GORHAM, Maine – Senior Ryan Murphy (Cromwell) and sophomore Kyle Boutot (Tolland) combined on the team's fifth shutuout in the last six matches that backstopped the Eastern Connecticut State University men's soccer team to a 2-0 victory over the University of Southern Maine Saturday at Hannaford Field and lifted the Warriors into a share of first place in the Little East Conference with one match remaining.
Juniors Justin Jensen (Wethrsfield) and Griffin Luczek (Lee, NH) each scored once and assisted on the other goal that carried Eastern (13-3-0, 6-1-0 LEC) to its sixth straight conference win following an opening 1-0 loss at Keene State Sept. 15.
With Keene State losing its first LEC match, 2-1, Saturday to homestanding Castleton University, a victory Saturday against visiting Rhode Island College would unofficially guarantee the Warriors no worse than a share of their seventh LEC regular-season championship under 12th-year head coach Greg DeVito. An Eastern win Saturday coupled with a Keene loss or tie Saturday against homestanding UMass Boston (4-1-2 LEC) would give the Warriors the outright regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Little East playoffs which begin Oct. 30. The No. 1 seed gains a first-round playoff bye and hosts the semifinals and final Nov. 2-3. If Eastern and Keene share the LEC regular-season title, Keene would be the No. 1 seed based upon its regular-season win over Eastern.
Against Southern Maine (2-12-2, 1-5-0 LEC) Eastern's defense allowed only five shots on net, with Murphy stopping four in the first half and Boutot one in the second as Eastern posted its eighth shutout of the year. Luczek's seventh goal of the year in the 28th minute provided Murphy with his 11th victory of the season, and Jensen's sixth of 2018 ten minutes into the second half provided insurance.
Eastern defeated USM for the 11th straight year – fifth in a row by shutout and ninth shutout overall in that stretch.