MANSFIELD, Conn. – Twenty-goal sophomore scorers Nina Bruno (Agawam, MA) and Kayla Klein (West Brookfield, MA) combined for five goals and three assists to power defending Little East Conference field hockey playoff champion Keene State College to a 5-3 victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
With the win, Keene (14-4, 10-1 LEC) moves within a half-game of conference leader Castleton University, which was scheduled to host the University of Southern Maine Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern (4-9, 4-7 LEC) falls into tenth place in the 13-team conference with its fourth straight loss. The winner of Saturday's 7 p.m. game between Plymouth State University and host Westfield State University will take hold of eight place, with the loser dropping into a two-way tie for ninth with Eastern.
Keene, which has lost three matches to teams ranked in this week's national Top 20, struck for three goals in just over six minutes Saturday – Bruno scoring her 24th and 25th and assisting on Klein's 21st marker of the year – to moved out quickly.
The Warriors got themselves back into contention on a goal by freshman Sydney Collentine (New Fairfield) in the 20th minutes, then cut the gap to one at halftime when senior Stephanie Hogan (Northford) potted her sixth of the season on a hard drive off freshman Brianna Nolan's (Watertown) penalty corner after time had expired in the half.
In the second half, Klein twice restored two-goal leads for the Owls. The decisive goal came 3:27 into the second half when Klein returned the momentum to Keene with a blast from close-in in the center of the circle on a feed from Bruno. After the Warriors countered again on junior Morgan Sanson's (Thomaston) sixth of the season with 17 minutes left, Klein notched her 23rd on a re-direct of senior Erica Stauffer's (Cheshire) shot following a penalty corner.
Klein had three goals and an assists and Bruno two goals and two assists.
Keene outshot Eastern, 23-6 and had a 9-6 advantage in penalty corner. SophomoreRachel Loseby (Hartford, VT) earned the win in goal after leaving at the break with a 3-2 lead. She made both of her team's saves. Keira Integlia stopped 11 shots for Eastern.
At left: One of eight first-year players to see action Saturday, freshman Brianna Nolan helped cut Keene's lead to 3-2 with no time remaining in the first half when her hit-in on a penalty corner set up senior Stephanie Hogan's sixth goal of the season. (Photo by Sara Pisanelli)
Last year, the Warriors had outgunned Keene, 5-4, in the LEC regular-season contest at Keene, NH.
Eastern visits Regis College Thursday at 4:30 p.m.