Panthers' title hopes dash in conference semifinals
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Junior goalie Brendan Gillotti (Danbury, Conn.) made a career-high 21 saves Thursday evening as the second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University men's lacrosse team advanced to the championship game of the Little East Conference with a 13-9 win over third-seeded Plymouth State University at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Gillotti, making his first start of the season since the opening match of the year, was filling in for junior starter Blake Smaldone (Hamilton, Mass.) – who missed the match due to academic obligations. After the Panthers scored the final two goals of the third quarter to cut Eastern's lead to one, 9-8, Gillotti kept the visitors off the board for the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, as Eastern outscored Plymouth, 4-1, over the final 11 minutes.
Eastern (8-6) advances to face top-seeded and host Keene State College in Saturday's championship match. Keene defeated fifth-seeded Western Connecticut Thursday in a semifinal match. The Warriors and Owls will be meeting the final for the seventh straight time, the clubs splitting the last six. PSU wraps up the season with a 12-4 record, equaling the program record for wins in a season.
Junior Tim Reilly (Hanover, Mass.) led Eastern with five goals against PSU -- giving him 20 goals in the last four matches after managing only 13 in the first nine contests. Senior defenseman Travis Tiger (Ridgefield, Conn.) added five ground balls and four caused turnovers, and junior midfielder Jesse Schulze (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.) won nine of 14 faceoffs.
Sophomore Nicco Sorrentino (Chelmsford, Mass.) led the Panthers with two goals and two assists, while sophomore Alex Croatti (Brunswick, Maine) added two goals and an assist and senior Aaron Boss (Keene, N.H.) tallied two goals.
Freshman midfielder Kyle Stockman (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) won eight of 16 faceoffs for Plymouth with sophomore Colin Claflin (Pembroke, Mass.) and senior Andy Ripley (South Paris, Maine) each picking up four ground balls. Senior goalie Chris St. George (Marblehead, Mass.) made nine saves for PSU, which outshot Eastern 44-34 and forced 20 turnovers.
Eastern trailed only once in the match – by a goal with three minutes left in the first quarter – and took control of the momentum in the third quarter when it scored three times in two minutes to break the final tie and move out to a 9-6 lead.
During the year Plymouth State had won 10 straight matches until dropping a 21-9 decision at Keene State on April 21 and a 12-6 verdict to Eastern on the final day of the regular season six days ago to finish in a tie for second place in the LEC with Eastern. Plymouth advanced toThursday's semifinal with an 11-4 win over visiting No. 6 seed Salem State University Tuesday.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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