PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University captured its fourth Little East Conference women's lacrosse championship in the last five years Saturday afternoon, knocking off defending champion Eastern Connecticut State University, 9-5, in an exciting championship game at Arold Field.
The top-seeded Panthers won their eighth straight game overall to improve to 13-5, and clinch an automatic berth in the Division III NCAA National Tournament. The second-seeded Warriors, who upset PSU for the championship on the same field a year ago, complete their season at 9-8 overall. (PSU captains (at left) Amanda Spadafora (#22), Meghan O'Neil (#19) and Nicole Evans (#4) show off the 2006 LEC Championship prize!
Junior Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) scored two key goals and added an assist for the Panthers and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. MacDonald, who scored three goals in PSU's 20-11 semifinal win over UMass Dartmouth, finished the weekend with 13 ground balls, 10 draw controls and six caused turnovers.
Senior Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.) was PSU's top scorer in the title game with three goals, while junior Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) finished with a goal and an assist. Senior Nicole Evans (Scituate, Mass.) and juniors Amanda Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) and Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) also scored once each for the Panthers.
Junior All-America Kara Bradley (North Haven, Conn.) led the Warriors with three goals. Junior Jenna Faiola (Billerica, Mass.) added a goal and an assist, and freshman Elisa Rapuano (Hamden, Conn.) scored Eastern's other goal.
Faiola scored the opening goal of the game less than two minutes after the opening draw, but MacDonald countered for PSU four minutes later to tie the game. Brown and Spadafora put the Panthers up by two, but Bradley and Rapuano scored goals 11 seconds apart with 10 minutes to go in the half to tie the game at 3-3.
Brown notched her second of the game a minute later to give PSU the lead back. Bradley knotted things up again (4-4) with her second with 2:37 to play in the half, and it appeared the game would be tied at the break, but MacDonald gave PSU the advantage with her second of the game with 44 seconds on the clock.
Pinault pushed PSU's lead to 6-4 three minutes into the second half, but Bradley cut the margin back to one with her third on the game at the 22:30 mark. That would end up being the last goal Eastern could muster, as the Panthers maintained control of the ball much of the final 20 minutes. PSU got its two-goal lead back on Cupoli's goal with 10 minutes to play, and Evans and Brown added insurance goals in the final two minutes.
PSU finished with a 24-13 advantage in shots against the top-rated defensive team in the conference. PSU sophomore goalie Sarah Beebe (Rumson, N.J.) earned the win in the Panther goal with eight saves, while ECSU netminder Erin Calkins (Stony Brook, N.Y.) finished with seven stops.
Plymouth State also defeated Eastern Conn. in the LEC Championship games in 2002 and 2003. PSU finished 6-0 in the LEC this spring, including a 7-6 win at Eastern Conn. last month, and remains perfect (29-0) in five years of LEC regular season play.
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