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Bulldogs stage comeback but fall short against Brown in Ocean State Cup matchup

Photo by: Gretchen McMahon
Photo by: Gretchen McMahon

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The No. 20/15 Bryant University men's lacrosse team cut a 9-2 hole down to just two goals in the middle of the fourth quarter but couldn't overcome its largest deficit of the season, falling to intrastate rival Brown, 13-11, Tuesday night at Stevenson Field in the Ocean State Cup title bout.

The Bulldogs (11-4) got off to a slow start and found themselves in a 3-1 hole thanks to Brown (7-6) goals from Tim Jacob, Matt Graham and Sam Hurster, and the Bears more than doubled that lead less than three minutes into the second frame, 6-1.

Brown would extend that lead to 7-1, scoring four straight to open the second quarter, before the Bulldog attack finally got possession for an extra-man opportunity off a slashing call on Brendan Caputo. It took only seconds for rookie Brett Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) to find the back of the net, assisted by sophomore Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.), making a dent in the Bears' six-goal advantage, but Brown would get it back less than five minutes later on the second score of the day from Jacob.

With just 31 seconds left in the frame, Dylan Molloy polished off the Bears' only hat trick of the night as well as the first-half scoring, firing a rocket past sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) for a 9-2 halftime margin. Molloy would finish the day with a game-best six points (5g, 1a) for the home side.

The Bulldogs saw just nine shots and 10 turnovers in the opening two quarters, taking only four shots in the second stanza.

"I was very, very disappointed with our lack of emotion and excitement at the beginning of the game," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "We were just not ready to play in the first 30 minutes. When you have more turnovers than shots in the first half, you are going to be down by a bunch, and we were."

But in the third, the Bulldogs came out with new life, closing the gap to 9-4 in the first two possessions off a transition goal from Morrell, assisted by longstick midfielder Cody O'Donnell (Smithfield, R.I.), and a man-up tally from Dunster off the dish from Brian Schlansker (Glenville, N.Y.).

A single tally from Hurster interrupted the Bulldogs' five-score run, putting the Bears up, 10-4, before three more markers from the Bulldog ranks, a run started off by senior Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.). With eight to go in the third, the midfielder took a pass from Schlansker 15 feet out straight in front of the goal and fired it home past Brown goalie Will Round to cut Brown's lead to 10-5. Rookie attack Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) would follow with a laser into the back of the net from the right side off a feed behind the net from Morrell, and senior middie Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) capitalized on Bryant's sixth man-up chance of the day with a bounce shot assisted by linemate Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) with 90 seconds left in the quarter to cut the hosts' advantage to just three, 10-7.

But Brown would renew a four-goal lead heading into the final 15 minutes on another Graham score with 32 ticks to go.

In the fourth, the Bulldogs would again outscore the Bears, 4-2, with O'Donnell, senior JK Poirier (Coatesville, Pa.), Morrell and Dunster finding the back of the net to get back within two twice – 12-10 with eight to play and again for the final margin, 13-11 – but Bryant's nine-goal second half wasn't enough in the end to overcome the team's sloppy start.

"We were very mad at halftime," said Pressler. "We were very disappointed and emotional and embarrassed, and I was very pleased with our response. We cut it back to two goals, and there were a couple times we could have cut it to one and didn't. But at the end of the day, it's so difficult to come back from a seven-goal deficit in 30 minutes, especially on the road."

Bryant's 13 goals allowed were the most the Black and Gold have let up all season and came from six different Brown scorers. The Bulldogs saw goals from eight different players on the evening, paced by a Morrell hat trick. The sophomore added two assists for a five-point day.

On the day, Bryant was outshot by Brown, 35-34, and lost the ground ball battle, 29-25. Junior faceoff specialist Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) picked up a game-best nine ground balls and went 16-of-28 from the X. Waldt made eight stops between the pipes, including five following difficult first half, while Round (10) and goalie Jack Kelly (2) combined for a 12-save winning effort for the Bears. 

"We're going to try to erase this one and move on. To dwell on the first 30 minutes and the outcome does us no good right now," said Pressler. "To win the Ocean State Cup would have been a nice feather in our caps, but we didn't, and we have bigger goals in front of us. We made the NEC Tournament, and our postseason hopes remain alive in a very positive way."

The Bulldogs look forward to their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at home, hosting Wagner College at Bulldog Stadium at 1 p.m. on Senior Day. The NEC Tournament is slated to begin May 1.