MANSFIELD, Conn. –The Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team's 2-0 victory over Rhode Island College Friday evening at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex -- coupled with Keene State College's 2-1 overtime loss at UMass Boston -- gives the Warriors the outright Little East Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 playoff seed and hosting rights for the semifinals and final.
Eastern (15-3-0, 7-1-0 LEC) and No. 2 Keene State (12-5-0, 6-2-0 LEC) will receive byes into the playoff semifinals Friday. The tournament final is scheduled for Saturday. Rhode Island was eliminated from playoff contention with its eighth loss in its final ten matches.
On Friday at 11 a.m. at Thomas Nevers Field, Eastern will host the winner of a Tuesday first-round match between #4 Western Connecticut and #5 Castleton University. The second semifinal is scheduled to follow at 1:30 p.m.. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Nevers Field.
Nick Starkowski (Marlborough) scored on a header off Justin Jensen's (Wethersfield) corner kick in the ninth minute and Patrick Agymemang (East Hartford) made it 2-0 seven minutes later with a one-timer off a cross from the right to the far post by Griffin Luczek (Lee, NH) as the Warriors won their fifth outright LEC regular-season title under 12th-year head coach Greg DeVito, who equaled Tom Nevers' program record with his 153rd career victory. The Warriors have also shared two LEC regular-season titles under DeVito.
After going 2-3-2 in the conference and missing out on last year's LEC playoffs for the first time under DeVito following a 2-3-2 record, the Warriors set a program record with seven LEC regular-season wins this year. Eastern ended the season with a 7-1-0 regular-season home record.
Senior Ryan Murphy (Cromwell), the team's only senior, made five saves in the first half and sophomore Kyle Boutot (Tolland) closed out the team's third straight 2-0 shutout and seventh shutout in its final eight regular-season matches.
Keene, which handed Eastern its only LEC loss in the conference opener Sept 15 by a 1-0 score, was undefeated in the conference until losing its final two LEC regular-season games by 2-1 scores. UMass scored the tying goal with 5:27 left in regulation Friday against Keene and won it 1:48 into sudden death. Against Castleton, Keene allowed the tying goal four minutes into the second half and the game-winner with 19 minutes left.
Friday, Rhode Island (4-10-2, 1-6-1 LEC) had a barrage of shots in the first seven minutes but could not break through. Two of the shots were saved by Murphy, one sailed just wide and one nailed the left post.
Eastern outshot RIC, 16-10 on the way to ending a run of three straight shutout losses to the Anchormen. Charlie Tashjian stopped six shots for Rhode Island.
Eastern ties the program's regular-season record for wins, set in 2012 when the Warriors went on to the LEC playoff title en route to a program-record 17 victories.