MANSFIELD, Conn.- The No. 2 seeded Keene State Owls men's soccer team defeated the No. 1 seeded Eastern Connecticut State Warriors to win their 7th LEC Championship. Emmanuel Smith picked up the lone goal of the contest, giving the Owls their first crown since 2010.
- No. 2 Keene State: 15-6-0
- No. 1 Eastern Connecticut: 17-3-0
How it Happened:
In a fight for the LEC Championship, both team came out fighting for every inch on the ground. Eastern Connecticut would find their first opportunity of the game in the 7th minute of the game when Justin Jensen of the Warriors got positioning inside the box and saw a cross pass in the air come from his teammate. Jensen leaped and got a head on the ball that went by the hands of the Owls starting GK Nate Howard but landed just wide of the post, keeping the score knotted at zero.
Keene State would respond next, picking up their only shot on goal just shortly after the chance from Jensen. Keene's Connor Downey took a shot on goal that the Warriors GK Kyle Boutot handled. Plenty of action was found toward the midfield, as the Owls committed 11 fouls in the first half, with the Warriors committing just three total. In the 12th minute, one of those fouls committed by the Owls resulted in a free kick for Eastern Connecticut. The kick was taken by Eastern Connecticut and placed just inside the box. Keene State's Nate Howard made an aggressive run at the ball, looking to punch the ball away from Eastern's Griffin Luczek. Both player collided on the play, after Luczek got a header on the ball that sailed up and over the crossbar.
ECSU would continue to dominate the possession time, putting up a total of nine shots towards Nate Howard, with three on goal. The LEC leading goal scorer Patrick Agyemang saw his best opportunity in the 38th minute of the contest as he moved the ball into open space and had a chance toward goal. Agyemang made a move to get by one defender of the Owls and took a shot on the aggressive goaltender Nate Howard. Howard was able to get a piece of the shot by Agyemang, keeping the game scoreless into halftime.
The Owls would get the better of the chances to start off the second half as in the 61st minute the Warriors would turn the ball over in their own zone. The Owls would attempt to capitalize but they were called just offsides. Just one minute later, KSC would make their best attempt at goal in the contest. The Owls were awarded a throw in just outside of the box. LJ Luster corralled the throw in and sent the ball through the middle to the foot of Emmanuel Smith. Smith took a shot with his right foot that forced GK Kyle Boutot to make a diving save.
KSC would break the scoreless game in the 74th minute when Emmanuel Smith made moves to get past the defender and move forward toward goal. Smith then corralled the ball and took a shot with his left foot and put the ball past a diving Kyle Boutot and into the lower right corner of the net, giving the Owls the 1-0 lead in the championship game. For Smith, he picks up his team leading 12th goal of the season.
Eastern Connecticut wouldn't go away quietly, as their leading goal scorer Patrick Agyemang had a chance just three minutes following the Owls goal from Smith, but GK Nate Howard stood tall making a diving save on Agyemang, keep the Owls advantage at 1-0. The Warriors final chance of the afternoon came in the 82ndminute when Ryan Sirois came into the box and put another shot on goal on GK Nate Howard, but Howard came away with the save.
Keene State celebrates their 7th LEC Championship, defeating Eastern Connecticut for the first time in the LEC Championship game, 1-0. GK Nate Howard was named the Little East Conference Most Outstanding Player allowing no goals on ten shots on goal in the playoff wins over Rhode Island College and Eastern Connecticut State.
Inside the Box:
- KSC has been crowned LEC Champions for the 7th time in program history, and the first time since 2010. The Owls lone goal of the contest came from Emmanuel Smith in the 74th minute, an unassisted tally.
- MOP (Most Outstanding Player) GK Nate Howard came away with five saves on the afternoon, most notably a diving save in the 82nd minute, keeping the 1-0 lead and eventual final score for the Owls.
- Prior to today's loss, Eastern Connecticut was 10-0 at Rick McCarthy Field. This is their first home loss since last season's LEC semifinal game when the Warriors fell to Western Connecticut State 2-1.
- The last time the LEC Championship game ended in a 1-0 score was the 2017 LEC title game between Western Connecticut State and Rhode Island College.
- GK Kyle Boutot came away with three saves on four shots on goal by the Owls. GK Nate Howard, who made just his third start of the season, came up with five total saves, crowning him the Most Outstanding Player of the LEC men's soccer tournament.
- ECSU led the game with 14 shots to the Owls 10 total. ECSU also led the game with four corner kicks, while the Owls took just one total which came in the second half.
- Eastern Connecticut had not lost to an LEC opponent since October 2, falling to Rhode Island College. Eastern Connecticut made the championship game after they defeated the Colonials of Western Connecticut State in the semifinal game 5-0.
- The Keene State Owls earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament with the win. The Owls will now await their NCAA Division III tournament opponent, which will be unveiled tomorrow, Monday, November 11 at 1:30 pm. The selection show can be found by clicking here.
- The Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State see their season end after the 1-0 loss this afternoon. The No. 1 seed in the LEC tournament finish the season out at 17-3-0.