KEENE, N.H.--Freshmen Bryan Rotatori and Robert Hart each scored three goals to lead the Keene State College men's lacrosse team to a 12-8 victory over Eastern Connecticut State University in the championship game of the Little East Conference tournament on Sunday afternoon at Owl Athletic Complex.
It's fifth tournament title for Keene State (10-6), who also won in 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011. The Owls will await their pairing for the NCAA tournament. Selections are announced at 10 p.m. on Sunday night on ncaa.com.
Eastern Connecticut State was seeking their third consecutive tournament title and 10th overall. Keene State and Eastern Connecticut State have won every lacrosse tournament title save one since the LEC began contesting a championship in 2001.
"I'm extremely proud of my team," said head coach Mark Theriault. "We played a tough schedule at the beginning of the year, and it's challenged us. Now we're ready for the NCAA's."
Sophomore goalie Dylan Florian was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Florian made 10 saves in the semifinal win over Plymouth State and 14 in the championship game against ECSU.
The Owls raced out to a 3-1 lead after the first quarter. Kevin Carey opened the scoring with a man-up goal at 10:36, and Tyler McKelvie doubled the lead when he deflected in a shot from Ryan Hart. Tim Reilly got the Warriors (11-6) on the board with 4:56 to play in the period, only to have KSC respond with a Hart-to-Hart connection, with Ryan setting up Robert with 1:22 to play.
The Warriors tied the game early in the second period. Zach Thresher fed Mike Jordan with 10:42 to play, and Mike Devine scored an unassisted goal 22 seconds later to knot the score at 3-3.
Hart and Rotatori had a hand in the next three goals to send KSC into the break up 6-3. Hart scored his second, an unassisted marker, before feeding Rotatori for a goal with 3:21 left. Hart completed his hat-trick with a crucial goal with six seconds left in the first half.
The Owls continued to pour it on in the third quarter, as Tyler Reilly and Hunter Palancia scored to make it an 8-3 game, before Jordan got one back for ECSU. Rotatori and Reilly sent the Owls into the third quarter intermission up 10-4.
Eastern Connecticut State would not go quietly. After Tim Reilly and Ryan Hart traded goals in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Warriors began to chip away. Cody Carbone scored at the 11:08 mark of the fourth quarter, and Devine netted twice, at 9:39 and 5:05 to make it an 11-8 contest.
KSC responded with Rotatori's last goal of the game, and Eastern Connecticut could not closer. Blake Smaldone made nine saves for the Warriors.