SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The No. 15 Bryant University men's lacrosse team got off to a 9-1 lead in Saturday's Northeast Conference opener against Hobart College and saw its top six offensive players account for 14 goals to take a 15-8 victory over the Statesmen at home in the programs' first meeting as league rivals.
The Bulldogs (6-2, 1-0 NEC) saw 23 of their 25 total points on the day come from the sticks of their top attack and top midfield lines, as the Black and Gold extended their winning streak to four games. Bryant saw a trio of hat tricks in the contest, including a four-goal outing from senior Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.). Senior Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) also chipped in a trio of tallies, all three coming in the first quarter alone, while reigning NEC Rookie of the Week Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) paced the contest with five points off three goals and two assists.
The Statesmen (2-6, 1-1) got a hat trick of their own from starting middie Zach Reed, but saw leading point getter Cam Stone limited to just two points (1 goal, 1 assist) and leading goal scorer Jake McHenry held to just a single tally.
"This game was huge," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "It was more important to us than any of the other non-conference games, and I was so impressed by our team's readiness and our start. To go up, 9-1 – you couldn't ask for a better beginning. But credit Hobart as well. They battled back and made it a very, very exciting game the rest of the way."
Sophomores Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) and Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.) also contributed multi-point performances, with the former getting on the stat sheet twice in both the goals and the assists columns. Senior Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) also posted four points, including a trio of helpers.
But at the heart of the Bulldogs' best offensive outing of the season was the play of junior faceoff specialist and reigning NEC Player of the Year Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.), who went an impressive 22-of-27 from the X (.815) and picked up 17 ground balls. Massa, who is also the reigning NEC Player of the Week, also chipped in an assist in the opening minute of the second quarter.
"I thought Kevin was Kevin again," said Pressler. "He was sick a couple of days this week and really responded to that challenge."
After watching the hosts race out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5:07 of the contest, Reed capitalized on the game's first penalty, netting a feed from Matt Opsahl to get Hobart on the board with 8:28 left in the opening stanza.
The Bulldogs, however, would score the next four to end the period and continue the run into the second quarter, eventually streaking for six goals in less than eight minutes of game time to take a 9-1 lead with 14:07 to play in the second frame.
Dunster, who opened the game with an unassisted marker, would score twice in the stretch, including a crafty over the shoulder goal off a rebound to give the hosts a 4-1 edge. Zomerfeld would also see three points through the six-goal run, assisting on Morrell and Dunster tallies in the final 68 seconds of the first before getting a score of his own (assisted by Dunster) to start the second quarter.
Senior defensive middie Rob Goeren (Massapequa, N.Y.) capped off the run with his third tally of the year, assisted by Massa for the 9-1 advantage.
The Statesmen began to chip away at Bryant's lead with 11:30 to go in the second, scoring the first of three uninterrupted, unassisted scores off the sticks of Reed, Taylor Vanderbeek and Cooper Stefaniak. The run closed the deficit to 9-4, but Sipperly would get the final goal of the half with 32 ticks to play, sending the hosts into the break with 10-4 lead.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the inside play of Dan Sipperly," said Pressler. "He had some great rebound goals for us. When you get to 15 goals, you are happy, but I was really pleased with Dan's play in particular today."
Out of the break, Hobart scored three of the first four third-stanza markers to pull within four, 11-7, but the Statesmen wouldn't get any closer, as the Bulldogs netted four of the final five tallies, including the only goal of the fourth quarter with 12:49 left in the game.
"Give Hobart credit," said Pressler. "We traded goals the rest of the way [after the 9-1 start], but when you faceoff like Kevin did, it makes it very difficult for a team to come back."
In the end, the Statesmen outscored the Bulldogs, 7-6, in the final 44 minutes of the game, but ultimately the visitors could not overcome their early hole. Hobart was outshot on the day, 44-31, and Bryant doubled its visitors up on ground balls, 48-24. Connor Eustace led Hobart with five ground balls and three caused turnovers, while the Black and Gold saw two of their seven caused turnovers come from the efforts of senior defenseman Matt MacGrotty (New Westminster, British Columbia).
Sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made nine stops in the victory with a pair of ground balls, while Peter Zonino posted 11 saves with three ground balls despite the loss.
The Bulldogs won't have long to savor their first league victory, as Bryant returns to action Tuesday night, taking on intrastate rival Providence College on the road at 7 p.m. in the opening matchup of the 2014 Ocean State Cup.