'KEENE, N.H. 5/7/05 - The top seeded Keene State College men's lacrosse team captured its first-ever Little East Conference Championship with an 11-4 victory over second seed Eastern Connecticut State University at Owl Athletic Complex on Saturday.
Keene State, winners of 10 straight, ends the reign of Eastern Conn., which had won all four previous LEC titles, including the past two years over Keene State.
"To go from a club team seven years ago to winning the Little East Championship is a tremendous accomplishment," said KSC Coach Mark Theriault. "I'm so proud of this team, especially our nine seniors who worked so hard to get us to this level."
The Owls, who ended the ECSU's 35-game LEC winning streak earlier this season with a 15-4 victory, had to overcome a slow start and numerous penalties. Greg Gonzales' (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) goal with 50 seconds to play gave KSC a 2-1 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams traded goals in the second quarter. After Sean Panora's second goal of the game put the Owls up 2-1 in the first minute, Brian Hebron (Hicksville, N.Y.) answered at the 2:52 mark to make it a 3-2 game at the half.
The Warriors took advantage of a pair of man-up goals by Joe Cittadino (Baldwin, N.Y.) and Pete Hamilton (Rutland, Vt.) early in the third quarter to take a 4-3 lead. KSC came back to tie the game 11 seconds later on a goal by Eric Momnie (South Windsor, Conn.). The Owls took the lead for good (5-4) on an unassisted goal by Mike LeSage (Exeter, N.H.) who came from behind the net to beat ECSU goalie Will Holland (Kent, Conn.). KSC scored three more times in the third quarter and added three unanswered goals in the fourth quarter on the way to posting the historic victory.
"The first half was a nail-biter, but in the third quarter we got our legs and went on a roll," said Theriault. "The key was killing off a three minute non-release penalty."
The defense played awesome in the second quarter," said KSC goalie Matt Johnson (Derry, N.H.), who finished with 17 saves. "Everyone stepped up and I was able to make a few big stops."
"It was just a matter of our offense picking up our defense," said Meade MacKay (Stratham, N.H.), who was selected as the tournaments' most outstanding player. "We got back to playing our game and executing our offense."
Gonzales, Momnie, and Panora scored three goals each to lead the KSC attack. MacKay finished with a goal and five assists.
Hamilton had two goals and Hebron and Cittadino added single goals for ECSU (9-6). Dave Carpenter (Reading, Conn.) also had two assists for the Warriors, who had their eight game LEC Tournament winning streak snapped. Holland finished the game with 14 saves.
Keene State will find out who they will face in the NCAA Division III Tournament on Sunday night. "Our initial goal was to beat Eastern Conn. during the regular season," said MacKay. "But to beat them again for the Little East Championship is unbelievable. It's like a dream come true."