teams alternated goals in the final six minutes and Eastern took a 6-3 margin into the break.
Plymouth came out of halftime and scored three goals in the first 10 minutes to deadlock the score. Swanson tallied her 38th of the season with 27:23 on the clock, McNabb followed with her 32nd with 23:51 showing, and MacDonald scored the tying goal, her 36th, on a free position shot with 20:05 to play.
Eastern pulled ahead with 13:48 on the clock when Conn set up Lillis for what turned out to be the game-winner, and Conn added her own goal 12 seconds later, with an assist by senior Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury).
Plymouth State University Sports Information Office contributed to this game account.
After losing by seven goals six days ago to Western, Warriors rebound in playoffs
DANBURY, Conn. - Six days after falling behind by five goals early and never catching up against Western Connecticut State University, the Eastern Connecticut State University women's lacrosse team moved ahead by five goals early against the Colonials and never looked back en route to a 15-7 victory in the opening round of the Little East Conference playoffs at the Westside Athletic Complex.
At left: Taylor Shannon
As the No. 5 seed - its lowest seed ever in the playoffs - Eastern (5-11) advances to face No. 1 Plymouth State University (12-2) in the its 12th consecutive semifinal-round berth Friday at 3:30 p.m. Plymouth, which was upset by visiting Western in last year's semifinals as the No. 1 seed, drew a first-round bye.
In the other semifinal Friday at 3:30 p.m., No. 3 Keene State College (11-6) visits No. 2 University of Southern Maine (11-6). Keene routed visiting Rhode Island College, 16-5, Tuesday. Southern Maine drew a bye.
The conference championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at the site of the highest remaining seed. Eastern cannot serve as the final host. Eastern has appeared in nine championship games, winning three.
After losing to Western (7-10) for the first time ever in this series in its final regular-season match last Wednesday, 17-8, Eastern countered by scoring the first five goals and six of the first seven on the way to a 7-2 halftime lead. The Warriors got out strong again in the second half, with Eastern winning its eight draw in 11 tries behind junior attack Erin Conn (Moriches, NY), and senior midfielder Daniela Marchitto (Orange) striking 23 seconds into the frame. Conn added another less than five minutes later to boost the lead to 9-2 and the Warriors were never threatened the rest of the way.
Season scoring leaders Marchitto and Conn, who combined for only three goals in last week's loss to Western, each had four goals this time, which junior midfielder Ashley Wolk (Barrington, RI) chipping in three and junior attack Christine Lillis (Waterford) coming off the bench for two goals. Junior attack Alexa Foldy (Brookfield) added two assists and a goal.
Junior midfielder Taylor Shannon (Waterford) won five ground balls and three draws and forced four turnovers, Conn won six draws, senior defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) forced five turnovers and picked up three ground balls, and senior defender Samantha Barone (Plainedge, NY) forced four turnovers and won three ground balls.
Eastern allowed its least number of goals since a 17-6 LEC victory at Rhode Island College a month ago.
Two weeks ago, Plymouth sent the Warriors to their fourth straight loss with an 11-7 victory at Plymouth, NH. The win over Western snaps a three-goal losing streak and gives Eastern its second road win of the season in seven contests.
Eastern can't seize opportunity to earn first-round LEC playoff home game
MANSFIELD, Conn. - Senior Emily Brooks scored three goals when Western Connecticut State University scored six consecutive goals over a 12 minute span in the first half and the Colonials went on to their first women's lacrosse win ever over Eastern Connecticut State University, 17-8, Wednesday in a Little East Conference match at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
At left: Erin Conn (Photo by Jen Catone)
Eastern (4-11, 2-4 Little East) managed as many as two unanswered goals only once in the match in concluding the regular season with seven losses in its final eight matches. The Warriors are currently in fifth place in the seven-team conference and are the only team to have finished its conference slate. With the victory, Western (7-8, 3-2 Little East) moves into a two-way tie for third place in the conference with 2012 LEC playoff champion Keene State College, which was idle Wednesday.
Unofficially, Western is guaranteed a first-round playoff home match Tuesday while Eastern, unofficially, will be the No. 5 seed and will visit the No. 4 seed, which will be the winner of Saturday's noon matchup between host Western and visiting Keene. A victory over Western Wednesdasy would have, unofficially, guaranteed Eastern a first-round playoff home game.
Plymouth won the battle of LEC unbeatens and gained the No. 1 playoff seed Wednesday with a 15-5 victory over visiting University of Southern Maine Wednesday. The Panthers are guaranteed a share of the LEC regular-season title and can finish unbeaten in the conference for the second straight year with a win at Rhode Island College Saturday or a Southern Maine loss at UMass Dartmouth. Seeded fifth in last year's LEC playoffs, Western upset Plymouth in the semifinals before losing to Keene State in the final.
Wednesday, Brooks and sophomore Kelsey Heaton combined for 12 of Western's goal total on just 14 shots. The Colonials connected on ten of 12 free-position attempts in the game, with Brooks 4-for-5 and Heaton 2-for-2.
Down by five goals after Brooks ignited the run of six straight in the first half, Eastern answered with three in a row, but that surge over two minutes was the only sustained one for Eastern. Western answered with the final five markers of the first half, then got a goal from Heaton 34 seconds into the second half to move out to an 11-4 lead.
Western junior goalie Karli Portnoy made eight of her 11 saves in the first half, but was not tested in the second, needing only three to preserve the lead.
Senior Nicole Perrone, the second-leading goal-scorer in the conference, recorded her 200th career goal by converting a free-position opportunity with 7:30 left in the first half. Perrone led Western with five draw controls, while Portnoy won five ground balls and freshman Emma Theiler four.
Eastern senior Daniela Marchitto (Orange) scored both of her goals in the final four minutes, recording goal No. 50 with 25 seconds left. Junior Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) won five draws and junior Ashley Wolk (Barrington, RI) four for Eastern, with senior Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) leading all players with seven ground balls and Wolk adding five. Senior Christina Rully (Orange) collected four caused turnovers, senior Samantha Barone (Plainedge, NY) three for Eastern.
Warriors drop 16-10 LEC decision to Southern Maine, now 1-5 this season away from home field
GORHAM, Maine -- The University of Southern Maine scored three extra-man goals, outscoring Eastern Connecticut State University by six goals to snap a halftime tie in a 16-10 Little East Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Hannaford Field.
At left: Erin Conn
The loss is the sixth in the last seven games for Eastern (4-10, 2-3 Little East) and only the second loss in 16 LEC contests to Southern Maine (10-5, 4-0 Little East) for the Warriors, who dropped their fifth road game in six tries.
Southern Maine's only previous win in the series came in a 15-14 road victory over the host Warriors in the 2010 LEC playoff final. The Huskies had won their three previous LEC games this year by a total of five goals.
Southern Maine never trailed after tying the match in the first eight minutes, and Eastern tied the match once, 6-6 on senior midfielder Daniela Marchittos' (Orange) unassisted goal two minutes into the second half.
Leading 10-8, the hosts pulled away by scoring five straight goals in a span of 11 minutes, two coming on free-position shots when the Huskies held the man advantage.. Sarah Pelligrinelli converted two of her team's goals in that stretch.
Rosie Forster and Cyr helped USM to a 16-10 advange by combining to win 12 draw controls.
Marchitto and junior attack Christine Lillis (Waterford) led Eastern with three goals apiece, Lillis coming off the bench in the match and also adding an assist. Junior attack Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) won five draws and senior defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) three. Marchitto and senior midfielder Christina Rully (Orange) each had four ground balls.
. The top six teams in the final conference standings qualify for the LEC playoffs, which get underway a week from Tuesday. Plymouth State University and Southern Maine share the top spot in the conference, with Western Connecticut State University and Keene State College at 2-2. UMass Dartmouth and Rhode Island College at winless.
Eastern hosts Western Connecticut in its final regular-season match of the season.
She connects on ten of her 13 shots to frustrate Warriors, 16-15
Neither Molly McShane (21) nor Erica Du (22) are in a position to slow down Eastern's Rachel Meotti, who won six ground balls and four draws and forced five turnovers Thursday. (Photo by Adrian Joyner).
MANSFIELD, Conn. - In a women's lacrosse game of shifting momentum, the only constant was the spot-on shooting of MIT senior midfielder Laura Wacker, who, in addition to everything else, saved her best for last.
Wacker reached the 50-goal mark of the season by racking up ten goals on 13 shots - all of her attempts either finding the back of the net or being saved - to power MIT to a 16-15 non-conference victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Thursday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Both teams entered play having ended four-game losing streaks with victories Tuesday, but MIT (6-9) won its second straight by beating its first Little East Conference opponent after two home losses. It was the Engineers' second road win against five losses and dropped Eastern (4-9) to 4-4 at home.
At left: Eastern's Taylor Shannon moves the ball upfield in Thursday's 16-15 loss to MIT at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex. Shannon had two goals, an assist, four ground balls and caused two turnovers. (Photo by Adrian Joyner).
With eight goals already to her credit, Wacker delivered the knockout blow by snapping the seventh and final tie with her 49th and 50th goals of the season inside the final five minutes.
Thirty-four seconds after Eastern senior midfielder Taylor Buchanan (Ellington) pulled Eastern even with five minutes left, Wacker connected twice in 1:22, first on a feed from senior midfielder Molly McShane and then again on a free-position goal - her third such goal of the match and fifth free-position marker for the Engineers in the game.
The goal gave MIT its fifth and final lead in a game where MIT used a run of fifth straight goals to start the second half and move out to the largest lead by either team - four goals - eight minutes into the second half. In that spurt, Wacker contributed three goals and freshman midfielder Isabella DiDio two.
Down by that four-goal margin, Eastern put together a four-goal run for the second time in the match, with junior midfielder Taylor Shannon (Waterford) scoring once and assisting on one, and senior midfielder Daniela Marchitto (Orange), junior midfielder Ashley Wolk (Barrington, RI) and sophomore midfielder Sandy Scarpa (Waterford) netting one each.
Eastern appeared to gain momentum for the second half when sophomore attack Meg Eremita (South Windsor) beat the first-half clock with a strike at the horn off a pass from Wolk to push Eastern into a slim one-goal halftime lead, but the visitors opened the second half creating their own momentum by scoring five straight.
Behind Wacker's marksmanship, MIT put 25 of its 31 shots on net, forcing Eastern junior goalie Haley Heslin (Hartford) to come up with a career-high nine saves. Freshman Paige Kennedy earned the win by making six saves.
Marchitto was Eastern's top scorer witih four goals, Shannon, Buchanan, Wolk and junior midfielder Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) finishing with two each. Senior defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury) led players on both teams with six ground balls and five caused turnovers, and shared the game lead with four draw controls. McShane led MIT with five ground balls and DiDioi and senior midfielder Kira Schott each caused three turnovers.
As reflective of a game decided by one goal, the shots, draw controls and turnovers were virtually identical.
Eastern visits the University of Southern Maine Saturday in a Little East Conference match at 1 p.m.