James, Bulldogs double up #17/18 Drexel, 12-6, Saturday at home
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind a monster third-quarter and a career outing from rookie attack Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.), the Bryant University men's lacrosse team topped its second nationally ranked opponent of the season Saturday, doubling up No. 17/18 Drexel, 12-6, Saturday afternoon at the Bryant Turf Complex.
James scored four and added a pair of assists as the Bulldogs (3-2) never trailed in the victory, despite the Dragons (3-3) evening the score three times stretching into the third quarter. But it was the third frame that saw the Black and Gold erupt for five tallies, while sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) and the Bulldog defense limited Drexel to just a single goal after the halftime break en route to the team's most dominant win over a ranked foe in program history.
"We had a formula, a plan, and we couldn't be more proud of our guys for executing our plan to beat a very good Drexel team," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "This team was averaging almost 14 goals per game, and we held them to six goals. This game was won in a lot of different ways, but allowing them one goal in [the final] 30 minutes and outscoring them, 7-1, in the second half – that tells the story of the game right there."
The Bulldogs started off with a three-goal advantage thanks in large part to James, who had a hand in each of the opening tallies. The frosh netted the first two himself – including the unassisted opener just 52 seconds in – and assisted on a Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) goal with 6:02 to go in the first quarter for the 3-0 edge.
Bulldog penalties in the final minutes of the first and again in the opening ticks of the second afforded Drexel a pair of man-up markers from top scorers Nick Trizano (2 goals, 1 assist) and Ben McIntosh (3g, 1a) before James completed the second hat trick of his young career just 3:44 into the second stanza on a dish from classmate Brett Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) to put Bryant back up by two, 4-2.
"We've seen this from Tucker in practice," said Pressler. "Not only are his six points impressive, but he had four ground balls and no turnovers as well. At the end of the day, that was just a tremendous overall performance by our young freshman."
Trizano and McIntosh tied the game up at 4-4 by the 8:30 mark, and both sides – Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) for the Bulldogs with 3:14 to play and Jared Boudreau for the Dragons with 2:03 on the clock – would find the back of the net once more for a 5-5 halftime draw.
James and Sipperly teamed up again four minutes into the third quarter for a 6-5 Bulldog lead, but McIntosh and Trizano did the same minutes later for the third and final tie of the contest, as sophomore Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.), senior Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.), senior Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) and Baker all poured in successive scores in the final 6:18 of the frame for a 10-6 lead entering the final 15 minutes.
The quartet of late-quarter tallies turned out to be the start of six unanswered Bryant goals to close out the game, as Gantz and James each notched one last unassisted tally in the fourth for the 12-6 final margin. In total, seven players would find the back of the net for the Black and Gold, with 11 contributing the to the team's 20 total points (12 goals, 8 assists).
As much a part of the victory as the diversified Bryant offense, Waldt was stellar once again between the pipes, tying his season high with 17 saves, including seven in the first quarter alone. The sophomore picked up a game-best six ground balls, as did his Drexel counterpart Will Gabrielsen (13 saves).
"It's game five, and he has been exactly the same," said Pressler. "Now, he's saving the ball and catching those shots, and he's doing great in the clearing game as well. This kind of performance is something we've grown accustomed to and come to count on. If there is a finer goalie in college lacrosse this season, I haven't seen him yet."
Bryant went 2-for-3 on the day in extra-man opportunities, holding Drexel to a 2-of-5 mark and forcing three failed clears from the Dragon ranks. The Bulldogs won the ground ball game, 32-25, and outshot their visitors, 40-38.
Saturday's win marks the team's second over a ranked opponent this season after topping then-No. 14/15 Bucknell in the home opener, 12-9, on February 15. The Bulldogs now have three victories over ranked opponents in the Division I era.
Bryant returns to action Tuesday, March 11 for a 3:00 p.m. matchup at Monmouth University.