Bulldogs win NEC regular-season crown, set to defend 2012 tournament title as league's top seed
BULLDOGS WIN NEC REGULAR-SEASON CROWN WITH 12-7 WIN OVER SACRED HEART ON SENIOR DAY, SET TO DEFEND TOURNAMENT TITLE AS LEAGUE'S TOP SEED
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind hat tricks from senior Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.) and junior Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) and a 12-7 win over Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon, the Bryant University men's lacrosse team clinched the 2013 Northeast Conference Regular-Season Championship and earned the right to host the NEC Tournament as the league's top seed.
The win keeps the Bulldogs (6-10, 4-1 NEC) a perfect 5-0 against the Pioneers (3-10, 3-2) and sets up a rematch between the sides in Thursday's NEC Semifinal. Second-seeded Robert Morris will take on third-seeded Quinnipiac in other semifinal.
The 2013 Championship marks the first time Bryant has claimed the NEC Regular-Season title, as the Black and Gold get set to defend their 2012 NEC Tournament crown on campus in Smithfield for the first time.
"It's another first for us in just our five years at the Division I level," said head coach Mike Pressler. "I am just so happy for and so proud of the Class of 2013 for leading us through a tough part of the season to get to this joyous moment."
Eight different Bulldogs scored goals in Saturday's Senior Day victory, which was highlighted by the NCAA-record tying performance of sophomore faceoff specialist Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.), whose game-best nine ground balls tied him for the NCAA Division I single-season ground balls record (194) with at least one game still to play. Massa also went 16-of-23 from the X on the afternoon.
"I am so happy for Kevin for tying the record," said Pressler, "but to have the day he had against a very good counterpart in No. 31 from Sacred Heart is even more exciting."
Bryant got on the board first with a Dunster goal just eight seconds into the contest, and the Bulldogs never trailed in the outing, taking a 5-2 first-quarter edge and adding to their lead for an 8-4 advantage at the halftime break.
The Pioneers cut the deficit to three goals less than three minutes into the third period, 8-5, on a Cody Marquis tally, but it was the closest Sacred Heart would come, as the Bulldogs followed with three-straight scores – all unassisted – from McMahon, Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) and Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.) for an 11-5 advantage heading into the final stanza.
The Bulldogs outshot the Pioneers, 38-27, on the day and won the ground ball battle, 47-31, behind Massa's premiere day. Redshirt-freshman Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made nine saves between the pipes for his fifth win of the season.
Morrell finished the day with three points (1g, 2a) and Dunster added his own helper to his eighth hat trick of the season for a game-high four points. Junior midfielder Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) scored a marker and added one assist, while senior Kyle Crowley (Scituate, Mass.) notched the eventual game winner with 10:10 to play in the second frame. Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.) and Mason Poli (Downingtown, Pa.) – who was named a 2013 Tewaaraton Trophy Semifinalist for the second-straight season – also chipped in tallies in the victory.
"It's interesting, all four teams play in a rematch," said Pressler of Thursday's NEC Semifinal matchups. "It really doesn't matter – all that's important is getting in and finding a way to win. You're going to play teams twice in a row – that happens all the time. It's not an issue for us, it's just nice to win the conference championship outright.
"We are going to have to play hard and well to beat a good Sacred Heart team," he continued. "The saying is that it's hard to beat a team twice in a row, but that's our assignment."
For official game times and other 2013 NEC Tournament information, check back to bryantbulldogs.com.