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Southern Maine Raises Little East Women's Lacrosse Championship Trophy

MANSFIELD, Conn. -- Senior Jessica Knight (Alfred, Maine) scored a game-high seven goals and passed out an assist to lead the fifth-seeded University of Southern Maine Huskies to their first Little East Conference title Saturday, defeating third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University, 15-14, in the championship game.

The win was the third straight, and fifth in the last six games, for the Huskies who improved to 11-9 overall and advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship tournament that begins Wednesday. The Warriors conclude their season 9-10.

The Huskies are the first number five seed to win the LEC tournament since its inception. The Huskies won three straight games on the road to take the crown, defeating fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University, 17-16, top-seeded Keene State College, 10-8, and Eastern Connecticut. The game was a rematch of the 2008 LEC title game. It was the Huskies' first win against the Warriors in 13 games dating back to 2001.

Knight, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, scored 12 seconds into the game to give the Huskies a lead they would never relinquish. The Huskies built a 6-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes as Knight scored three times, and junior Mary Vaughan (Brunswick, Maine) added two goals.

Senior Taylor MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) got the Warriors on the board with 18:26 to play in the half. After Vaughan tallied her third marker of the half, the Warriors scored five consecutive goals to get back within one, 7-6. Sophomore Ashley Prizio (Brookfield, Conn.), who had five goals in the contest, scored twice, and MacDonald chipped in one.

The Huskies regained some momentum before halftime outscoring the Warriors 3-1 over the final 5:14. Freshmen Shelby Chambers (Portland, Maine) and Shelby Turcotte (Lewiston, Maine) pushed the lead up to 9-6 before Prizio converted a free position attempt. Knight scored the final goal of the half to give the Huskies a 10-7 advantage at the break.

Southern Maine kept the lead throughout the second half as freshman goalie Samantha Kiesel (Lakeville, Mass.) came up big making 10 of her 17 saves. Knight added three more goals for the USM. Sophomore Abby Weeks (Brunswick, Maine) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 9:57 to play to give USM a 15-12 lead. Senior Brooke Wayte (Bellport, N.Y.) scored for Eastern Connecticut with 5:31 to play, but Kiesel and the USM defense kept the hosts at bay until junior Ashley Del Vecchio (Fairfield, Conn.) scored with only six seconds remaining.

Vaughan finished with five points on three goals and two assists, and shared team-high honors with Kiesel with four ground balls. Turcotte had two assists in addition to her goal, and Chambers had a goal and an assist. 

Prizio led Eastern Connecticut with five goals and an assist. Wayte had four goals and an assist while MacDonald finished with three goals, five assists and five draw controls. Freshman goalie Nancy Ibrahim (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) recorded six saves.