No. 5 – Women's Lacrosse runs the table in LEC, earns second straight NCAA trip
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – As Panther Nation gears up for the start of the 2018-19 season, we've decided to look back at the impressive 2017-18 year in Plymouth State Athletics. Over the next few weeks we will reflect on some of the most exciting performances of last season while counting down the Top Ten Moments of 2017-18.
No. 5: Women's Lacrosse runs the table in LEC, earns second straight NCAA trip
Plymouth State head women's lacrosse coach Sandy Bridgeman had a plan when she put together the 2018 non-conference schedule. The Panthers would be challenged with an incredibly difficult slate of games to start the season. Her thinking was the difficult stretch would help prepare PSU for a successful run through the Little East Conference. She couldn't have been more right.
Over the first six games, Plymouth State played a nationally ranked school (Bowdoin), a team that reached the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament (Babson), two other NEWMAC powers (MIT and Wheaton) and a pair of strong New York teams (Hartwick and Oneonta State). The Panthers survived the stretch with a 3-3 mark, closing the most difficult portion of the schedule with a loss at Wheaton on Mar. 28. The team wouldn't lose again until the NCAA Tournament, some 45 days later.
Plymouth's run through the LEC wasn't unheard of. In fact, the program had recorded undefeated regular season championships eight other times since joining the league in 2002. Only half of those teams ultimately won the conference tournament, though.
Seniors Megan Tingley (Natick, Mass.) and Sam Sullivan (Canton, Mass.) lit up the scoreboard and the record books as the team tore through the remainder of the schedule. The duo combined for nine goals and an assist in a 17-10 win over UMass Dartmouth in the conference opener on Mar. 31, kicking off the LEC slate in style.
The team followed with dominating wins over non-conference Castleton (14-4) and league foe Rhode Island College (16-1).
Bridgewater State came to Arold Field and put up a valiant fight on Apr. 10, but the Panthers prevailed again. The Bears actually led, 8-6, with 20 minutes to play, but a 5-0 spurt by the home team locked up the win.
A non-conference, 19-2 dismantling of Salem State came next, before a much-anticipated battle with Eastern Connecticut State, a rematch of the 2017 conference finals (won by the Panthers). PSU jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first half. The Warriors rallied in the second, pulling to within three on three separate occasions, but Plymouth held on for the 14-11 win. It would prove to be the biggest challenge for the Panthers through the remainder of the regular season.
Sullivan poured in six goals and added three assists in a 20-9 drubbing of Western Connecticut State a week later. Three other players recorded hat tricks in the game; Tingley and juniors Kimberly Zuccaro (Townsend, Mass.) and Veronyca Daniels (Concord, N.H.).
Plymouth State was briefly threatened by Southern Maine on Senior Day on Apr. 24. The Huskies used four-straight goals to take a 7-5 lead at the midpoint of the first half, but the Panthers rallied to take an 8-7 lead at the break before outscoring USM 11-6 in the second half to push the winning streak to eight games.
In the regular season finale against Keene State on Apr. 26, the Panthers raced out to a 10-1 lead before coasting to a 19-5 win to secure the perfect run through the LEC.
PSU hosted fourth-seeded UMass Dartmouth in the conference semifinals on May 3. The home team came out on fire, scoring three times in less than four minutes to build a 5-0 lead. The upset-minded Corsairs rallied, though, tying the game at six with less than 30 seconds left in the first half. But as they'd done all year, the Panthers responded. Tingley put the home team back in front with just nine seconds left and Sullivan snuck a shot past the UMD goalkeeper just ahead of the halftime horn for an 8-6 lead at the half.
Plymouth used five consecutive goals to open the second half and push the lead to 13-6. UMD pulled to within three twice, but that was as close as the visitors would get. PSU was on to the championship game for a fifth straight time.
The championship rematch with Eastern Connecticut wouldn't be nearly as stressful for Panther Nation. The home team poured in eight straight goals to open the game and PSU held a 12-2 lead at the break. The Warriors never challenged in the second half, as Plymouth State rolled to its seventh overall and second straight Little East title.
As the winningest program in LEC history (in terms of wins, winning percentage, tournament wins, tournament winning percentage, regular season titles and conference championships), Plymouth State women's lacrosse has a high benchmark, but even by their lofty standards the 2018 team's dominant run through the league was one for the ages.
PSU Athletics Top Ten Moments of 2017-18
No. 4 – Coming Aug. 16
No. 5 – Women's lacrosse runs the table in LEC, earns second straight NCAA trip
No. 10 – Panther Park renamed Parish Field
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