WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – After missing her entire sophomore season with an injury, Anna Manser (Manchester) eased back into competition last year, primarily coming off the bench and playing roughly half the game.
This year – after sitting out the first three matches with additional injuries – Manser has returned to full strength, and opponents are playing the price.
Saturday, the fast, physical senior kept the Eastern Connecticut State University women's soccer team unbeaten (6-0-0) at home this year when she scored the only goal of the match midway through the second half in a Little East Conference victory over Plymouth State University Saturday afternoon at Thomas Nevers Field.
The game-winning goal – a 15-yard header which finished off perfect relays from freshman Haley Montesanto (East Haven) and sophomore Emily Kratochwil (Stratford) – was the third in five home matches for Manser, who was also credited with the deciding goal against Babson College in her first match of the year and against LEC foe UMass Dartmouth last Saturday at Nevers Field.
Coming off its first LEC regular-season loss in its last 28 contests this past Wednesday, three-time defending regular-season LEC champ Eastern (7-3-0, 3-1-0 LEC) has now outscored its six home opponents, 16-1, Senior keeper Kayla Labrecque (Westhampton, MA) was credited with her first full shutout of the year (she has also started four others that ended in shutout wins), 11th in 42 career starts.
Labrecque made six saves, five coming in the second half. Two of the saves came in the final 20 minutes after Manser had broken the tie. Twelve minutes after scoring the goal, Manser nearly made it 2-0 with another header off a free kick by senior defender Hannah Goodale (Coventry). Stationed at the right post, Manser hit the ball squarely with her momentum going away from the goal, but the shot bounced off a defender on the goal line and was cleared.
Plymouth (5-3-1, 1-3-0 LEC) kept the ball in Eastern's end of the for a large portion of the second half, but Goodale and fellow senior defenders Alissa Beedle (Bethany) and Tara Shayler (Avon), sophomore Madison Leary (Portland) and freshman Olivia Rovalino (Simbury) prevented few, if any, dangerous scoring opportunities from materializing.
In the final seconds, Shayler snuffed out the final Plymouth threat at forcing overtime when she came from the weak side to clear the ball away from Plymouth forward Mallory Lloyd, who was attempting to make one final run from the right wing. Plymouth's top two scorers – freshman Sarah Hicks and Lloyd (11 goals combined), were limited to one total shot by Eastern's defense, which has a 0.50 goals-against average this season.
Freshman keeper Cat Robbins made three saves for Plymouth.
Eastern visits Connecticut College Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a non-conference match.