SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind a trio of two-goal scorers, the Bryant University men's lacrosse team took down Mount St. Mary's, 9-7, Saturday afternoon at the Bryant Turf Complex.
Freshman Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.), junior Brian Schlansker (Glenville, N.Y.) and sophomore Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) each found the back of the net twice as the Bulldogs (10-3, 3-1 Northeast Conference) move into sole possession of second place in the NEC standings, while the Mountaineers (0-13, 0-4 NEC) remain winless on the year.
Right from the get-go, long possessions and hard-nosed defense from both teams kept each sides attack at bay as the two squads combined for just five first-half goals. However, it was Bryant who struck first with James's first of the afternoon at the 12:53 mark.
"Mount had a specific plan coming into the game," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "To play zone defense and deliberate offensively, and the plan was successful for much of the game. It was difficult to get into any rhythm and we had to be mentally tough to withstand it. The story of the game was that we shot better."
The score stood at 1-0 for nearly 10 minutes until senior Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) found Schlansker at the 3:50 mark to double the Bulldog advantage, 2-0. The Mountaineers answered back just over a minute later when Clayton Wainer found a hole to cut the Black and Gold edge in half, 2-1, at the end of the first quarter.
The second period featured more methodical play with 15 minutes of game time passing before Wainer found the back of the net again at the 1:18 mark, knotting the score 2-2. In the final minute of the half, Bryant forced a big turnover behind its own cage and quickly countered, converting the go-ahead score as James found Morrell for his first of the afternoon with 11 seconds remaining on the clock.
"Shane [Morrell] has been our best offensive player the last two games," added Pressler. "It was nice to get Tucker James back on track as well."
Coming out of the locker room up 3-2, the Black and Gold wasted little time adding to their lead, capitalizing on a pair of Mount penalties with man-up scores from Schlansker and Dunster less than a minute into the third quarter.
With the momentum quickly tilting in the hosts favor, Mount St. Mary's responded just as they had all game with Mike Daly's first goal of the year, keeping the Mountaineers within striking distance, down, 5-3, with just over nine minutes to play in the third.
In the final two minutes of the period, sophomore William Gould (New Canaan, Conn.) found Morrell for his second of the afternoon, putting the Bulldogs up three briefly, until Spencer Smith brought the visitors back within two, 6-4, heading in the fourth quarter.
The final 15 minute period began similarly to the previous one with Bryant putting up a pair in the opening minutes behind scores from seniors Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) and Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.), extending the Bulldog lead to four, 8-4, with 11:16 left to play.
However, the pesky Mountaineers did not go down without a fight as they scored three of the final four goals to come within two, 9-7, with just over two minutes to play. But, the calm and composed Bulldogs quickly thwarted any hope of a last-minute comeback as a lengthy final possession solidified the 9-7 victory.
Sophomore goalkeeper Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) continued his string of solid play, making seven saves in his 10 victory of the season. Offensively, James was Bryant's top point earner with two goals and a two assists to his credit, while Schlankser, Morrell and Duntser each put up three-point efforts. Junior defenseman Connor Dent (Havertown, Pa.) was a menace to the Mountaineers attack all afternoon, causing five turnovers and scooping up four groundballs.
"At the end of the day it's an NEC win," said Pressler. "And at this point in the season you take a win any way you can get it."
Looking ahead, the Black and Gold return to action on Saturday when they make the trek to Moon Township, Pa., for a showdown with Robert Morris.