Lax announces 2013 schedule, captains
Bryant men's lacrosse announces schedule, captains; Bulldogs to host nine home games in 2013
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Head coach Mike Pressler is pleased to unveil the 2013 Bryant University men's lacrosse schedule and the Bulldogs' 2013 captains, as the team gears up to defend its Northeast Conference crown and earn the league's first-ever berth into the NCAA tournament this spring.
The Bulldogs' 16-game regular-season slate features nine home contests against opponents from five different conferences while Bryant will see competition from seven leagues throughout the 2013 campaign on the road and at home.
Familiar names speckle the early non-conference portion of the schedule, including games against programs such as Drexel (CAA), Albany (America East), Providence College (BIG EAST) and Fairfield (ECAC) - teams that have become consistent presences on the Bulldog slates in the Division I era.
But this year's list of opponents also features new faces in Bucknell (Patriot League) and Harvard (Ivy League), programs that have risen to the top of the Division I landscape.
"We decided to play all 17 of our allotted dates in the spring season, playing one scrimmage and 16 regular-season games," said Pressler, now in his seventh year at the helm. "In addition to continuing many of the great rivalry series we've created with teams such as Drexel, Brown and Albany over the past four years, this season's slate will include two highly ranked newcomers in Bucknell and Harvard."
Even with these top-ranked additions, the most exciting aspect of the Bulldogs' regular-season schedule is still the possibilities that loom at the end of it.
"The first thing that jumps out for all six teams in the Northeast Conference is that the automatic qualifier is finally here," said Pressler. "After a two-year probation period [mandated by the NCAA after officially coming together as a conference in 2011], the winner of this year's NEC Tournament will now go to the NCAA tournament and compete for the national championship."
But to get there, the Bulldogs will have to get through an opening month that features some of the toughest competition on the entire 2013 slate.
"The month of February could not be a tougher slate for the Bryant Bulldogs, with battles against three top-15 teams to begin our season," said Pressler.
After exhibition bouts against Hartford and St. John's, Bryant opens the season at home for the first time in its Division I history Feb. 9, hosting Colgate -- one of two 2012 NCAA tournament qualifiers on this year's schedule -- for a 1 p.m. tilt at the Bulldog Turf Complex.
Fairfield, who finished the 2012 season ranked 15th in the USILA Coaches Poll, comes to Smithfield a week later (Feb. 16), and the Bulldogs finish off February with a trip to Bucknell (Feb. 23) to face a Bison squad that was a mainstay in the national rankings a year ago.
From there, the Black and Gold stay on the road for the first two outings of March, traveling to Burlington, Vt., for a faceoff against the Catamounts March 2 and returning to Pennsylvania March 9 to take on a Drexel side that also finished the season with a national ranking.
Bryant makes a quick stop back home March 16 to host Albany (1 p.m.) before playing its first of four Tuesday night rivalry games on March 19, traveling to Cambridge, Mass., to take on Harvard for the first time in program history.
"I love the Tuesday night games," said Pressler. "We have four terrific regional rivals on Tuesdays this season. We will once again take on Brown, Providence and Holy Cross in midweek contests, and now, we add Harvard to that great regional lineup."
Saturday, March 23 sees the Bulldogs make a visit to its second NCAA tournament opponent in Stony Brook and also marks the team's final road contest for nearly a month, as Bryant returns to Smithfield to host a Tuesday tilt against Providence College (March 26) before opening Northeast Conference action at home against Quinnipiac (March 30) and Robert Morris (April 6).
Bryant stays put for its fourth-straight contest on campus Tuesday, April 9, welcoming Holy Cross to the Ocean State, but the team will hit the highways once again to take on Wagner on Saturday, April 13 and Mount St. Mary's a week later (April 20) to wrap up its 2013 regular-season road slate.
The Bulldogs play their final two contests at home, hosting Brown Tuesday, April 23 in the second-half of the annual Ocean State Cup and closing out regular-season play against Sacred Heart on Saturday, April 27.
The NEC Tournament is slated for Friday, May 3 and Sunday, May 5 at the home of the highest seed, with the winner earning an automatic berth into the 16-team NCAA tournament field.
"Speaking for our entire program, we are just thrilled to be finally eligible for tournament play and the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the Division I lacrosse landscape," said Pressler.
The Bulldogs will need strong leadership to achieve their goals in 2013, and once again, the Bryant roster has selected three stellar options to represent the program. Two are familiar faces to the Bulldog captainship in seniors Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.) and Nils Thompson (Ponoka, Alberta), and they will be joined by classmate and local product Ben Sternberg (North Kingstown, R.I.) in 2013.
"We have great leadership on both ends of the field, with offensive and defensive players represented in our captains," said Pressler. "The common denominator for all three is their sheer strength of character and the high degree of moral fiber by which each of them live their lives. These are three of the most humble and selfless young men I've ever been around."
One of two repeat captains, McMahon is coming off a first team all-conference season in 2012 that saw him pace the Bulldogs with 25 assists and finish second on the team in both points (48) and goals (23). Starting all 18 games at attack, McMahon has recorded at least one point in all but two contests throughout his collegiate career and enters his senior season already ranked in Bryant's career top-10 for points (5th, 130), assists (2nd, 69), man-up goals (8th, 10), game-winning goals (7th, 4) and games started (6th, 49).
Thompson, also voted a captain for the second time in 2013, appeared in three games last season, notching a goal and an assist against Wagner. The Canadian-born middie has made a name for himself with his teammates and his coaches as one of the hardest-working players both on the field and in the classroom, setting a stellar example for both newcomers and returners to the Bulldog roster.
"I couldn't be more pleased, more thrilled, more happy for Nils Thompson and Peter McMahon to be recognized by their peers for the second year in a row and named two of our three captains for the 2013 season," said Pressler.
"When No. 9 speaks, we all listen," he continued. "In 31 years of college coaching, I've never been around a finer student-athlete that Nils Thompson. As for Peter, he has been such a consistent leader and player over his three years here at Bryant. Our young guys in particular really look up to No. 14."
A defensive midfielder and the lone Rhode Islander on the Bulldog squad, Sternberg appeared in all 18 games for the Black and Gold last season and handed out a pair of assists while being a mainstay in transition and on the defensive end. A physical and tough-minded player, Sternberg caused four turnovers and picked up 14 ground balls in 2012.
"I am so happy for Rhode Island's own Ben Sternberg and that his teammates have recognized and acknowledged his leadership capabilities," said Pressler. "Playing just down the road from where he grew up in North Kingstown, there is nobody tougher -- mentally, physically or emotionally -- than No. 22.
"Once again, the leadership of the men's lacrosse program at Bryant University is in great hands."