SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- The Bryant University women's lacrosse team makes its third NCAA tournament appearance of the last four years after clinching their third NEC Tournament title Sunday with a 16-7 win over third-seeded Wagner. Bryant will take on No. 8 Stony Brook in Friday's NCAA First Round in Stony Brook, N.Y., at 4:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs and the Seawolves have faced off twice before, including earlier this season, when Stony Brook topped Bryant, 20-5, Feb. 18 at LaValle Stadium. Stony Brook is 2-0 against the Black and Gold.
For just the second time in program history, the Bulldogs posted a perfect 7-0 record against NEC opponents this season, and, after winning the NEC Tournament, enter Friday's game on a nine-game winning streak. Over that stretch, the Black and Gold have outscored opponents, 148-73, to allow just 8.11 goals per game. Bryant earned its fourth-straight regular-season crown in 2017 and has hosted the NEC Tournament as the league's top seed for the last four seasons. The last time a team was perfect through the NEC slate in league history was the last time the Bulldogs did so in 2014.
BRYANT vs. THE AMERICA EAST
The Bulldogs went 1-2 against America East members in 2017, earning a 12-8 win over Vermont while suffering losses at Stony Brook, 20-5, and at UMass Lowell, 10-9 in overtime. Sophomore leading scorer and NEC Offensive Player of the Year Jess DeMeo paced the side in the trio of games, scoring 10 goals while adding three assists.
» A Matter of Record: The Bulldogs are 8-4 in postseason play at the Division I level, going an impressive 8-2 in NEC Tournament action while still looking for their first NCAA tournament win (0-2).
» Where you lead, I will follow: Bryant head coach Jill Batcheller has been named the NEC Coach of the Year for four-straight seasons.
» Senior Moment: The Bulldog Class of 2017 has posted an impressive 55-18 overall record in their four-year careers, including a 26-2 mark in NEC play alone.
BATCHELLER IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
While this is the third NCAA tournament for Jill Batcheller as a head coach, the fifth-year bench boss is no stranger to the dance. A 2007 graduate of Syracuse University, Batcheller was a four-year starting midfielder for the Orange and helped guide her team to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances in 2005 and 2007.
THE EYE OF THE STORM
Senior defender and captain Carly Cronin became the first women's lacrosse player drafted out of the Bulldog program. She was drafted by the United Women's Lacrosse League's Boston Storm last month. The three-year starter is a three-time all-conference selection for the Black and Gold. Cronin ranks seventh all-time in career draw controls (102), 12th in ground balls (120) and 13th in caused turnovers (54).
Sophomore attack Jess DeMeo became the fastest player in Bryant women's lacrosse history to hit the 100-point mark, eclipsing the threshold with her first of three goals in Sunday's NEC Championship. It took DeMeo, the 2016 NEC Rookie of the Year and 2017 NEC Offensive Player of the Year, just 35 games, over which she scored 88 goals, dished out 14 assists and averaged 2.9 points per game. Just two years into her Bulldog career, DeMeo already ranks 14th all-time in goals scored and 19th all-time in points.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Senior captain and four-year starting defender Molly Martin set the new Division I mark for career caused turnovers in 2017 and ranks second all-time in program history with 108 entering Friday's NCAA First Round. The three-time All-NEC First Teamer and two-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year also set a new program record for career games played with 73 and counting. She ranks seventh all-time in career ground balls (148).
Despite its firepower up front, the Bulldogs' backbone lies in its defense. The veteran group, headlined by senior defender Molly Martin and junior goalie Samantha Santeramo, boasts the nation's seventh-best defense, limiting opponents to just 8.53 goals per game. With Santeramo between the pipes, the Black and Gold rank fourth in team save percentage (.517) and 14th in scoring margin (+4.76). Bryant also boasts a top-15 winning percentage at .765.
Individually, Santeramo again highlights the list of accolades, ranking fourth nationally in save percentage (.534) and fifth in goals against average (8.15). She also averages 8.71 saves per outing, good for 34th in Division I. Averaging two free position goals per game, sophomore attack Jess DeMeo is ranked 25th in the category, also ranking 18th nationally in goals per game (3.18). She sits 56th overall in points per game (3.82), while senior Molly Martin boasts top-60 rankings in caused turnovers per game (54th, 1.65) and ground balls per game (49th, 2.65).
SPRING OF SAM
In addition to all her national rankings, junior crease protector Samantha Santeramo has held all but five opponents to single-digit goals, posting three-straight double-figure save outings from March 12-22. She has five 10+ stop performances this year, setting a career high with 19 against Delaware March 16.
NEC TOURNAMENT NUMBERS
NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player Samantha Santeramo turned away 26 and posted a stingy 8.50 goals against average to lead the Bulldogs to their weekend sweep to earn the league's AQ into the NCAA tournament. Santeramo posted a .605 save percentage and played all 120 minutes while picking up two ground balls. Sophomore NEC All-Tournament Team selection Jess DeMeo led the Bulldog offense with eight goals and three assists, going 5-for-7 on free position shots, while also leading the side with seven draw control wins. Junior attack Catlin Brown added six goals and one assists while rookie Caitlin Breglia scored six goals of her own. Senior midfielder Shannon Sullivan was a two-way force for the Black and Gold, scoring five times while forcing two caused turnovers to earn her own NEC All-Tournament Team accolades. Senior defender Molly Martin also earned all-tournament team honors for her performance on defense, where she gobbled up six ground balls and registered two caused turnovers. In total, seven different Bulldogs scored goals on the weekend, as Bryant outscored its competition, 33-17.
DeMEO, MARTIN, BATCHELLER TAKE HOME MAJOR NEC AWARDS, SEVEN EARN ALL-CONFERENCE
Headlined by three major award winners, the Bryant University women's lacrosse team placed seven on the All-Northeast Conference teams that were announced on the eve of the 2017 NEC Tournament. Sophomore attack Jess DeMeo was named the NEC Offensive Player of the Year, senior defender Molly Martin earned her second-straight NEC Defensive Player of the Year honor and head coach Jill Batcheller was named NEC Coach of the Year for the fourth-consecutive season.
DeMeo and Martin also earned first team all-league honors and were joined on the league's top team by freshman attack Caitlin Breglia and junior goalie Samantha Santeramo. Sophomore midfielder Lauren Britton and senior defender Carly Cronin were tabbed All-NEC Second Team selections, while Breglia also earend NEC All-Rookie Team honors.
Bryant has now been home to each of the last four NEC Offensive Players of the Year. DeMeo, the 2016 NEC Rookie of the Year, joins Lisa Vendel ('14), Lauren Descalzo ('15) and Nicole Britton ('16) as the other Bulldogs to win the league's top offensive honor. Martin became the first player in NEC history to earn back-to-back defensive player of the year accolades. Batcheller's unprecedented fourth-straight NEC Coach of the Year honor comes after the fifth-year bench boss led the Bulldogs to an 11-4 regular-season record and their second perfect league slate (7-0).