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Eastern Connecticut Edges Western Connecticut, 9-8

Eastern Connecticut Edges Western Connecticut, 9-8

MANSFIELD, Conn. - Top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University scored the final two goals inside the final four minutes and advanced to the championship match of the Little East Conference women's lacrosse playoffs for the ninth time in ten years with a 9-8 victory against fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University Thursday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.

With its fourth one-goal victory of the year without a loss (two coming in overtime), Eastern (9-7) moves into the championship game for the ninth time in 10 years (seventh straight) and Saturday at 1 p.m. will host No. 2 seed Keene State College (12-5), which eliminated No. 3 University of Southern Maine, 17-1, Thursday in the other semifinal. Keene has won eight straight since dropping a 15-14, 4 overtime decision to host Eastern a month ago.

Western (9-9) had won three of its last four entering play, including a 13-12 verdict over fifth-seeded Plymouth State University Tuesday in the first round. Eastern had drawn a first-round bye as one of the top two seeds.

After each team traded four-goal bursts in the first half, neither team led by more than two goals the rest of the way. Eastern freshman attack Erin Conn (Moriches, N.Y.) forced the third tie of the match with 3:58 left on an assisted goal that Western freshman goalie Karli Portnoy initially saved, but could not completely control. Western junior Jessica Bouwman won the ensuing draw, but the Colonials turned the ball over in their attacking end. Eastern clearned the zone, and conference goal leader Ashley Prizio (Brookfield, Conn.) gave Eastern its only lead with 64 seconds left. Prizio couldn't control a pass from sophomore defender Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury, Conn.) in traffic as the ball dropped in front of Portnoy, but reached back and swept it in before Portnoy could pick it up. Prizio scored both of her goals in the final ten minutes after going scoreless for 50 minutes.

On the faceoff following Prizio's go-ahead goal, Eastern was awarded possession on a Western violation and the Warriors ran out the clock, with sophomore defender Samantha Barone (Plainedge, N.Y.) maintaining possession throughout most of that final 64 seconds.

The one-goal win is the third straight and fourth this year without a loss for Eastern, which edged Western, 14-13 in double overtime a week ago on the same field. The Warriors bring a season-best four-game winning streak into Saturday's final.

In the regular-season win over Western, Eastern also scored the final two goals, those coming in the final 50 seconds. Conn scored the tying goal with 50 seconds left and sophomore Daniela Marchitto (Orange, Conn.) converted the winning goal with 14 seconds left.

Western scored the first four goals of the match and had three shots at making it 5-0. Eastern sophomore goalie Nancy Ibrahim (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) made one save and two went wide before Ibrahim then forced a turnover and fielded the ground ball to set up Eastern's first goal with 11 minutes left by freshman midfielder Ashley Wolk (Barrington, R.I.).

In addition to her two goals, Prizio delivered three assists 16 minutes apart. Marchitto also had two goals, won five of seven faceoffs, captured three draws and picked up three ground balls. Machitto reached and eclipsed the career 100-point plateau with her two goals. Junior defender Megan Barrett (Setauket, N.Y.) and Meotti also won three ground balls each.

Junior midfielder Lauren Poppe and sophomore attack Devon Edwards had two goals each for Western, with junior attack Kaitlyn Arconti passing for two assists. Poppe also won five ground balls and Edwards captured five draws and won nine of 14 faceoffs. Sophomore attack Nicole Perrone is ranked second in the LEC with 52 goals but was held to just one, that coming with three minutes left in the first half. That goal was the first for Western in a 13-minute stretch after the Colonials had raced to its early 4-0 advantage.

Eastern has won all 16 meetings between the programs in the 12-year series, but has won the last three by a total of only six goals.

Eastern has won three Little East playoff titles in the last six years but has lost in the final by a goal at home to Keene State in 2009 and Southern Maine last year. That 2009 meeting was the only one in the finals between Eastern and Keene. The Warriors are 3-5 in the finals, Keene 1-1.