WORCESTER, Mass. - Senior Rachel Hopkins (Chelmsford, Mass.) scored the game-winning goal 7:30 into the first overtime period on Thursday night as the top-seeded Worcester State University field hockey team defeated fourth-seeded Southern Maine 3-2 in the Semifinals of the Little East Conference Tournament at Coughlin Field.
With the win, the Lancers improve to 17-4 overall on the season and advance to their first LEC Championship game since 2001. The Lancers will play two-seed Keene State on Saturday in the title game at Coughlin Field. The Huskies see their season come to an end with a record of 13-9.
Worcester State outshot the Huskies by a margin of 7-0 in the opening quarter, but were unable to beat Southern Maine goalkeeper Lindsay Pych (West Milford, N.J.). The sophomore made three saves in the opening quarter, and the teams went to the second quarter still knotted at 0-0.
Hopkins scored her first goal of the evening off a penalty corner just 2:22 into the second quarter to put the Lancers ahead 1-0. After senior Olivia Antonelli (Westford, Mass.) inserted the ball on the corner, senior Cassidy Windler (Holden, Mass.) found the stick of Hopkins, who danced around a defender and scored to give her team the lead.
It appeared the 1-0 score would hold as the teams went to the break, but the Lancers were awarded a penalty corner with eight seconds remaining in the second quarter, and they made sure to take full advantage. The Lancers beat the buzzer, as junior Coley Hayes (Norwood, Mass.) poked a pass to senior Sophia Monopoli (Worcester, Mass.) for her 12th goal of the season at exactly the 30-minute mark of the contest.
The score of 2-0 held until the clock ticked under five minutes remaining in regulation, when the Huskies made a huge surge to tie the score. With 4:50 left on the clock, junior Hayden Spencer (Sabattus, Maine) scored on a penalty corner to cut Worcester's lead to 2-1. Just 1:23 later, with 3:27 left to play, senior Dorina Sirois (Saco, Maine) leveled the score on a 2-on-1 off a feed from sophomore Samantha Ellis (New Vineyard, Maine), stunning a previously rowdy Coughlin Field crowd and forcing the game into overtime.
Southern Maine had a glorious opportunity just 2:40 into overtime as Antonelli was given a five-minute yellow card, but Worcester State continued to control the play despite playing a player down. With 10 seconds remaining in Antonelli's penalty, Hopkins took a feed from Hayes on the left wing and fired a shot past Pych to send the crowd into delirium and send the Lancers to the title game.
Pych finished with 12 saves in the losing effort for the Huskies, while Lancers goalkeeper Jess Hopkins (Chelmsford, Mass.) made a single save in the victory. Sophomore defender Ann Maher (Mansfield, Mass.) was credited with a defensive save for Worcester State in the fourth quarter.
Live video and statistics of the Little East Conference Championship game will be available at WSULancers.com, with live updates available on Twitter at @WSULancers and Instagram at @WSU_Lancers.