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Panthers capture inaugural LEC Championship

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College is the inaugural Little East Conference Women's Lacrosse Champion after the top-seeded Panthers edged second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in two overtimes, 12-8, Saturday at Arold Field.

Sophomore Katie Sheridan (West Sayville, N.Y.) tallied a game-high four goals and one assist for the Panthers, including two goals and an assist in the first overtime. Sheridan, who also tallied a career-high 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in PSC's semifinal victory over UMass Dartmouth, was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The victory marks the third straight championship season for PSC. The Panthers captured New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance titles the past two years before helping form the LEC this year. PSC improved its record to 13-2, while ECSU is now 12-4.

The Warriors held a 4-3 lead after the first 30 minutes, thanks to a pair of goals from freshman Sharon Kilpatrick (Londonderry, N.H.) and single tallies from junior Lauren Davern (Jackson Heights, N.Y.) and freshman Mo Deegan (Westport, Conn.). Sophomore Michelle Norton (Sandwich, Mass.) kept PSC in the game, scoring all three first-half goals for the home squad.

PSC junior Melissa Cotton (Osterville, Mass.) and freshman Annmarie Guglielmo (Gansevoort, N.Y.) opened the second-half scoring to give the Panthers a one-goal lead, but freshman Ashley Able (Mystic, Conn.) answered for the Warriors to make it a 5-5 game with 20 minutes remaining.

Sheridan potted a pair of goals just 25 seconds apart midway through the second half to put the Panther ahead by two, but ECSU rallied to tie the game, Davern scoring with 7:43 left and Kilpatrick getting the tying goal with 1:09 on the clock, setting up the extra frames.

The Panthers scored the only three goals of the first regulation overtime, with Sheridan setting up senior Robin Hartman (Westminster, Md.) just 12 seconds in, and then adding two of her own to give PSC a 10-7 lead going into the second extra period.

Hartman and Guglielmo each tacked on their second goal of the game to put the decision out of reach for the Panthers. Senior Samly Phonesavanh (Killingly, Conn.) rounded out the scoring for the Warriors with a goal in the final minute.

Eastern sophomore goalie Erika Blozie (South Windsor, Conn.) was outstanding in the Warriors cage, registering 18 saves, including several from point blank range. PSC freshman Melissa Gravilla (Andover, N.H.) also made some big plays and ended up with five saves.

As a first-year conference, the LEC champion is not eligible for an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championship. The Panthers could receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, or both PSC and ECSU could be selected to play in the ECAC New England Tournament. The NCAA selections are announced Sunday night, and the ECAC bracket is selected on Monday.