Owls fall in LEC finals to ECSU 1-0
WILLIMANTIC, CONN. 11/5/11- The Keene State College men's soccer team saw its season come to an end with a 1-0 loss to Eastern Conn. State University in the championship game of the Little East Conference tournament at Thomas Nevers Field in Willimantic, Conn. on Saturday. The second seeded Owls finish the season with an 11-8-1 record.
Senior Matt Esposito's penalty kick goal 5:30 into the match was the difference and sent the top-seeded Warriors (14-5-1) to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.
Esposito deposited the game-winning penalty kick under the cross bar after Eastern junior Carl Stensland was knocked off his feet in the penalty box by Owl senior Kevin Gomes (Halifax, Mass).
"Gomes initially had Stensland," said KSC Coach Ron Butcher. "But Gomes slipped and Stensland went down and they called a PK."
Esposito, named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, had a chance to make it 2-0 when he was awarded another penalty kick with 16 minutes left in the first half, but Keene sophomore keeper Malcolm Cheney (Hopkinton, MA) guessed correctly and made the save when he dove to his left. That PK was awarded when Eastern junior Matt Furman was hauled down in the box by Keene freshman Nate Banas (Monson, MA).
Two of the three saves by Eastern senior keeper Carl Appel preserved Eastern's one-goal lead. The first came midway through the first period when he denied Keene junior Danny Silverman (Maynard, MA) with a dive to his right. With three minutes left in the first, Keene caught Appel away from the goal and was initially prevented from putting a shot on net as the keeper scrambled back to his mark. In the box, freshman Michael Jacques finally fired a shot through traffic but Appel left his feet and hauled in the shot with a dive to his left.
"We were all over them in the final 20 minutes, but couldn't get the tying goal," said Butcher.
Cheney made five saves, one coming with 18 minutes left in the first half on a header by Furman off a free kick from senior Aaron Smiles (Bedford, MA). Cheney collected the shot at the right post to keep the margin at one goal.
It was Keene State's ninth trip to the finals. They won titles in 1999, 2001-02, 2004, 2006, and 2010.
"It was a great season. Our guys came back from starting 1-3-1and I'm very proud of them getting to the LEC championship game," said Butcher. "We have a good group of kids coming back, so hopefully we can return to the finals next season."