MANSFIELD, Conn. – Returning nine seniors from a team which gave perennial Little East Conference field hockey champion Keene State College fits in a pair of one-goal losses last year, Eastern Connecticut State University felt that the odds were in its favor to snap a 16-game losing streak at the hands of the Owls this season.
After playing Keene State (12-3, 7-0 LEC) even through the first half and into the middle of the second, the Warriors were victimized as the Owls broke a 1-1 tie with the go-ahead goal in the 21st minute, and senior forward Sami Smith – last year's conference Offensive Player-of-the-Year -- upped her LEC-leading goal total to 27 by completing a hat trick in a span of 12 minutes late in the game to help the Owls pull away to their sixth straight victory, 5-1, at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
With the win, Keene remains a game up on Worcester State University (6-1), which shut out visiting Fitchburg State University, 3-0, Saturday. A winner of four of its previous five, Eastern (6-5, 5-3 LEC) settles into a two-way tie for fourth place with the University of Southern Maine, which blanked homestanding Framingham State University, 4-0, Saturday.
The contest against Keene begins a difficult final stretch in conference play for Eastern, which closes against Westfield State University (4-3 LEC), Bridgewater State University (5-4 LEC) and Plymouth State University (5-2). Excepting a 1-0 home win over Worcester State Sept. 24, Eastern's four LEC victories have come against teams with a combined Little East record of 5-26.
Senior goalie Samantha Scavo (Redding) made a career-high 16 saves against Keene, one of the top offensive teams in the country which equaled its season average of goals in the contest. The Owls put 23 of their 24 shots on net, outshooting Eastern by a 2-to-1 margin and amassing a 12-5 advantage in penalty corners.
Eastern hosts Westfield State Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a Little East Conference match.