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Owls Set for Semifinal LEC Tournament Play

KEENE, N.H., 11/5/08 - It’s now on to the Little East Conference tournament semifinals for three Keene State teams.

The KSC field hockey and women’s soccer teams will be in action on Thursday, November 6. The top-seeded Owl field hockey team hosts fourth-seed Southern Maine at Owl Athletic Complex at 6 p.m. The third-seeded KSC women’s soccer team travels to Willimantic, Conn. for a 2 p.m. game against the second-seeded Warriors.

Keene State will host both semifinal and championship matches of the 2008 LEC women’s volleyball tournament at Spaulding Gym. The pairings are all set for the semifinal round on Friday. The top-seeded Owls will face fourth-seeded Western Conn. at 4 p.m., while second-seed UMass-Boston takes on third-seed Eastern Conn. at 6 p.m. The two semifinal winners will advance to Saturday’s championship game at noon.

Field Hockey
The top seed in the tournament, Keene State enters Thursday’s game with a 16-5 record. The Owls advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 shutout victory over eighth-seed Bridgewater State on Tuesday night. Senior forward Liz Rand and junior forward Carly Benning scored first-half goals and junior goalie Vikki Stoessel made four saves to post her fifth shutout of the season.

The fourth seed in the tournament, Southern Maine brings a 10-10 record into the game. Junior forward India Lowe scored the game-winning goal and assisted on the equalizer to lead USM to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over the fifth-seeded Salem State.

“Southern Maine has some great athletes and is a well coached team,” said KSC Coach Amy Watson. “We traditionally match up well with Maine, so I expect a good game. They tend to be dangerous on offensive corners, so we will need to limit those opportunities to be successful.”

Keene State has faced the Huskies six times in the LEC tournament. The two teams met twice in the finals, with USM defeating KSC 3-1 in 2003 and the Owls edging the Huskies 2-1 on an overtime goal by Erin Dallas last season. USM also lost to Plymouth State 2-1 in the 2002 finals.

Keene State is shooting for its fifth straight LEC championship and seventh overall crown. KSC won the championship the past four years as well as in 1998 and 1999. The Owls also advanced to the finals in 2003 and 2000. KSC has an all-time record of 20-4 in LEC tournament play.

Women’s Soccer
If Keene State hopes to win the 2008 LEC championship, it will have to do it on the road. The third-seed Owls (15-6) must first get by second-seed Eastern Conn. on Thursday.

KSC moved on to the semifinals thanks to sophomore forward Katie Bradford, who netted three goals in the Owls’ 4-0 shutout victory over sixth-seed and rival Plymouth State on Tuesday.

KSC Coach Denise Lyons said her Owls are a different team than the one that lost to the Warriors (2-1) earlier in the season. “We’re a more mature team with a different line-up and different players,” she said. “Hopefully, we can play the way I know we can and pull off the upset.”

“Last year we lost to them (1-0) in an overtime heartbreaker, so we’re raring to go and get them on Thursday,” said Bradford, who leads the LEC in scoring with 17 goals.

The Owls have faced the Warriors six times in the LEC tournament, including three times in the finals. In 2003, the two teams played to a 0-0 stalemate with ECSU winning the crown in penalty kicks. The following year, KSC posted a 3-0 shut-out victory, and in 2005 the Warriors turned the tables with a 2-0 victory. KSC and ECSU had a pair of semifinal tussles the past two seasons, with the Owls winning (1-0) in 2006 and the Warriors coming out on top (1-0) last fall.

Women’s Volleyball
The Owls (27-8), who earned a first-round bye, will be looking to take their first step toward a first-ever LEC championship on Friday when they face Western Conn.

The fourth seed in the tournament, Western Conn. brings a 19-8 record into Friday’s semifinal match. The Colonials got big plays when it needed them most, taking a 3-1 quarterfinal decision over Plymouth State on Tuesday. Natalie Crosby led the WestConn offense with 17 kills, and Samantha Hathaway handed out a game-high 50 assists.

“Western Conn is a tough team with a very strong middle in Rebecca Stein,” said KSC Coach Bob Weiner. “They look a lot like us with a strong middle and a tall, talented setter. We handled them pretty easily (3-0) back in September, which worries me. They’ve obviously improved, and I’m not sure what they’ll be like. We’re dealing with what we can control, which are us. … We’ll be ready.”

Since joining the LEC in 1997, the Owls have reached the finals just once, falling to Eastern Conn. (3-0) in 2005. KSC is 1-5 in the semifinals, losing to Eastern Conn. in 1998 (3-0), 2006 (3-0), and 2007 (3-2). The Owls also dropped a semifinal match to Western Conn. (3-0) in 2003 and upset rival Plymouth State (3-2) in 2005. The Colonials captured the LEC Championship from 1999 - 2003. Last year, the Colonials lost in the finals (3-0) to Eastern Conn. The Owls enter the tournament riding a 10-match winning streak.

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