KEENE, N.H. 5/6/12 – A rebuilding season turned into a Little East Conference championship and record-breaking season for the Keene State College women's lacrosse team on Sunday after the second-seeded Owls defeated fifth seed Western Conn. State 13-7 for their second straight title and third crown in the past four years.
Winners of five straight games, Keene State (15-3), which set a program record for wins in a season, will find out its NCAA opponent when the national tournament field is announced on Sunday night.
Energized by the underclassmen after losing eight seniors that played pivotal roles in last year's title, the Owls not only developed into a team, but a team on a mission to prove they could still win a championship. "I think the underclassmen brought us together," said senior Sammi Benson (Hampstead, N.H.) "I never played on a team so close."
"Our team chemistry was through the roof this year,' said senior Caitlyn Corace (Mahopac, N.Y.). "We didn't have a superstar player, so we knew we had to do it as a team. And that was very important for us to understand."
"This team worked well together and pushed each other every single practice and game," said KSC Coach Katie Arsenault. "They deserve to go out and win a championship."
A determined Owls team didn't waste any time taking control, scoring the first four goals of the games. Sophomore Julie Trombetta (Trumbull, Conn.) scored three of the goals, including her second one when she came from behind the net and got the shot off before colliding with a Colonial defender. "We showed a lot of heart today and came out real strong," said Trombetta.
Keene State outscored Western 3-2 the remainder of the half to take a 7-2 lead at the break. Benson did her best Rajon Rondo impersonation, setting up freshman Polly Grey (Saratoga, N.Y.) alone in front to make it 5-1 and later racing around the zone before passing to Corace at the door step who beat Western sophomore goalie Karli Portnoy (Sea Cliff, N.Y.), giving Owls lead to 7-2 with 1:28 to play in the half.
"We talked about patience and getting open," said Corace. We had to make sure we talked to each other. Communication on offense was a key today."
Keene State extended its lead early in the second half, going up 10-2 when Nicole Curry (Hampstead) went top shelf.
Named the most outstanding player of the tournament, Keene State sophomore Erin Taylor (Brewster, N.Y.) had a strong game in goal, making consecutive close-range saves on bids by senior Kaitlyn Arconti (Danbury, Conn.) and junior Nicole Perrone (Brookfield, Conn.) later in the half. "I get excited and the rest of the team gets pumped when I make a big save, said Taylor, who stopped 14 shots in the game. "I love when I make a save and they go down and score."
After an unassisted goal by Brown made it 11-3, the Colonials began their comeback. Junior Devon Edwards (Islip, N.Y.) and senior Brianna Mitterando (Mastic, Beach, N.Y.) scored free position goals to cut the Owls' lead to 11-5.
Sophomore Eliza Witherbee (Newburyport, Mass.) scored a transition goal to stop the run, but Western came back with two more goalie, including one by sophomore Hyla Costello (Southington, N.Y.) when she put her free position rebound past Taylor to make it 12-7.
Keene State used the clock to its advantage the remainder of the game and sealed the win when sophomore Ashley Borjeson (Londonderry, N.H.) found Corace alone in front for her second goal of the game. "We knew it was going to be about heart and working together," said Arsenault. "We went out and made smart decisions on offense and our defense is playing at its best right now. We've been working all season and peaked at the right time."
Brown finished the game with four goals, giving her a team high 52 for the season.
Edwards and Perrone each had two goals for the Colonials (12-8). Portnoy had a busy day in goal for Western, finishing with seven saves.
Western had a slim 25-24 advantage in shots while the Owls edged the Colonials 12-10 in draw controls.
One of three seniors on the team," Benson has the distinction of winning three LEC titles in her four years. "I never won a championship until I came here and then we get three. It's unreal," she said.