The New Conference Rivals: Eastern Connecticut State

The New Conference Rivals: Eastern Connecticut State

NOTE: This is the first of a series of stories introducing fans of Castleton athletics to the Spartans' new league rivals in the Little East Conference. 

Eastern Connecticut State University

Founded: 1889
Enrollment: 4,900
President: Dr. Elsa Nunez
Director of Athletics: Lori Runksmeier
Nickname: Warriors
Colors: Navy and Burgundy
Location: Willimantic, Conn.
Distance from Castleton: 193 Miles

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University is one of the founding members of the Little East Conference, joining with five other schools to establish the league, originally focused on men's and women's basketball, starting in the 1986-87 season.

For the second straight year, Eastern Connecticut State claimed the Little East Conference Commissioner's Cup in 2017-18, signifying the top overall institutional athletic performance among the league's primary member institutions.

This past academic year, Eastern's women's cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in the fall, while the men's basketball team won the outright regular season title and the women's soccer team finished tied for first place in the final regular season standings. The Warriors recorded a second-place finish in five sports, all during the spring season – baseball, men's and women's lacrosse, softball, women's outdoor track & field – and finished third in field hockey, women's volleyball and women's swimming & diving among LEC schools.

In addition, the Warriors have been strong academically throughout the athletic department, winning the Little East Conference Presidents' Cup four times in the nine-year history of the trophy. Although Eastern Connecticut State saw its three-year winning streak snapped this past season, the Warriors still finished second as a department in 2017-18 with a 3.11 cumulative grade point average.

Eastern Connecticut State sponsors 17 NCAA sports, seven men's sports (baseball, basketball, cross country, indoor track and field, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, soccer) and 10 women's sports (basketball, cross country, field hockey, indoor track and field, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball). All 17 sports are housed within the Little East, but Eastern Connecticut State does not field teams in men's tennis and women's tennis.

The Warrior basketball and volleyball teams play in Geissler Gym, while the outdoor sports play in the Mansfield Complex, which includes the baseball stadium, the softball field, a turf field for women's soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse with a track surrounding it (in fact, a new FieldTurf surface is being installed this summer to be ready for the fall), and Thomas Nevers Field, a grass field used for most Eastern Connecticut State men's soccer matches.

As mentioned above, Eastern Connecticut State won the LEC men's basketball regular season and tournament titles, posting a 13-1 league mark before sweeping through the tournament with three home victories, capped by a 79-62 win over Keene State in the final. The Warriors, 26-4 overall, defeated Johnson & Wales in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 75-59, before losing to Middlebury in the second round.

The Warrior baseball team posted a 25-16 overall record, including a 10-4 league record, and advanced to the championship round of the LEC Baseball Tournament. The men's lacrosse team also lost in the final of its conference tournament, finishing at 10-7 overall, including 5-2 within the Little East, and the men's soccer team ended up at 9-7-2 overall, including 2-3-2 in LEC competition.

In women's basketball, the Warriors went 12-15 overall, including 8-6 within the LEC, and advanced to the league tournament semifinals. The field hockey team went 6-5 in league play as part of a 7-10 overall record and qualified for the conference tournament, while the women's lacrosse team fell in the conference tournament championship match to end up at 11-7 overall, including 5-1 within the league.

The Warrior women's soccer team ended the regular season 6-0-1 in league play, but lost in the LEC Tournament title match to complete the year at 9-8-3 overall. The softball team posted a 10-4 league record as part of a 17-22 overall mark, and the volleyball team reached the conference tournament semifinals after going 4-3 in league play, finishing at 18-9 overall.

As previously mentioned, the Eastern Connecticut State women's cross country team won the LEC championship, while the men's squad finished in sixth place. The Warrior women's swimming team finished in fourth place at the league championships. In track and field, Eastern Connecticut's women finished four in the indoor meet and second in the outdoor meet, while the men ended up seventh during both the indoor championships and the outdoor competition.

Castleton's first competition against Eastern Connecticut State as a conference rival will take place Saturday, Sept. 22, as the Warriors host the Spartans in field hockey. The first Warrior squad to make the trip to Castleton for a league contest will be the women's soccer team on Saturday, Oct. 13.