MANSFIELD, Conn. - Tournament Most Outstanding Player Erin Calkins (Stony Brook, N.Y.) made two saves in the final 48 seconds Saturday afternoon as top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University withstood a late charge from second-seeded Plymouth State University to post a 10-9 victory in the championship match of the 2007 Little East Conference Women's Lacrosse Tournament.
The win gives Eastern (13-5) its second conference playoff championship and second NCAA Tournament berth in three years and completes a perfect conference season. The Warriors won all six of their regular-season conference matches for the first time - besting PSU, 9-8, in overtime April 7 - and both of their playoff games. Eastern and Plymouth State have met in the championship game of five of six playoffs, PSU winning three times and Eastern twice.
Plymouth State (12-5) is expected to receive its eighth consecutive post-season berth on Monday when the ECAC New England Tournament selections are announced.
Eastern, which stopped Plymouth's eight-game winning streak, scored the first three goals of the match and never trailed, but had to withstand Plymouth's late-game bid to down the Panthers for the second time in three years in the final. All three of Plymouth's losses in six years of LEC play have come at the hands of the Warriors.
Trailing 10-5 midway through the second half, PSU scored the final four goals of the match - two apiece by seniors Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) and Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) - to pull to within a single goal with 11 minutes left in the match. Both teams forced numerous turnovers over the final 11 minutes, but could not capitalize on their chances.
MacDonald, a two-time conference Player-of-the-Year, was held off the board primarily through the efforts of Eastern senior All-America midfielder Kara Bradley (North Haven, Conn.) and senior defender Emily Constant (Franklin, Conn.), but had two goals and an assist in that final four-goal spurt. With Bradley serving a three-minute penalty, MacDonald scored two of her goals in that run, which ultimately cut the gap to one. Possessing the ball and nursing its one-goal lead, Eastern missed wide on a shot with just over a minute left, and the ball was scooped up by Pinault. The Panthers had three shots over the final minute after regaining that possession, but Calkins made two saves, and the other attempt was wide. After Calkins saved MacDonald's game-tying attempt with 47.3 seconds left, Plymouth maintained possession on the rebound, and Pinault was granted a free-position shot with 34.0 seconds left. That bid went wide, but the Warriors were called for a violation, giving Pinault another crack with 31.2 seconds left. On that shot, Calkins dropped to her knees to catch the ball in her stick, and was able to run out the clock.
A senior, Calkins made 12 saves, three of them coming on free-position shots, to earn Most Outstanding Player honors. Calkins was last year's ECAC New England Division III Goalie-of-the-Year. Plymouth State junior goalie Suzie Lilakos (Stratham, N.H.), made five saves, four coming on 12 of Eastern's first-half shots.
Senior Lily Anderson (Portland, Maine) and junior Megan Gloster (Agawam, Mass.) each scored three times for Eastern, with Gloster also assisting on two goals. Sophomore defender Jackie Bivona (Middlebury, Conn.) had five ground balls, freshman Taylor MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) four ground balls, three draw controls, and two caused turnovers.
Pinault (four goals) and MacDonald (three) combined for seven of PSU's nine goals, with senior midfielder Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) collecting three assists and winning four draws. MacDonald, last year's tournament MVP, won three ground balls and three draws.
(Courtesy of Eastern Conn. Sports Information)
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