Bulldogs open NEC play Friday at home, travel to Sacred Heart Sunday

Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography
Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University women's lacrosse team jumps headfirst into Northeast Conference action, hosting LIU Brooklyn Friday night at the Bryant Track & Turf Complex before traveling to Sacred Heart for a 1 p.m. Sunday matchup.

The Bulldogs (4-4, 0-0 NEC) hold the edge in both all-time series, posting a 7-1 margin against the Blackbirds (2-6, 0-0) and a 6-3 mark against the Pioneers (2-7, 0-0).

Bryant's only loss to LIU Brooklyn came back in the teams' first meeting, when the Blackbirds edged out a 22-20 win at home on April 19, 2009. Since then, the Black and Gold have outscored Friday night's visitors, 113-57, including a trio of 10+ goal victories. The Bulldogs have never scored less than 13 goals (2016) against LIU Brooklyn and have held the Blackbirds to single digits five times, including in three of the last four meetings. Bryant is a perfect 3-0 at home in the series.

The Bulldogs enter Sunday's game against the Pioneers on a five-game series winning streak, including a 13-12 overtime victory in last season's NEC Tournament Semifinal. The last defeat Bryant suffered at the hands of Sacred Heart was in 2012 on the road (11-10), and the Black and Gold are undefeated at home in five contests. Four of the nine all-time meetings have been determined by a single goal.

SCOUTING THE BLACKBIRDS
Led by returning all-conference first teamer Jenn Peters (24g, 7a), LIU Brooklyn averages 11.38 goals per game despite just a 2-6 record in 2017. But the name of the Blackbirds' game is defense, where they rank inside the national top-10 for caused turnovers per game (3rd, 12.75) and ground balls per game (10th, 22.13). Sierra O'Connor leads the way with 2.50 forced giveaways per outing, ranking ninth nationally, while collecting 3.38 ground balls per game for 14th on the DI circuit. Goalie Virginia Gibbons ranks eighth in the latter category with 3.63 per outing, and the Blackbirds have three players ranked inside the top-60 in both categories. Gibbons enters the contest with a .335 save percentage and 15.07 goals against average. She makes 7.13 saves per game. Offensively, Mary McQueen (14g, 3a), Tori Shinkowitz (10g, 6a), Jillian May (9g, 4a) and O'Connor (9g, 1a) join Peters as the team's double-digit point getters. Shinkowitz also leads the side with 19 draws.

SCOUTING THE PIONEERS
Senior midfielder Caitlin Delaney leads Sacred Heart in nearly every statistical category, pacing the team in assists (11), points (27), free position goals (3), ground balls (23), draw controls (25), caused turnovers (27, fourth nationally) and shots (64). She ranks second in goals (16) behind 18 from classmate Alyssa Pearce, but, as a team, the Pioneers average just 8.00 goals per outing. The will be facing a Bryant side that has limited opponents to just nine goals per game entering weekend play, good for 16th in the nation. Averi Farhat is the team's only other double-digit scorer with 14 tallies. Between the pipes, Paige Hammick has played every second of 2017 action, posting a 13.08 goals against average with a .376 save percentage and 71 stops.

BRYANT IN NEC OPENERS
The Bulldogs are 5-2 all-time in NEC openers dating back to the 2010 season but have won each of the last four. Bryant has only opened the league slate at home twice – in 2015 and 2011 – and is 1-1 after a 12-8 win over Central Connecticut two seasons ago. The Black and Gold have never opened the year against LIU Brooklyn.

Games on both Friday and Sunday can be seen live and free-of-charge at NECfrontrow.com.