DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University women's lacrosse team got goals from four different players to break the only tie of the game late in the first half and went on to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Little East Conference playoffs with a 16-14 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Saturday afternoon at Cressy Field.
Eastern (10-6, 5-1 LEC) , which reached double-digit wins for the third straight year and 12th time in program history, hosts a semifinal-round match Thursday at 4 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday's first-round match between No. 6 seed Western Connecticut and No. 3 Keene State College. The Warriors defeated Western (18-6) and Keene State (14-13 in overtime) at home earlier this month.
Following a 1-5 start against non-conference competition, Eastern heads into the playoffs having won four straight and nine of its last ten – the loss coming against Plymouth State.
Eastern, which won last year's LEC regular season with a perfect 6-0 record and shared the 2016 regular-season title (5-1) with Keene, finished a game back of Plymouth State, which nailed down its tenth LEC regular-season crown Thursday by pounding visiting Keene, 19-5, Thursday. Plymouth edged Eastern, 14-11, when the teams met two weeks ago at Mansfield.
In Eastern's 16th win over UMass Dartmouth (10-6, 3-3 LEC) in the last 17 games, seven players contributed goals, led by junior midfielder Michelina Pinto's (Groton) career-high six. Pinto scored twice when Eastern got out to a 5-1 lead with 11 minutes gone, and after senior midfielder Maggie Bodington (Stratford) broke the 5-5 tie with four minutes left in the first half, Pinto gave Eastern a two-goal lead two minutes later. Pinto followed with consecutive goals 1:12 minutes apart early in the second half to push Eastern's lead to 12-6, and saved her biggest goal for late in the game. After Sam Muir potted two in a row to pull UMD to within two with seven minutes left, Pinto scored her sixth and final goal 17 seconds later on a helper from senior attack Katie Burke (South Windsor) to help restore the Warriors' three-goal edge.
One of four Little East players with at least 50 goals, Leah Douty of UMass was limited to four goals on eight shots by the Eastern defense. Douty second goal of the match tied the match for the only time, 5-5, with seven minutes left in the first half. After reaching 50 goals and drawing UMD to within 9-6 three minutes into the second half, the All-LEC senior midfielder was kept at bay until netting the final goal of the match with 65 seconds left.
Douty followed her goal with 65 seconds left by winning the ensuing draw, but Eastern senior defender Katie Calnen (Granby) stripped her of the ball and picked up the ground ball and the Warriors were able to run out the clock.
Sophomore attack Alyssa Powers (Ellington) followed Pinto with three goals and an assist. Eastern junior goalie Jessica Purick (Riverhead, NY) made double-digit saves for the fourth time in the last eight contests, with eight of her 13 stops coming when she gave up only five first-half goals.
Calnen paced Eastern with six ground balls and four caused turnovers, with Powers picking up five ground balls and forcing two turnovers Sophomore midfielder Tristan Kijak (Windsor) and Bodington combined to win 13 of Eastern's 19 draws, the Warriors finishing with a +6 advantage in that category.