MANSFIELD, Conn. – Plymouth State University freshman Gigi Wood scored her first career goal with under three minutes left in regulation to force overtime, but Eastern Connecticut State University senior Abbey Fitzsimmons (West Hartford) knocked in the rebound of her own shot with 38 seconds left in sudden death overtime to lift the Warriors to a 2-1 women's soccer victory on the final day of the Little East Conference regular season Saturday afternoon at Rick McCarthy Field.
Eastern (6-11-0, 5-3-0 LEC) and Plymouth (8-9-0, 4-4-0 LEC) entered play among three teams tied for third in the conference. By defeating the Panthers for the eighth straight time, the Warriors will remain at home in the first round of the LEC playoffs Tuesday at 6 p.m., with Plymouth returning to face Eastern for the third time in the last six years in the LEC playoffs. Eastern has won both previous meetings
Wood's 30-yarder found the upper corner of the net Saturday to force overtime. Eastern junior keeper Alexis Tyrrell (Torrington) made three key saves to keep the game tied in the first ten-minute sudden death overtime before Fitzsimmons won it as one of four seniors playing the final regular-season home matches of their careers with her fourth goal of the year. Plymouth sophomore keeper Cat Robbins stopped Fitzsimmons' first shot in the sequence, but Fitzsimmons recovered to return the rebound into the left corner of the net.
Plymouth dominated the first ten-minute overtime with four shots – two by sophomore Jordan Meier – but Tyrrell was equal to the task. Making her seventh start since joining the team Oct. 7, won her first at home in her fifth try. Tyrrell rejected sophomore Sarah Hicks's bid with a save 1:30 into overtime, saved sophomore Lizzy Bloch's shot from outside the box later in the first OT, then robed Meier with a diving effort midway through the period.
Later in the first OT, Eastern senior Linnea Reich (Middletown) was tripped up in the box without a call being made, and in the final seconds of the first OT, Fitzsimons sent a dangerous crossing pass into the box that did not connect with a teammate.
Sophomore Haley Montesanto's (East Haven) third goal of the year just 2:18 into play gave Eastern the early lead. With Eastern pressuring Plymouth as it attempted to bring the ball out of its own end, freshman midfielder Juliette Hogan (Preston) won the ball in front of the Plymouth bench and sent it back to freshman defender Emily Belval (Southbury). Belval teed it up at the midfield stripe and found the seam between two defenders to the foot of Montesanto, who collected the ball in stride, and with Robbins approaching to cut her off, maneuvered around the keeper and sent a left-footer from the left side into the back right corner of the net. Later, with Eastern controlling most of the first-half possession, Montesanto was set up on a nice pass from sophomore Olivia Rovalino (Simsbury) but drove the shot wide.
In the final six minutes of the first half, Tyrrell made both of her first-half saves – the first on a free kick by junior Mallory Lloyd.
Eastern shares third place in the final LEC standings with Keene State College, but the Owls earned the No. 3 seed on the strength of their 1-0 double-overtime win over Eastern Oct. 12 at Keene, NH.
Western Connecticut and UMass Boston, both 7-0-1, share the LEC regular-season title after playing to a scoreless double-overtime draw Saturday at Western. Eastern had finished with a piece of the LEC regular-season title each of the previous four years.