WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University women's soccer team converted penalty kicks for its first two goals and went on to its fifth shutout of Keene State College in the last six meetings, 4-0, Saturday afternoon in the Little East Conference opener for both schools at Thomas Nevers Field.
Senior Aly Clarke (Mystic) gave Eastern (4-3-0) a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes left in the first half and Nikki Basilicato (Guilford) made it 2-0 nine minutes into the second half, both coming on penalty kicks after Keene (1-3-0) was whistled for taking down Eastern players Basilicato and senior Alissa Beedle (Bethany), respectively, in the box.
Three-time defending LEC regular-season champion Eastern stretched its unbeaten streak in LEC regular-season play to 26 matches (24-0-2) over the last four seasons with its third straight shutout of Keene. The Warriors have outscored their three home opponents, 10-0, this season.
Basilicato made it 3-0 in the 60th minute by beating Keene sophomore keeper Shelby Offord (Shelton) from close range after winning a loose ball from in close, and junior Stephanie Sanchez (Manchester) rounded out the scoring with 18 minutes left off of the first career point from freshman Nadia Vivar (Manchester). Sanchez' ground ball bounded off the left post and ran across the goal line before settling just inside the right post.
Three Eastern keeper combined on the shutout, with first-half starter Kayla Labrecque (Westhampton, MA) earning her first win of the year after two losses. She stopped one shot over 45 minutes.
Keene nearly broke a scoreless tie ten minutes into the match. With Labrecque off her line, freshman defender Olivia Rovalino (Simsbury) – last week's LEC Rookie-of-the-Week – cleared a slow-rolling ball off the line sent in by Keene sophomore Sarah Carron. Twelve minutes later, sophomore Jordyn Abasciano took a feed from freshman Alyssa Wilcox and was alone in front with Labrecque, but sent the dangerous bid over the bar.
Last year's leading scorer, Clarke buried what proved to be the game-winning goal inside the left post in the 30th minute – her team-leading third goal of the year.
Leading by that one goal, Eastern had an opportunity to take a two-goal lead into the half when sophomore Madison Lewicki (Newington) found freshman Haley Montesanto (East Haven) ahead of the field, but the drive in a 1v1 chance with Offord drifted over the crossbar.
With the score still 1-0, Eastern failed on two golden opportunities early in the second half before Basilicato's penalty kick made it 2-0 in the 54th minute. Both attempts came on headers from seniors Anna Manser (Manchester) and Lauren Valenti (Walpole, MA), respectively, in the first four minutes. Manser's came off a serve and carried wide left, while Valenti's was the result of a deflected ball by a Keene defender and went right at the keeper.
Keene played the final 36 minutes one player short after a Keene player was given a red-card ejection on the play that led to Eastern's second penalty-kick goal.
The four-goal margin is the second-largest in this 34-game series, following only Keene's 6-1 victory at Nevers Field in 1998.
The victory was the 99th in LEC regular-season play for 19th-year Eastern head coach Chris D'Ambrosio.
Eastern hosts Johnson & Wales University in a non-conference match Monday at 7 p.m. at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.