WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State University sophomore forward Cora Rogers scored three goals to lead the fourth-seeded Owls to a 6-1 win over fifth-seed Eastern Connecticut State University in the opening round of the Little East Conference field hockey tournament Saturday at Alumni Field.
Westfield (9-9) advances to Wednesday's semifinals. Eastern (7-10), which dominated play in a 1-0 loss at Westfield earlier in the year behind senior goalie Maddie LaRusso (Enfield), ended its season with LaRusso missing her second straight match with a leg injury sustained late in the regular season.
The Owls and Warriors traded blows late in the first half. After more than 25 minutes of back-and-forth play, Westfield got on the board first when Rogers redirected a hard pass from Marina Small into the upper left corner of the net in the 28th minute.
The teams were tied late in the first half – junior Erin Sheehan's (North Branford) first goal of the year pulling the Warriors even with 2:28 left in the half – before a rebound goal as time expired in the half gave the hosts the momentum—and lead -- for good at the break. Westfield then pulled away in the second half to avenge a 3-0 shutout loss at Eastern in the opening round of the LEC playoffs two seasons ago. It marks the third time in 17 years of LEC play that Westfield has advanced beyond the opening round.
The floodgates opened in the second half, as Westfield added Rogers' second of the day on a breakaway in the 38th minute, then senior Megan Evans tipped a Carly Zona blast into the net off of a penalty corner in the 40th minute to give the Owls a commanding 4-1 lead.
Rogers completed the hat trick with a sensational unassisted goal, picking a loose ball in front of the cage out of the air with her stick, and juggling the ball several times before batting it in the cage for her third goal of the day. Westfield got a late penalty stroke from senior back Rachel Bunce to cap the scoring.
Rogers now has 14 goals on the season, good for the ninth-best single season total in school history.
Eastern's top three scorers of seniors Alex Kallgren (Dudley, MA) and Tia LaFrance Boyce (Pawcatuck) and sophomore Khiara Valentine (Morristown, NJ) – who brought a combined total of 27 goals into the match -- were shut out, managing only four combined shots. All three of Westfield goalie Molly Duff-Still's saves came at the expense of Valentine.
Westfield held just an 11-8 advantage in shots, and the two teams were each awarded six penalty corners.