KEENE, N.H. 5/5/11 – After a tight first quarter, the Keene State College men's lacrosse team outscored Western Connecticut 15-5 over the final three periods, en route to a 17-6 victory in the Little East Conference Tournament Semifinals on Thursday afternoon at Owl Athletic Complex.
Keene State will square off, in a rematch of last season's Little East Conference Championship game, against Eastern Conn. State University at Owls Athletic Complex on Saturday at 5 p.m. "This is what we have worked for all season," said KSC head coach Mark Theriault. "All the early practices in March, all the days we were out here in the cold, and the snow, it all comes down to Saturday. This is what we worked for, this is what we wanted."
"We've had the saying NCAA's or bust all year," said senior Colin Barnett, a Cheshire, Conn. native. "We are going to go out there and give it everything we got."
The Warriors defeated second seeded UMass Dartmouth 14-8 on the road to advance to the championship contest.
In the first half, the Owls (13-2) were flagged for seven penalties, and gave the Colonials (10-7) two, six-on-four power-play situations. But the KSC defense held strong, not allowing a goal in either of those situations to give time for the offense to get into it. "When we needed the defense to step up they did," said KSC head coach Mark Theriault. "They were very impressive in the man down situations and played tight the whole game."
The Owls outshot the Colonials 60-35 in the game and held their top scorer, junior attackman Sean Macey (New Fairfield, Conn.), to only one point with strong defensive leadership from Barnett. "Colin played a good, smart game," said Theriault. "When we played Western earlier in the year Macey played well, but Barnett made it difficult for him to do anything all day."
"Macey's a great player," said Barnett. "We figured that if we took him out of the equation that we were going to dismantle their offense and it worked out real well."
Also stepping up big for the defense, junior Alex Cuomo (Scituate, Mass.) wreaked havoc on the Colonial forwards all game. "His defensive takeaways were great today," said Theriault. "He played great in front of the cage and beat some attackers to the end-line to get us some key possessions when we needed it."
Freshman Andrew Fazio (Shrub Oak, N.Y.) caused five turnovers for the Owls and scooped up five groundballs, while senior Warren Dill (Yorktown, N.Y.) caused four changes-of-possessions himself and picked up four groundballs.
Offensively, junior Griffin Meehan (Simsbury, Conn.) led the way for the Owls, with seven goals and three assists for 10 points. "Griffin started slow just like our offense did," said Theriault. "Once he got warmed up and we started moving better without the ball he just started scoring at will." Classmate Matt Schairer (Wrentham, Mass.) had two goals and six assists for eight points as well for home team in the victory.
Junior attacker J.C. Flaherty (Old Lyme, Conn.) put WestConn on the scoreboard with 3:29 in the first quarter to cut KSC's lead to 2-1. After that, the Owls rattled off eight straight goals, capped by Barnett's marker with 11:13 remaining in the third quarter o give KSC a 10-1 advantage.
Macey got in the scoring column in the fourth quarter with 11:09 left off a pass from senior Tim Schweitzer (Babylon, N.Y.) to cut the Owl lead to 11-3. Keene State would go on another run, scoring the next four goals and five of the next six, and eventually roll on for the 17-6 victory.
Junior midfielder Ryan Gillis (Norwich, Conn.) led the Colonials with three points on two goals and an assist. No other WestConn player registered multiple points in the contest.
On the faceoff's, Owl senior Michael Araujo (Southboro, Mass.) went 10-for-16 while Colonial specialist Eric Small (Glastonbury, Conn.) went 10-for-24.
In goal, sophomore Jason Leser (Brewster, Mass.) made seven saves and allowed just six goals in the victory, while Colonial netminder Tyler Martone (Cheshire, Conn.) was pestered with shots all game but managed to make 17 saves in the losing effort.