The Keene State field hockey team won their fourth consecutive Little East Conference (LEC) Championship and their 12th championship overall.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, the field hockey team played against the sixth seed Southern Maine University Huskies in the Little East Conference Championship game.
The first half was all Keene State on offense with the Owls retaining offensive possession throughout the entire half. But even with the intense offensive push, it was the Huskies defense that prevented the offense from producing goals.
It wasn’t until midway through the first half when Julia Babbitt was able to find an opening in the Huskies defense and sneak one past Huskies goalie Amanda Kasbohm to take the lead for the Owls.
The Owls kept up their offensive dominance in the second half.
Sami Smith scored early off of a redirected pass from Kayla Renaud, giving the insurance goal to lead the Owls 2-0.
The onslaught didn’t stop there. Soon after Smith’s goal, Erica Stauffer netted one, bringing the Owls to a 3-0 lead over the Huskies.
Casi Smith was later awarded a penalty stroke and found the back of the net, increasing Keene’s lead to four.
To round off the night, Smith scored again in the 58th minute to mark her 35th goal of the season and second one of the night.
The Owls went on to win 5-0 and the LEC Championship for the fourth straight season.
This win also gives Keene State an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
“Four in a row, that’s good,” said Owls’ Head Coach Amy Watson. “It doesn’t happen very often; it’s a pretty good accomplishment.”
For many players, this championship win means their first, second or even third collegiate championship. But for the seniors, it means their fourth straight championship, giving them a championship win each year they’ve played on the team.
“It feels awesome,” said senior forward Smith. “It was obviously one of our goals of the seniors for a long time. It feels good to finally have it done and move on.”
Senior forward Brittney Cardente said it feels “absolutely amazing. It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world… It’s probably one of the best wins out of all four years because we’re seniors. We’ve been waiting for this since [our first] year. We’ve worked so hard [and] the entire team has worked so hard the entire season, so it’s just an unbelievable win.”
On top of winning her fourth straight championship, Cardente was also named the Most Outstanding Player for the tournament.
“I definitely did not expect it,” said Cardente. “It’s an unbelievable honor and I’m so grateful for it.”
Cardente credits her efforts this season to her teammates, saying that they’ve kept her on track this season and they “pushed me so hard all season and I thank them for that.”
“She’s a hard worker,” said coach Watson. “Brittney will give you everything she’s got and more everyday, day in and day out. The work she does often goes unnoticed.”
With this win, the team now works toward advancing through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. Coach Watson said that even though they are headed to a bigger tournament, it won’t change how the team plays.
“At this point in the season, we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Coach Watson. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, we’re just gonna go out there and just play, stay loose and just keep everybody together.”
The team members, although excited for the tournament, have different reactions for preparing and playing in the tournament.
“I’m a little nervous,” said first-year forward Jensyn Dandeneau. “The play level is definitely going to be a lot harder, but we can probably make it far into that tournament if we keep playing the way we’re playing.”
“We’ve been having some really good practices lately where we’re focused, we’re intense,” said Smith. “We have really good chemistry on and off the field as well. Keeping that up should be good.”
Casi Smith credits this year’s team for the accomplishments that were achieved and how, “we hope that the team next year can keep it going again, get a five-peat.”
“There’s nothing better that this team right now,” said Casi. “With everything going on, we just want to keep it going.”
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Sami. “It speaks for itself, I think. The hard work we’ve put in for it, we got four [championships] in a row.”
Justin Mahan can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org