FITCHBURG, Mass. – The Eastern Connecticut State University women's lacrosse team is beginning to hit its stride, and the timing could not be better.
With the heart of the Little East Conference season looming, Eastern (6-5) wrapped up its non-conference schedule Tuesday with its fifth straight overall victory, scoring six of the first seven goals and coasting to a not-as-close as the final score indicated 17-8 victory over Fitchburg State University (6-4) at Elliot Field.
The win gives Eastern a final .500 (5-5) non-conference record this year, with the final five matches of the season – beginning with Saturday's noon home showdown with defending LEC playoff champion Plymouth State University – closing out the regular season. The victory also pushes Eastern over .500 overall for the first time this year.
The Warriors begin their final LEC run with three straight home matches before closing out with two conference road matches prior to the LEC playoff opener May 1. On the final day of last year's regular-season, Eastern edged Plymouth by a goal at Plymouth, NH to close out a perfect (6-0)LEC regular season, and after eliminating Western Connecticut in the semifinals, the Warriors lost the title game to Plymouth, the return match against the Panthers also decided by a goal.
In improving to 3-0 in the all-time series against Fitchburg, Eastern was never headed. The Warriors broke to a 6-1 lead, eased to an 11-3 halftime lead and later scored 11 of the game's 12 goals – six different players accounting for six straight goals in the spurt. Trailing 16-4, Fitchburg cashed in half of its goal total in the final 12 minutes.
After opening the season with five straight victories, Fitchburg is 1-4 in its last five.
Eastern's defense allowed only 24 shots and limited the Falcons' top three scorers – who had totaled 72 goals and 30 assists through nine matches – to one goal and three assists on ten shots.
Sophomore midfielder Tristan Kijak (Windsor) led Eastern with five goals and six ground balls, with sophomore attack Alysssa Powers (Ellington) scoring four goals – three straight in a six-minute span that made the score 14-3 six minutes into the second half. She also won five draws – as did freshman midfielder Katlyn Molony (Bethel) – and picked up four ground balls.
Senior attack Katie Burke (South Windsor) chipped in two goals and three assists and junior midfielder Michelina Pinto (Groton) had three goals and an assist. Senior defender Katie Calnen (Granby) won four ground balls.
Junior goalie Jessica Purick (Riverhead, NY) stopped eight shots over 51 minutes to improve her record to 6-5.
During the five-game winning streak, Pinto (16 goals, 5 assists) and Burke (10, 11) lead the team with 21 points, Pinto connecting on ten of 14 free-position tries. Kijak has 13 goals (6-for-9 on free-position attempts) and three assists and a team-high 20 ground balls in the last five matches, Powers 13 goals and two assists, senior midfielder Maggie Bodington (Stratford) a team-high 20 draw controls and 14 ground balls and Molony 16 draws. Purick has an 8.82 goals-against average and .533 save percent during the 5-0 winning streak.