MANSFIELD, Conn. – Sophomore attack Alyssa Powers (Ellington) scored a career-high six goals and senior midfielder Maggie Bodington (Stratford) won ten draws to spark the No. 2-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University women's lacrosse team from five goals down early in the second half for a 17-15 victory over No. 3 Keene State College in the semifinal round of the 2018 Little East Conference playoffs Thursday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
With its second home victory over Keene State (9-9) in less than two weeks, Eastern (11-6) moves into its 12th championship game in the 17-year history of the tournament, visiting defending champion and top-seeded Plymouth State University (13-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. The Panthers trimmed No. 4 UMass Dartmouth, 15-12, Thursday, in the other semifinal.
Eastern and Plymouth will meet in the final for the seventh time, the Panthers winning four times – including last year (13-12) at No. 1 Eastern.
Eastern, which has beaten Keene four straight times by a total of five goals, trailed by five goals Thursday after Tori Weinstock potted her second of the game six minutes into the second half. The Warriors responded with nine of the next ten, however. Junior midfielder Michelina Pinto (Groton), Eastern's leading scorer this year, scored all four of her goals in the game in a stretch of 14 minutes, with Powers and Bodington adding two each and Wylie one in that 9-1 run.
Bodington, who had a career-high 11 draws in the 14-13 regular-season overtime victory over Keene, followed with ten Thursday against the Owls (her season total of 81 is the third-most in program history, nine behind the leader). After Powers drew Eastern to within 14-13 with 11 minutes left, Bodington claimed the ensuing draw and took it in herself 41 seconds later to pull Eastern even for the first time since the final minutes of the first half. Bodington again won the next draw and got the ball to Pinto, who connected on a free-position goal to give the Warriors the lead for good, 15-14, with nine minutes left.
The first half was a game of surges as both club scored three in a row – Powers netting all three of Eastern's that made it 3-1 eight minutes into play. Keene, which had won eight of its previous ten matches (losing to Eastern and Plymouth) scored the final four goals of the first half, and Taylor Farland opened the second half with her third of the match as Keene moved out to a four-goal, 10-6 lead.
Junior goalie Jessica Purick (Riverhead, NY) stopped 11 shots for her first post-season victory in her first start, while Keene's Anna O'Brien made nine saves.
Farland, who missed the final 42 minutes against Eastern in the regular-season game after receiving her second yellow card, led the Owls with four goals, Chelsea Lewis adding three goals and two assists and Erica Chareth three goals. Farland also won six draws and Tara Kilderry won eight ground balls. Eastern's defense, led by close defenders Calnen, senior Taylor Behn (Amherst, NH) and senior Allison Nadeau (Tolland) limited LEC 50+-goal scoring leader Lewis, who had torched the Warriors for six goals in the regular-season match. Thursday, Lewis went 32 minutes between goals. Her first goal tied the game and 3-all ten minutes into action, but she was held off the board until striking agains 12 minutes into the second half to give her team a 14-11 lead. Her last goal was the final one of the contest with 2:36 left and broke up Eastern's six-goal run. Keene regained possession after Lewis' final goal with a chance to slice the Eastern lead to one, but Pinto caused a turnover and picked up the ground ball and the Warriors milked the final 1:16 to guarantee the victory.
Pinto and senior defender Katie Calnen (Granby) each picked up four ground balls for Eastern, with Pinto also causing three turnovers.
Eastern has won five straight, with Plymouth the last club to defeat the Warriors, 14-11, April 14 in Mansfield. Eastern and Plymouth met five times in the final in the first six years of the championship, Eastern unseating the three-time defending champs in 2005 and again in 2007.