SMITHFIELD, R.I. — Head coach Mike Pressler and Bryant University Athletics are pleased to announce the 2014 men's lacrosse schedule and team captains, as the Bulldogs look for a three-peat within the Northeast Conference and return trip to the NCAA tournament this spring.
Bryant's 16-contest slate includes a grueling 10-game road schedule as the Bulldogs take on seven different conferences and three first-time opponents throughout the 2014 campaign.
It is familiar programs that highlight the early non-league schedule, though, as the team opens the season against back-to-back Patriot League opponents, traveling to Hamilton, N.Y., to face Colgate in the season opener for the third-straight season on Saturday, Feb. 8. From there, the Bulldogs will return home to host Bucknell Saturday, Feb. 15, but will be back on the road a week later for a Feb. 22 duel against first-time foe and America East stronghold Hartford.
The Black and Gold will then return to Smithfield to host the team's only consecutive home contests of the season on consecutive Saturdays, welcoming defending Ivy League champion Yale to the Bryant Turf Complex on March 1 and CAA rival Drexel March 8 to kick off Spring Break. The Bulldogs will be looking to even both all-time series at 2-2 in 2014.
"To me, one thing that stands out in our schedule are our first five games of the season," said Pressler. "Four of those five opponents could be ranked in the nation's top 15 once the preseason polls comes out. And Hartford is a perennial contender in a strong America East Conference, so playing the Hawks for the first time in program history, especially on the road, will certainly be a challenge."
The Bulldogs will continue Spring Break play Tuesday, March 11, when they head down to West Long Branch, N.J., to take on first-year program Monmouth University. Bryant wraps up the semester intermission with a road bout against fellow NCAA tournament qualifier and reigning America East champ Albany Saturday, March 15.
Bryant will open Northeast Conference action on Saturday, March 22, when new member Hobart comes to town, marking the third Division I meeting between the sides. The Statesmen are one of two new associate members in men's lacrosse, joining St. Joseph's as NEC newcomers. The Bulldogs will play St. Joe's on the road April 5.
"The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the 2014 schedule is that the NEC is now tougher and more competitive than ever with the addition of St. Joe's and Hobart," said Pressler.
But with only Quinnipiac departing the league, the Black and Gold will still face tough conference matchups against Sacred Heart (April 2) and Robert Morris (April 19) on the road and Mount St. Mary's (April 12) and Wagner (April 26) at home.
Three of the squad's feature contests will come interspersed within the league slate, as well, most notably with the playing of the Lead the Way Fund Lacrosse Day for Heroes game on March 29 in Long Island, N.Y. The game will pit the Black and Gold against another first-year program in the University of Richmond, captained by first-year head coach Dan Chemotti, who played four years for Pressler at Duke. The contest will honor Chemotti's classmate and fellow Duke lacrosse alum Jimmy Regan, who gave his life defending his country in Afghanistan.
"I had the pleasure of recruiting Jimmy Regan to Duke, and it was an honor to coach him over his four years," said Pressler. "To play this game in his honor, in his hometown, with one of his best friends across the sideline from me will make this game a very, very special experience."
Bryant's non-league slate will also feature the games of the fifth-annual Ocean State Cup. The Bulldogs will play both contests away from home, facing off against Providence College on March 25 and Brown on April 22.
"With 10 away games, our ability to overcome adversity on the road will be truly tested," said Pressler, "but in the end, we have made both our non-conference and conference schedules the most competitive yet in my six years here at Bryant at the Division I level."
The Northeast Conference Tournament will be held Friday, May 2 and Sunday, May 4 at the home of the highest seed.
For the Bulldogs to defend their league title and get back to the NCAA tournament, the team will need strong leadership both on the field and off, and once again this season, the Bulldogs have picked the right men for the job in 2014 captains JK Poirier (Coatesville, Pa.), Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.), Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) and Matt MacGrotty (New Westminster, British Columbia).
"There are a lot of ways we could have gone in this senior class, but the coaching staff couldn't be more pleased with the four seniors selected as our captains for the 2014 season," said Pressler. "With two captains at the offensive end and two at the defensive end, we have great balance. All four are returning starters, and all four have been instrumental in our team success, especially over the last two seasons."
A fifth-year senior, Poirier appeared in 18 of the team's 19 games last season and developed into one of the team's strongest leaders both on the field and off it. He has appeared in 51 games in his career, scoring 12 goals and dishing out 22 assists before making the transition to the defensive midfield.
Dunster, a two-year starting midfielder who has appeared in all 54 games over his Bryant career, enters the 2014 campaign poised to have another big year as a senior after earning All-NEC and All-NEILA First Team selections as a senior. The team's leader in goals (34), points (48), man-up tallies (7), game-winning goals (2) and shots (146) last season, he is the arguably the Bulldogs' top offensive threat, having recorded nine hat tricks as a junior.
Linemate and fellow two-year starter Zomerfeld enters his senior season ready to lead the Black and Gold after a career season in 2013, when he scored 26 goals and added 18 assists with 62 ground balls en route to an All-NEC First Team nod and NEC All-Tournament Team selection. For his career, Zomerfeld has 48 goals and 30 assists (78 points) and has scooped up 130 ground balls.
A starter on defense since his sophomore season, MacGrotty anchors the backline and sets a strong example for his teammates not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. A three-time NEC Academic Honor Roll honoree and 2013 All-NEC First Teamer, he ranked 37th in the nation in caused turnovers per game (1.53) as a junior, also picking up 36 ground balls.
"These four will complement each other and lead by example both on and off the field as we gear up and continue to prepare for the 2014 campaign, their final season as seniors here are Bryant University."
For the full 2014 Bryant University men's lacrosse schedule and roster, and for continuing news and notes on this year's team, please visit bryantbulldogs.com.