BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Through the first 18 years of the Eastern Connecticut State University field hockey program, scoring four goals in a match guaranteed a win. Saturday, it did not.
With the Little East Conference regular season down to its final two games, Eastern's (6-7, 5-5 LEC) hopes for a first round home game were dealt a death blow in a 6-4 loss to Bridgewater State University (9-4, 6-4 LEC) at Swenson Field.
Facing a 4-0 deficit, Eastern answered with three goals to cut the gap to one before Brittany Cullinane's 19th goal of the season with 16 minutes left helped the homestanding Bears hang on and post their fourth straight win which sent Eastern to its third straight (LEC) setback.
Entering the game in a three-way tie for sixth place with Bridgewater and Fitchburg, Eastern slips into eighth place – a half-game back of Fitchburg State, which was scheduled to host winless Salem State University Saturday night.
Eastern is already guaranteed one of the eight LEC playoff berths – its third straight following a nine-year draught -- but will open on the road in first-round play after hosting and winning its first LEC playoff home match a year ago.
The Warriors close out their conference regular season Saturday, hosting Plymouth State University at noon. The Panthers are the third team tied for fourth in the conference standings.
Sophomore midfielder Erin Sheehan (North Branford) scored the first two goals of her career for Eastern, which got a goal or assist from six different players. The Warriors have allowed 13 goals in their last three matches, with the Bears having averaged six in their last three contests.
Five different players scored for Bridgewater, with Cullinane scoring twice.
Bridgewater, which has gotten the measure of Eastern eight of the last nine times the programs have met, jumped to a two-goal lead 11 minutes into play, then doubled its advantage when Hayley Grimes and Jacquelyn Legendre struck just over four minutes apart to pushed the hosts' lead to 4-0 with nine minutes left in the first half.
After Sheehan sandwiched goals around one by senior midfielder Paige Schneider (East Lyme) that chopped three goals off the deficit, Cullinane made it 5-3 with 16 minutes left. Graduate student Brianna Passero's (Trumbull) team-leading seventh goal with nine minutes left gave the Warriors renewed – albeit brief -- life, before Alexandra Zoebisch answered 28 seconds later to restore Bridgewater's two-goal lead.
Eastern senior goalie Samantha Scavo (Redding) made six saves as the Warriors were outshot, 18-11. The teams evenly split 22 penalty corners.
Eastern visits Connecticut College Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in a non-conference match.