Keene State College teams are gearing up for an important stretch of in-conference games that could define their season. Their next few games will be played against members of the Little East Conference (LEC).
Spring sports are entering the dog days of the season, as teams only have a small fraction of their schedule remaining and all have established a resounding team identity.
That’s what makes this last bunch of games so crucial. Whether their deciding playoff positions, creating momentum, or just helping end the season on a high note, the result of each game means something.
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The fact that the season closes with Little East Conference opponents only heightens that importance.
KSC athletes are coming into their games with poise.
“I’m very confident in my team,” senior midfielder Sammi Benson said of her lacrosse team. “We all play extremely well together and have been improving every game. We only have a few conference games left until playoffs and I think we’ve prepared well for it.”
Benson’s team has reason to be confident. The girls have a 10-3 record overall and are 3-1 against LEC teams, despite losing a close one to Plymouth State University on April 17 that snapped an eight-game winning streak.
But Benson sees the glass half full.
“That loss to Plymouth just helps to take the target off our back for when we go into playoffs,” Benson said.
Benson also said the team is eager to play conference games because they can determine playoff seeding. It’s clear they understand the importance of conference games.
“We care more about conference games and put more emphasis and focus on preparing for them. Losing just few takes away any chance for home field advantage in the playoffs,” Benson explained.
The women aren’t the only ones excited for their LEC games. Senior defender Chris Mallon said his lacrosse team feels good about his upcoming conference games as well.
“Every year since I’ve been a freshman we’ve been a top team in the LEC, so going into it we’re always very confident,” Mallon said of his team, who is 6-5 right now and 3-1 against conference foes.
But that confidence doesn’t mean they don’t respect the teams they are facing.
“You got to seek out and recruit equally for ever game,” coach of the men’s lacrosse team Mark Theriault said.
He added, “Because we’ve been the defending champion for the past few years, everyone seems to have their best game against you. They’re really gunning for you every year.”
They learned that the hard way. Their one conference loss came at the hands of rival Eastern Connecticut, a game coach Mark Theriault said meant a lot to the team.
“I think that Eastern Connecticut game was really emotional because one of our goals of the year was to beat them,” Theriault said.
But Mallon sees the game as merely a speed bump.
“We got off to a rough start out of conference, so it was tough to get the momentum going at first,” Mallon said.
He said, “We’re a very momentum driven team, and now that we’ve got a few wins under our belt, moving into these conference games we’re very confident,” Mallon said.
The lacrosse team is currently in a stretch where they play six of their final seven games against LEC teams.
The baseball team is facing a similar stretch.
The team finishes its season with six of its last eight games against conference opponents.
But its 6-2 record in conference gives the team reason for encouragement.
“We have played very well in conference this year, I think a big reason why is that our bullpen is pitching very well,” senior pitcher Jeff Pelkey said.
Pelkey added that his team is putting a ton of runs on the board. Pelkey and the baseball team are 23-9 overall.
Pelkey thinks the team is prime to make a run to finish the season.
“We have a couple guys that are banged up, but I feel our pitching was really good in the beginning of the season and now our offense is coming around and hitting the ball well, it’s exciting,” Pelkey said.
Pelkey also said that although the team doesn’t prepare for LEC teams any differently, the members definitely get more excited for conference games.
It’s clear the players believe in their team; they need to at this point in the season.
Just as they know their opponents, their opponents know them. It is one final challenge before the postseason.
It is also an opportunity to see what they are made of.
Zach Winn can be contacted at