Two-goal spurt in second half lift Owls over Panthers
KEENE, N.H. – Seniors Leddy Gallagher (Acton, Mass.) and Katelyn Simula (Bridgewater, N.H.) scored goals within a three-minute span early in the second half Saturday afternoon and top seed Keene State College held on to defeat third seed and rival Plymouth State University, 2-1, to capture the Little East Conference Field Hockey Championship at Owl Athletic Complex.
It's the ninth LEC title for the Owls (20-3), who have won two conference crowns in the past three seasons. With the victory, Keene State earns the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The 20 wins ties the program record set in 2011.
PSU had a four-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 13-6. The Panthers await a possible ECAC New England Tournament berth, which will be announced Monday.
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first half. KSC junior Melissa Habelow (Belmont, Mass.) had a chance to get Keene State on the board in the closing seconds of the half, but PSU senior Hilary Lemelin (Milan, N.H.) was up to the challenge, kicking away her shot as time expired on the clock.
The Owls finally broke through at the 40:06 mark when Gallagher scored on a corner to give KSC a 1-0. Minutes later, Simula scored a key insurance goal that ended up being the game-winner.
KSC sophomore goalie Meaghan Dwyer (Rutland, Mass.) kept it a two goal game late in the half when she came out and denied Panther freshman Masha Lange (Danville, N.H.).
Keene State had several opportunities to get another goal and put the game away, but Lemelin was sharp in goal, coming up with several big saves to keep the Panthers in the game. With just under three minutes to play she made consecutive saves on junior Marisa Lemoine (Berlin, N.H.) and freshman Kayla Renaud (Somers, Conn.).
The Panthers cut the Owls' lead to 2-1 when junior Nikki Garvey (Canaan, N.H.) scored an unassisted goal with just under three minutes to go, but Keene State was able to maintain possession after the face-off and hold on for the win.
Keene State outshot the Panthers 20-7 and had an 11-4 advantage in corners. Dwyer finished the game with four saves. Lemelin stopped eight shots for Plymouth State (13-6) which won consecutive LEC titles from 200-02.
It was the seventh time Plymouth State and Keene State have met in the LEC finals. The Owls have won six of those meetings.
(Courtesy of Keene State Sports Information)
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