Bulldogs clinch top seed, NEC crown with 16-9 win at LIU

Photo by Gretchen McMahon
Photo by Gretchen McMahon

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind a career-high four goals from senior Olivia McCarthy (Sea Girt, N.J.) and hat tricks from seniors Haley Bloom (Hauppauge, N.Y.), Lisa Vendel (Sandy Hook, Conn.) and Kimberley Sniffen (Redding, Conn.), the Bryant University women's lacrosse team remains undefeated after a 16-9 win over LIU Brooklyn on the road Friday afternoon, clinching Northeast Conference Tournament hosting rights and at least a share of the NEC regular-season crown.

With just one game remaining, the Bulldogs (12-3, 6-0 NEC) lock up the tournament's No. 1 seed with the victory and in the process tie the program's all-time mark for wins in a season. Of the team's 16 goals, 13 came from the Black and Gold senior class, with sophomores Lauren Descalzo (Hauppauge, N.Y.) (2 goals) and Nicole Britton (Monmouth Beach, N.J.) tacking on the final three in the victory. Britton also added a pair of helpers for the Black and Gold, who got single assists from senior midfielder Katherine Keckeisen (Danbury, Conn.) and sophomore attack Morgan LaBarbera (New Fairfield, Conn.). Bloom paced the game with six points, adding a trio of assists to her fourth hat trick of the season. The Blackbirds (3-12, 1-5) were led by two goals apiece from Jesenia Cantres and Jenn Peters.

"I am so proud of these girls for clinching the NEC title and the top seed entering the tournament in just our second year of eligibility," said Bryant head coach Jill DePetris-Batcheller. "I am just so excited for what's in store for these girls in the next week. They have worked so hard to get to where they are, and we will look to end the regular-season on a high note against Sacred Heart Sunday on Senior Day."

After a tight battle through the game's opening 22 minutes, the Bulldogs busted open a 4-4 tie, erupting for eight uninterrupted tallies that spanned both halves for a 12-4 lead from which the Blackbirds could not recover.

Bryant took a 9-4 lead into halftime after scoring five-straight goals in just a span of 4:25, with Vendel's first goal of the game giving the Bulldogs the 5-4 lead with 7:24 to play in the first session. McCarthy and Sniffen would find the back of the net just 17 seconds apart for a 7-4 Bryant advantage, and Bloom and Vendel would wrap up first-half scoring just 25 seconds apart in the frame's final minutes for the 9-4 margin at the intermission.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Bloom, Sniffen and McCarthy boosted the Bulldogs' edge to 12-4 in the span of less than a minute before LIU Brooklyn got back on the board and put a stop to the streaking Bulldog offense.

Goals by Peters and Brittany Rader cut the visitors' advantage to 12-6, but Vendel and Descalzo would respond in kind near the midway point of the stanza for a 14-6 lead with 14 minutes to play.

LIU would score three of the last five goals of the contest – with McCarthy adding the Bulldogs' final two tallies in consecutive fashion to complete her career-best showing – but the Blackbirds could not make up ground against the well-balanced Bulldog side.

On the day, the Bulldogs won nearly every statistical battle, outshooting the Blackbirds, 40-17, winning the ground ball game, 19-15, and leading on the draw, 14-12. Keckeisen paced the game with four ground balls, while Sniffen won a contest-high five draw controls. The pair also contributed three and two caused turnovers, respectively. Senior goalie Brianna Watt (Babylon, N.Y.) made five stops for her 12th victory of the season.

The Bulldogs will play their final regular-season matchup at home Sunday afternoon and will celebrate Senior Day against Sacred Heart University at 1:00 p.m.