Owls hold off Warriors 7-6; Host LEC Championship on Sunday
KEENE, N.H. 5/4/12 – The second-seeded Keene State College women's lacrosse team advanced to the championship game of the Little East Conference tournament with a 7-6 defensive-minded semifinal victory over third seed Eastern Conn. State at Owl Athletic Complex on Friday.
Winners of 12 out of their last 13 games, the Owls (14-3) tied the program record for wins in a season and will be hosting the finals for the first time on Sunday. Keene State, the defending LEC champs, earned the right to host after top seed Plymouth State was upset by fifth seed Western Conn. 10-9 in the other semifinal game on Friday.
"I never thought we'd be hosting, but it's going to be awesome for them to have the experience," said KSC Coach Katie Arsenault." It would have been nice to play Plymouth because you they are the top seed, but Western Conn. is another great team."
The Owls built up an early lead and had to hang on for dear life against the upset-minded Warriors (12-7).
Keene State jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game. Sophomore Eliza Witherbee (Newburyport, Mass.), who had three of the Owls' seven goals, walked right in and scored to give the Owls a1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game. Three minutes later, junior Lauren Brown (Agawam, Mass.) found Witherbee cutting to the net for a goal to make it 2-0. Brown capped off the early uprising with a goal to put the Owls up 3-0.
KSC sophomore goalie Erin Taylor (Brewster, N.Y.) kept the Warriors off the board with a couple of saves before senior Ashley Prizio beat her with a turn-and shoot one-timer, making it 3-1 game.
After Witherbee put the Owls up 4-1, KSC held the ball before setting up a well-executed play that resulted in a goal by Brown with three second to go that gave Keene State a 5-1 halftime lead. "We had to change up our offense because some of the plays we usually do weren't working," said Brown, who finished the game with two goals. "We changed it up and started to get some shots off."
Keene State and Eastern traded goals early in the second half. Junior Daniela Marchitto (Orange, Conn.) scored on a free position in the first minute of play and sophomore Julie Trombetta (Trumbull, Conn.) answered with a goal for the Owls. Prizio and KSC senior Sammi Benson (Hampstead, N.H.) followed with unassisted goals to make it a 7-3 game.
Both teams' defenses stiffened from there. "They have a really good defense," said Arsenault. "We had trouble getting by them in the second half."
The Warriors made thing interesting scoring the final three goals of the game, including a free position goal by junior Christina Rully with 1:59 to play that made it a one goal (7-6) game.
"I was really nervous," said Taylor, who finished with six saves and set the record for wins (13) by a KSC goalie . "You never know what can happen. It was really nerve-wracking, but I have the confidence that my defense was going to get the ball out of there. They've been doing it all game."
Both teams turned the ball over in the final minute of play. After KSC cleared the ball to the center of the field, the Warriors got the ball back, but a long pass to Alexa Foldy (Brookfield, Conn.) sailed by her stick as time expired on the clock.
We made some rookie mistakes near the end of the game, but we'll talk about them and learn from them for Sunday's game," said Arsenault. "The tournament is all about heart and working hard and I think we showed a lot of that today."
Rully and Prizio each had two goals for Eastern while senior Kristianna Ibsen (Shelton, Conn.) stopped seven shots in the Warriors' net.
The statistics were indicative of the close play. KSC had a slight 23-18 advantage in shots while the Warriors led KSC 8-6 in draw controls.
Keene State will be making its fourth trip to the LEC championship game. The Owls lost to Plymouth State in 2004 finals and defeated Eastern to win the crown in 2009 and 2011.
"We were shocked to hear that Plymouth lost, but we're excited to finally host an LEC championship," said Brown. "Hopefully we can bring it home again."