BULLDOGS CLAIM FIRST DIVISION I POSTSEASON BERTH WITH 15-2 TOPPING OF MOUNT ST. MARY'S ON SENIOR DAY; BRYANT NO. 3 SEED IN NEC TOURNAMENT
SMITHFIELD, R.I. — Freshman attack Lauren Descalzo (Hauppauge, N.Y.) tied her career high with five goals while sophomore Shannon Burns (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) and junior Lisa Vendel (Sandy Hook, Conn.) each chipped in four more points as the Bryant University women's lacrosse team earned its first bid into the Northeast Conference Tournament with a dominating victory Mount St. Mary's, 15-2, Sunday afternoon on Senior Day.
The win earned the Bulldogs (9-7, 6-3 NEC) the No. 3 seed in the upcoming NEC Tournament, where they will face off against second-seeded Central Connecticut in West Long Branch, N.J., on Friday, April 26. Tournament host Monmouth secured the top spot and will host four seed Mount St. Mary's (7-10, 6-3) in the other conference semifinal.
In total, four Bulldogs picked up hat tricks in Sunday afternoon's regular-season finale, as junior midfielder Kimberley Sniffen (Redding, Conn.) added three goals to the outputs of Descalzo, Vendel (3 goals, 1 assist) and Burns (3g, 1a).
The Mount saw both of its goals come late in the first half off the stick of Erin Seipp in unassisted fashion, as Mount St. Mary's offensive opportunities were few and far between thanks in great part to Bryant's strong defensive play and its success off the draw. The Bulldogs, who won 12 of the game's 19 draw controls, outshot Sunday's visitors, 31-9, on the day as Bryant goalie Brianna Watt (Babylon, N.Y.) made six stops, including three in the second half for a shutout in the final frame.
Bryant jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead in the opening 17 minutes of the game, all of them unassisted scores, as Vendel notched the first two tallies 51 seconds apart on sharp-angled shots that got past Mount netminder Sarah Jane Leder (5 saves) to find side netting for a 2-0 advantage.
Descalzo scored her 29th goal of the season off a free position opportunity as the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark, and junior Haley Bloom (Hauppauge, N.Y.) notched her lone marker of the afternoon 12 seconds later, hammering home a one-on-one chance with the Mount St. Mary's goalie after she picked up the loose ball at the visitor's restraining line during the ensuing draw control.
Sniffen, Burns (2) and Descalzo would all find the net over the next six-plus minutes for the 8-0 start before Seipp put a halt to the Bulldog run with 11:36 showing on the first-half clock. Off a pass from behind the cage from rookie Nicole Britton (Monmouth Beach, N.J.), Vendel secured her eighth hat trick of the season with 8:47 to go to reinstate the eight-score cushion, and while Seipp would score once more with 4:52 to go, it would be the final Mountaineer goal of the contest.
Sniffen would convert on a free position shot with 19 seconds to play before the halftime break, the first of six unanswered Bryant goals en route to the 15-2 final and the program's first-ever Division I postseason berth.
Descalzo scored three of those second-half goals, with Burns and Sniffen rounding out their own hat tricks with second-stanza scores. As a team, Bryant went a perfect 17-of-17 on the clear while forcing the Mount into 15 turnovers and a 9-for-13 mark on the clear. Bryant also won the ground ball game, 15-10, led by four from Watt. Junior Katherine Keckeisen (Danbury, Conn.) also grabbed three, and led the Black and Gold with four draw control wins and contributed a pair of caused turnovers. Vendel finished her day with three ground balls and three caused turnovers to compliment her four points, as she also became the program's Division I single-season goals record holder.
The Bulldogs will now look forward to its next opponent in a Blue Devil side that topped Bryant, 9-8, in Smithfield, R.I., just three weeks ago. The winners of Friday's NEC Tournament Semifinals will advance to Sunday's title game in West Long Branch, N.J. Times of each NEC Tournament contest will be announced Monday.