MANSFIELD, Conn. – First-team All-Little East Conference forward Nicole Burgess scored twice to highlight a three-goal second half and carry the Plymouth State University field hockey team to a 3-0 victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
The win avenges Plymouth's (9-5, 7-4 LEC) only loss to Eastern (6-9, 5-6 LEC) in the 21-match series on the final day of the regular season last year, which cost the Panthers the outright regular-season championship.
Plymouth ended a two-match LEC losing streak with the win, and moved from a four-way tie for fourth place into a three-way tie for third place with Westfield State University and Fitchburg State University in the final LEC regular-season standings. Westfield and Fitchburg both hold tie-breakers over Plymouth, however, so unofficially, the Panthers will open on the road in the first round of the LEC playoffs as the No. 5 seed.
Eastern qualifies for the playoffs for the third straight year and will visit unbeaten regular-season champion Keene State College in an opening-round match Saturday at 4 p.m. The Owls have eliminated the Warriors in the LEC playoff each of the last two years, last season by a 2-1 score in the championship match.
Unlike last year, when the Warriors won their final four LEC contests heading into the playoffs, Eastern limps in this season having lost its final four conference contests.
Eastern collected five of its six shots on the day in a ten-minute span in the final 18 minutes of the first half, but Plymouth junior goalie Alivia Bates made three saves to keep the game scoreless through the first half.
The Panthers applied early pressure in the second half – recording three penalty corners – in the first 14 minutes. Freshman midfielder Maddie Kabasakalian came off the bench just over a minute into second half to record her third goal of the season and give the Panthers the lead for good. Fourteen minutes later, Burgess contributed her 14th goal of the season to make it a two-goal Plymouth advantage, and Burges followed with six minutes left to give the Panthers another insurance goal.
Bates made four saves and Eastern senior Samantha Scavo (Redding) stopped six shots.
Eastern hopes to snap an overall five-game losing streak when it hosts non-conference foe Johnson & Wales University in the regular-season final at 4 p.m.