KEENE, N.H. – Keene State got goals from three different players and withstood an early second half fluffy of shots by the Fighting Scots to post a 3-0 shutout victory against Gordon in a NCAA tournament game at Owl Athletic Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
Keene State (21-3), which set a program record for wins (previously set in 2011) and closes out its home schedule undefeated (14-0) at Owl Athletic Complex, advances to the second round where they will face seventh ranked Skidmore at Middlebury at 2 p.m. Saturday. Skidmore (17-3), which received a first-round bye, defeated William Smith 4-3 to capture the Liberty League Championship. he Thoroughbreds, who are riding an eight game winning streak, have earned seven straight and 13 overall tournament bids.
Failing to get by the first round in their first six trips to the NCAA Division III tournament, the Owls, who have won nine in a row, have now won two NCAA tournament games in the past three years. In 20111, KSC won a first-round game against Endicott (2-0) before falling to Bowdoin (4-0).
Despite a roster full of NCAA veterans and playing on its home turf, the Owls came out sluggish in the first half. "We were nervous going in because we didn't want our season to end," said junior Melissa Habelow.
"For some reason we came out flat," KSC Coach Amy Watson said. "We were lucky to get a goal in the first half."
The Owls did manage a couple of early scoring opportunities, but Gordon College senior goalie Anna Bury was up to the challenge, knocking away a shot by freshman Sami Smith and a breakaway bid by junior Marisa Lemoine.
Keene State got on the board in the closing minutes of the first half. Taking a crossing ball from sophomore Hayley Dolan, Lemoine flipped the ball over a prone Bury to give the Owls a 1-0 lead.
"I saw their defender, so I lifted it up over their goalie," Lemoine said. "We came out shaky in the first half, but we got it going."
Unable to clear the ball early in the second half, the Owls held off the Scots. KSC sophomore goalie Meaghan Dwyer stopped a rising shot from junior Courtney Scott, the nation's leading goal scorer, and a minute later turned aside a drive by junior Karli Balmer on a corner.
The Fighting Scotts continued on the offensive. With Dwyer pulled out of the net, Habelow came to the rescue, making a defensive save on a shot by junior Brittany Hawkins just before the ball crossed the goal line.
"I don't know how it happened, but the ball was in the air and it bounced off my stick and I was able to clear it out," Habelow said.
The Owls offense finally got into gear. Dolan scored on a rebound to make it 2-0 at the 58:09 mark.
"It felt awesome," said Dolan about her seventh goal of the season. "It's my first time playing in the tournament, so getting a goal is a great feeling."
Senior Aimee Donaruma concluded the scoring with her sixth goal of the season, redirecting a shot by sophomore Lyndsie Rabenius past Bury.
The Owls outshot the Scots 17-6 and had a 6-3 advantage in corners.
Dwyer finished the game with two saves to post her second shutout. Bury stopped eight shots for Gordon (17-6), the Commonwealth Coast Conference champs who was shutout for just the third time this season.
It's a great feeling for us to win the game and move on," said Dolan. "We want to stay together as long as we can."
"We can go as far as we want to go," said Hableow. "When we play Keene State field hockey we're a really hard team to beat. We have a chance. Why not us?"