WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team avoided a loss which would have most certainly eliminated it from next month's Little East Conference playoffs by scoring the only goal with just under two minutes remaining in a 1-0 victory over Western Connecticut State University Saturday morning at Thomas Nevers Field.
In a match where neither team could not capitalize on several significant scoring chances, Eastern (6-6-0, 1-3-0 LEC) won its first LEC contest of the year when junior forward Griffin Luczek (Lee, NH) completed a pretty head-ball pass from senior Justin Grant (Cromwell) with 1:44 left in regulation to send the Warriors to their fifth home win in six outings.
Western (7-5-0, 2-2-0 LEC) had a four-game winning streak ended. The Colonials had edged the Warriors, 1-0, a year ago at Danbury to stop Eastern's ten-match unbeaten hex (8-0-2) against the Colonials.
The winning play was initiated when junior keeper Ryan Murphy (Cromwell) came off his line to punch out a Western corner kick. Senior midfielder Nicholas Warren (Southbury) won the ball just outside the center circle on an attempted clear by Western and launched a long crossing pass from the right side to the far left post. With his momentum going away from the goal, Grant headed it back with enough force to send it into the box, where a hard-charging Luczek split two Western defenders and one-timed a shot from the center of the box 12 yards out past a flatfooted Western freshman keeper Daniel Szabo into the upper left corner for the second game-winning goal of his career.
Western, which outshot Eastern, 17-9, nearly broke through with seven minutes left when sophomore back Spencer Ranno won a ball just inside Western's offensive half and floated a pretty pass to dangerous junior forward Chauncey Allers. Running from left to right, Allers chested the ball to his feet, and on one hop, volleyed the ball past Murphy, who had left his mark in an attempt to cut the play off. The ball sailed over Murphy's head but settled in the netting above the goal to keep the match scoreless to that point.
Murphy made five saves for his fourth full shutout of the season. Szabo played the second half in place of junior Luca DiCarlo and was saddled with his third loss against one win. DiCarlo made one save, Szabo none.
With three LEC regular-season games remaining, Eastern is in seventh place among eight teams, with three points. Three teams are currently tied for the fourth and final playoff spot, with six points.
Eastern hosts Babson College Sunday at 4 p.m. in a non-conference contest.