MANSFIELD, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University field hockey team was unable to use an early goal to its advantage as Westfield State University scored the tying goal off a penalty corner after time expired in the first half and recorded the game-winner 11 minutes into sudden death overtime in a 2-1 Little East Conference victory Tuesday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Eastern (6-6, 5-4 LEC) senior defender Alexandra Steward (Old Saybrook) gave Eastern the early lead five minutes into play, but Westfield (10-4, 6-3) senior goalie Megan Fountaine stopped Eastern the rest of the way with a 12-save performance that moved the Owls one game ahead of the Warriors in the race for a first-round LEC playoff home game.
Visiting Eastern defeated Westfield, 2-0, in the regular season last year, and the No. 4-seeded Warriors used the home field advantage to shut out No. 5 Westfield, 3-0, in a first-round match on the way to an eventual spot in the LEC title game.
Since winning four of its first five LEC contests – including a 1-0 shutout that gave Worcester State University its only conference loss – Eastern has dropped three of its last four LEC contests with two conference matches remaining in the regular season.
Westfield improved to 5-2 on the road this year in snapping a three-game losing streak at the hands of Eastern.
The teams played a scoreless second half Tuesday after sophomore Carly Zona (Auburn, MA) of Westfield tied the match off a penalty corner after time had expired in the first half. The Warriors had an opportunity to end the match early in overtime, but Fountaine kicked out consecutive Eastern shots by team co-scoring leaders Brianna Passero (Trumbull) and Alex Kallgren (Dudley, MA) eight minutes into the extra session
Eastern senior goalie Samantha Scavo (Redding) had stopped Westfield's initial scoring bid by Zona with a save four minutes into overtime, but couldn't prevent Westfield scoring leader Holly Brouillette (Burlington, MA) – a second-team All-LEC forward – from connecting on her eighth shot of the game 11:17 into sudden death. Junior forward Megan Evans set up the golden goal with the team's tenth penalty corner of the match. The hit-in went to senior Meg Doherty who relayed the ball to an unmarked Brouillette at the far left post. Scavo could not prevent Brouillette from sending the game-winner into the short side of the net.
The Warriors held a substantial advantage in time of possession and scoring chances when they out-shot the Owls, 9-3, in the first half. After Steward's first goal of the season made it 1-0, the Warriors had several chances to pad that lead in the first half. Sixteen minutes into the game, Eastern senior Paige Schneider (East Lyme) made a perfect crossing pass to Kallgren in front of the net, but Fountaine recorded the pad save. Ten minutes later, Eastern sophomore Erin Sheehan (North Branford) sent the ball from the end line between the pads of the goalkeeper, but the ball rolled just wide of the far post.
Scavo, credited with seven saves, came off her line several times to break up Westfield scoring chances in the second half, one coming nine minutes after the break to deny Brouillette. Brouillette had another opportunity 15 minutes into the half when senior Jenelle Juskiewicz stole the ball and fed her, but the shot went wide left.
Inside the final four minutes of regulation, Eastern played uneventfully despite a man advantage after Evans was sent off by referee Ken Diaz for repeatedly failing to yield a five-yard space on Eastern free hits.
Eastern visits Bridgewater State University in a conference match Saturday at noon.