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Owl Teams Prep for LEC Tournament Play

KEENE, N.H. 4/27/09 - A spring season that began with frozen lacrosse balls and snow-covered baseball and softball fields, and somehow circumvented the countless postponements and cancellations along the way, has culminated with the start of Little East Conference tournament play for Keene State College teams this week.

The Owls will be in the thick of tournament play with all four of their teams in action. KSC coaches, young and old, felt it was an unusual regular season and are looking forward to the tournament. “I wish I knew earlier what I know now,” said Katie Arsenault, Keene State’s first-year women’s lacrosse coach. “It takes a while to develop a rapport with your team and fine-tune practices. But we’ve put it together of late, and everyone is excited to get the tournament underway.”

“We have one more game tomorrow, and then we go into second-season mode,” said KSC coach Ken Howe. “It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. It started with the change in format for regular and tournament games, and that made it a little more difficult to get going and plan out what we needed to do to get ready for the conference games.”

Keene State men’s and women’s lacrosse teams earned first-round byes and will get the ball rolling on Thursday with semifinal games. Tying a program record with six straight wins, the second-seeded Owl women’s lacrosse team (10-7) will host the winner between #3 Plymouth State and #6 Western Conn. at 3:30 p.m. The Owls, who reached the finals in 2004, are looking for their first LEC championship. They were edged out by Southern Maine (17-16) in the semifinals last year.

Also seeded second, the Keene State men’s lacrosse team (8-3) will take the field at 6 p.m. when they face the winner of the quarterfinal game between #3 Southern Maine and #6 Salem State. The Owls, who claimed tournament titles in 2005 and 2007, were upset in the semifinals by Western Conn. (14-13, OT) last spring.

Championship games in both lacrosse tournaments will be played at the highest remaining seed on Saturday.

Hoping to carry the momentum of Sunday’s improbable 9-8 comeback victory over three-time defending champ R.I. College, the KSC softball team (22-11) will head down to Providence as the tournament’s second seed. Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, the Owls will face fifth-seed Plymouth State in first- round action on Thursday at 12 p.m. KSC won the tournament in 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2005.

“This team has been steady and matured throughout the season,” said KSC softball coach Charlie Beach. “I don’t think they will be fazed by the pressure of participating in the tournament.”

Tuning up for its tournament with a non-conference game against St. Joseph’s College of Maine on Tuesday, the defending champion and third-seeded KSC baseball team (20-14) will face sixth-seed UMass-Dartmouth in a doubleheader on Saturday at noon. If a third game is needed, it will be played at noon on Sunday. Each winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the four-team double-elimination tournament at the highest remaining seed.

The Owls will have plenty of incentive when they face UMD this weekend. Earlier this season, the Corsairs swept the Owls (7-3 and 5-4) in North Dartmouth.

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