MANSFIELD, Conn. – The most successful team in the regular season will host the winningest post-season tournament team in the championship game of the 2017 Little East Conference Tournament.
Top-seeded Eastern Connecticut (9-7-3) – which has won or shared eight regular-season titles -- will meet No. 2 Western Connecticut State University (17-1-2) -- nine-time tournament champion -- in the title game at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex Saturday at 1 p.m.
Eastern outshot No. 4 seed Massachusetts Boston (6-12-2) by a 23-0 margin and scored all of its goals in the second half to advance to its tenth final, looking for its fifth title. Defending champion Western is competing in its 12th final, looking to win three straight tournament titles for the third time. Seeded third last year, Eastern dumped top-seeded Eastern, 2-0, in the title game at Mansfield.
Eastern and Western will be meeting for the fourth time in the title game, the Colonials winning all three. Western is ranked No. 5 in New England.
After beating UMass Boston, 5-1, in the regular season, Eastern dominated time of possession but could not break through until the 55th minute when team scoring leader Aly Clarke (Mystic), a junior forward, connected for her ninth of the season on a free kick from 25 yards that she drove inside the right post. The kick was awarded for a UMB hand ball. It was Clarke's first goal since scoring the first goal in a 1-1 overtime tie at Western Oct. 7. UMass junior goalie Alyssa Fugiel was covering the right post on Clarke's approach, but was caught leaning to her right on the kick. She then tried to reach back to her left but could not get her left hand on the ball as it settled cleanly into the net.
Nineteen minutes later, senior defender Krista Petersen (Wallingford) finally beat Fugiel on her fifth shot of the game. Off of a free kick into the box, the ball sailed past Petersen stationed in front of the goal, and bounced off a Western defender back toward Petersen, who got a foot on it and knocked it past the UMB goalkeeper, then while on the ground, pushed it over the goal line for her second goal of the season.
The Warriors sealed the win in the 79th minute. While UMB was arguing a foul call, Clarke quickly sent a pass to her left on the re-start to senior midfielder McKenzie Reimondo (Portland), who had room on the left behind the UMB defense. Although there were no Eastern players in the box, Reimondo crossed the ball to the middle. Fugiel dove to smother the ball, but it came loose, and trickled behind the goalkeeper, where senior forward Maggie Bodington (Stratford) steered it in at the far right post for her fifth goal of the season.
Fugiel made seven saves while Eastern junior Kayla Labrecque (Westhampton, MA) did not make save in recording her fourth full shutout of the season.
UMass had advanced to the semifinals with a a2-0 win over visiting Rhode Island College, the No. 5 seed, Tuesday. The Beacons lost for the 11th time in 14 road matches this year.