KEENE, N.H.--During the summer of 2018, the Keene State College Department of Athletics and Recreation will be looking back at some of the memorable and historic moments from the year that was 2017-18.
At No. 6, we revisit a fifth straight Little East Conference championship for the Owls' field hockey program.
The Owls entered 2017 as the four time defending tournament champions, but finished the regular season in a tie for second place with Plymouth State, behind regular season champ Worcester State. Despite that, the Owls claimed the No. 2 seed over the Panthers by virtue of their 2-1 overtime win on September 19.
As the No. 2 seed, KSC hosted Bridgewater State in a quarterfinal, where freshman Nina Bruno had her third hat-trick of the season to lead the Owls to a 6-2 win over the No. 7 seed Bears. As had been the case on several occasions this season, the Owls were on the board within the first five minutes of the contest. A loose ball fell to Julia Babbit, who poked it past Bridgewater State goalie Allison Chappell with just 2:34 elapsed. A little less than 10 minutes later, the Bears had tied the contest when Emma Daly beat Owls' goalie Rachel Loseby at the 11:01 mark. Bruno put the Owls back in front for good, controlling the ball, coming to the top of the crease, and shooting past a sprawling Chappell for her 16th goal of the season in the 16th minute. The freshman added another in the 22nd minute to send the Owls into the break up 3-1.
Moving into the semifinals, the Owls were pitted against No. 3 seed Plymouth State, where they needed to recover from an early deficit in an eventual 5-3 win. The Owls were on the board early in the game, as Nina Bruno got them on the board at the 3:39 mark. The Panthers hit back with two goals in 90 seconds, both following penalty corners. Maddie Kabasakalian tied the game with a goal in the ninth minute, tipping in a pass from Katie Martin, then put Plymouth State in front when she deflected Patty Newhard's shot from the top of the circle. Dandeneau tied the score in the 23rd minute, weaving through the Plymouth State defense before beating PSU goalie Alivia Bates. After the teams went into the break at halftime tied at two, Dandeneau put KSC in front for good, curling a shot from just inside the circle past the dive of Bates. Bruno added her second of the game off a pass from Dandeneau to make it 4-2, a goal that would prove crucial, as the Panthers pulled one back through Haley Wakefield with 17 minutes to go.
Meanwhile, that same evening in Worcester, an upset was brewing. Top seeded Worcester State was upset by No. 4 seed Westfield State, 5-4, meaning the Owls would host the championship game on November 8.
The game was a romp, as the Owls scored in the seventh minute of the game, en route to a 9-0 win, the biggest in the history of the LEC title game. Bruno, who earned Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament honors after scoring eight goals over Keene State's three tournament games, had her fourth hat-trick of the season. Casi Smith, Erica Stauffer, Kayla Klein, Erica Chareth, Kelsey Roberts, and Kendal Brown each had one. Julia Babbitt had a hat-trick's worth of assists, with Stauffer, Jordyn Martin, Brittany Johnson, and Courtney Jessup each contributing a helper. In all, 11 different Owls recorded at least one point.
It was the second time in school history that the Owls had won five straight LEC titles, having also done so from 2004-08, and Bruno was the second KSC freshman to earn tournament Most Outstanding Player Honors, joining Karen Robinson, who had done so in 2006.