MANSFIELD, Conn. – The Connecticut College field hockey team scored all of its goals in the first 21 minutes of play in a 4-0 non-conference victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Wednesday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Playing only its fifth opponent this year not ranked nationally in the most recent Division III poll, Conn (5-8) scored its goals less than eight minutes apart in moving out to a four-goal lead 21 minutes into play before Eastern (7-7) played the Camels to a stalemate on the scoreboard in the second half.
The Warriors had brought a program-equalling four consecutive wins into the match but fell to 1-10 against Conn in a series dating back to 2007. The four goals equaled a season-high for the Camels, who have won two in a row since snapping a four-game losing streak. Seven of the team's losses have come against nationally-ranked teams, including 4-1 season-opening losses to No. 2 Middlebury College and No. 3 Babson College three days apart.
A pair of defensive saves by Eastern sophomore back Amy Smith (Trumbull) moments apart kept Conn off the board in the early going before senior midfielder Meg Lembo finally broke through for Conn in the 14th minute with a re-directed shot, and junior midfielder Cara McConaughey's first goal of the season less than two minutes later made it 2-0. Junior midfielder Jamie Navoni's team-leading eighth goal of the year followed less than two minutes after that when she beat Eastern senior goalie Maddie LaRusso (Enfield) from close range, and senior forward Colbi Vaillancourt turned and swept in her first goal of the season four minutes later as the lead swelled to four. McConaughey and Vaillancourt both came off the bench in making their offensive contributions.
With both teams utilizing their starters through most of the second half, Eastern managed five shots and three penalty corners in keeping Conn off the board. The Camels were unable to pad their lead in the final minutes when LaRusso was sent off for two minutes with a yellow card. Conn was awarded a penalty corner on the infraction but the Eastern defense held the visitors without a shot until LaRusso returned with 27 seconds left in the match.
Two of Eastern's second-half shots less than a minute apart resulted in its best attempts at preventing the shutout, but Conn freshman goalie Andi McGraw kicked out significant bids by senior forward Tia LaFrance Boyce (Pawcatuck) and junior midfielder Stephanie Hogan (Northford), the later drive coming off a penalty corner.
McGraw stopped five shots for her fourth career shutout – first since she blanked consecutive opponents two days apart in mid-September. LaRusso denied 11 shots – her second-highest save total of the season.
Eastern plays its final Little East Conference regular-season match of the season Saturday, hosting Bridgewater State University at noon. The Warriors (6-4) share fourth place in the conference and look to nail down the fourth and final seed guaranteeing them a first-round LEC playoff home match Oct. 28.