SMITHFIELD, RI – Jess DeMeo (Mount Sinai, NY) scored five goals and added three assists while Shannon Sullivan (Farmingdale, NY) added four goals to lead the top-seeded Bryant University women's lacrosse team to a 17-10 victory over fourth-seeded Sacred Heart in the semifinals of the 2017 Northeast Conference tournament Friday. With the win, the Bulldogs advance to the conference championship on Sunday where they will face the winner of Friday's second semifinal round game between second seeded Robert Morris and third seed Wagner College.
Making its fifth-consecutive NEC tournament appearance, Bryant (12-4) will be seeking its third conference title and first since 2015.
Sacred Heart (6-11) jumped out quickly on the Bulldogs, scoring the game's first three goals in a span of three minutes to take an early 3-0 lead. Caitlin Delaney scored just over three minutes into the game and after a goal across the middle from Liana Doyle, Delaney added her second of game just 19 seconds later prompting Bryant to call a quick timeout.
The timeout worked as DeMeo, the NEC's Offensive Player of the Year, took a feed from teammate Catlin Brown (San Diego, Calif.) after Brown scooped up a ground ball near midfield and worked her way through the Pioneer defense to find DeMeo for the tally. The goal would be the first of five consecutive scores for Bryant as DeMeo's free position goal following a great clear out of Bryant's defensive end by Molly Martin (Island Park, NY) pulled the Bulldogs to within a goal at 3-2. Moments later, Brown netted her first of the day with a quick shot past SHU goalie Paige Hammick to tie the game at 3-3 with 16:33 to play.
Sullivan would net the first of her four on the day on the left side to give Bryant its first lead of the game, 4-3 with 15:56 to go in the first half. After a DeMeo goal to make it 6-4, SHU's Alyssa Pearce put one past Bryant goalie Samantha Santeramo (Wantagh, NY) to bring the Pioneers to within a goal and stop the Bryant scoring run, but it was all Bryant from there.
The Bulldogs would out-score Sacred Heart 6-2 in the final 10 minutes to take an 11-6 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Bulldogs would keep the pressure on in the second half, using strong play at the draw and excellent play in goal by Santeramo. Despite the wet and rainy conditions throughout the afternoon, Santeramo, a first-team all-conference selection and ranked seventh nationally in goals against average, finished with 9 saves on the day. The junior made a dazzling stop on a point-blank attempt by Pearce late in the first half that would lead to a goal from Bryant's Ali Cardinal (Schenectady, NY). Minutes later Santeramo came up big once again, stopping Sydney Ericson right in front of the Bryant net to help preserve the Bulldog lead.
Delaney finished with five goals to lead the Pioneers while Pearce and Doyle added two apiece. The Bulldogs out-shot SHU 33 to 25 and won the draw control battle 15-13 – including 8-3 in the second half.
Sunday's championship game will start at 1 p.m. and can be seen on www.NECFront.row.