The Central Connecticut women's lacrosse team continued its historic season by clinching the program's first Northeast Conference Tournament berth with an 18-8 victory over LIU Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils (9-5, 7-0 NEC) have a perfect 7-0 record in NEC play and currently hold a share of first place in the NEC standings.
The victory also extended CCSU's school records for victories (9), NEC victories (7) and longest winning streak (8).
"I am so proud of this team's hard work and dedication, which helped us reach this goal," head coach Kelly Nangle said after the game. "This is a great achievement for our program and it is something that these players can be proud of - that they were part of the first CCSU team to make the conference tournament. We will enjoy this today, but we still have work to do and we want to finish the regular season with another strong weekend."
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the first six and a half minutes of play behind a pair of goals by freshman Elyse Malecki. Malecki scored CCSU's first and fifth goals of the game, both were unassisted. Senior Mackenzy Ryan, sophomore Jessica Sudock and junior Amanda Toke also had goals during CCSU's opening run.
An offensive outburst by LIU (0-15, 0-8 NEC) tied the game at 5-5 with 17:53 left in the half, but the Blue Devils quickly regained the scoring momentum and closed the period on a 7-0 run. Senior Betsy Vendel led the way with a hat-trick during the run. Ryan and Suddock each posted their second goal of the game during the stretch and freshman Falynn McCartney also scored twice.
Central made it a 12-0 run by scoring the first five goals of the second half. Vendel, Toke and Malecki each added another goal, while junior Claire Healy and freshman Madison Hughes each posted their first of the game.
The strong start to the second half gave the Blue Devils a commanding 17-5 lead that put the game out of reach.
The Blackbirds were able to score three more goals to make it a 17-8 game, but Ryan scored her third of the game with 1:13 left to play to put the Blue Devils back in front by 10.
Vendel finished the game with four goals and an assist to total five points. She also had three draw controls, two ground balls and a caused turnover.
Ryan and Malecki both finished with three goals. Ryan also had an assist to total four points, while Toke finished with two goals and two assists. Malecki and Toke were also key contributors on loose balls with three and two ground balls, respectively.
Sophomore goalie Morgan Tullar stopped 10 of the 18 shots that came at her goal and was again strong in the second half.
Senior Ali Roche recorded two ground balls and two caused turnovers. Her first caused turnover of the game broke her own single-season record.
Senior Cierra Ward was also strong on defense with two ground balls.
The Blue Devils will return to action on Wednesday night at Holy Cross. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils will close the regular season on Friday, April 19, and Sunday, April 21, with NEC contests.