Panthers fall to Eastern Conn.; Bell scores Panther goal
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Freshman forward Emily Becher (Brooklyn, Conn.) recorded her fourth multiple-goal match in the last five with her 16th and 17th goals of the season to help lift the third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University women's soccer team to a 3-1 victory over sixth-seeded Plymouth State University in the first round of the Little East Conference playoffs Tuesday night at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Plymouth State, making an LEC playoff appearance this season under first-year coach Ryan Joy after missing out the two previous seasons, finishes with a 5-13 overall record.
A winner of eight straight, seeded Eastern (13-5-1) advances to the tournament semifinals for the 14th straight year under 15th-year head coach Chris D'Ambrosio and will meet second-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston (10-4-5) Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Boston. The Beacons are the last team to defeat Eastern, pinning a 4-1 home decision on the Warriors a month ago. Last year, fifth-seeded Eastern upended the top-seeded Beacons, 1-0, in Boston to reach the tournament final for the eight time.
Becher, a five-time Little East Rookie-of-the-Week, gave Eastern an early lead with her 16th goal of the season five minutes into action. The Warriors could not capitalize further despite a 12-1 shot and 6-0 corner kick advantage in the first half.
Becher made it 2-0 with her 17th goal 15 minutes into the second half, and after Plymouth senior forward Emily Bell (Derry, NH) pulled the Panthers to within a goal 42 seconds later, freshman back Michele D'Agata (West Suffield, Conn.) converted a penalty kick with 15 minutes left after Becher was tripped up in the box while making a run on the left flank.
Bell's goal, a blast from the left side off a short penalty corner, ended Eastern junior keeper Rachel Skelton's (East Lyme, Conn.) scoreless streak of three consecutive shutouts and 439 minutes and 19 seconds.
Plymouth sophomore keeper Annaliese Schmidt (Newmarket, N.H.) kept the contest close until the final 15 minutes by making 10 saves, eight in the first half when the Warriors threatened to pull away.
Becher, who has 10 goals and an assist in the team's last six matches, one-timed a cross from sophomore midfielder Hailey Lehning (Woodbury, Conn.) for the first goal of the match. After Bell cut the Eastern lead in half, the Panthers came within inches of tying the contest when Bell drilled a 22-yarder off the crossbar just four minutes after scoring her first goal.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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