SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Just 78 seconds into the 2017 season, the Bryant University men's lacrosse team took a lead it wouldn't relinquish, as seven different scorers and a pair of hat tricks led the Bulldogs to a 17-10 season-opening victory over Manhattan College Saturday on the road.
"Any opening-game win, especially a season-opening road win, is a good win," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "I was really pleased with our energy and our effort today, right from the start."
Starting attack Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) and Cam Ziegler (Carlsbad, Calif.) each picked up first-half hat tricks to lead the Bulldogs (1-0) on offense, while junior goalie James Werner (New Rochelle, N.Y.) looked strong in his debut as a starter between the pipes. James (3 goals, 3 assists) and Ziegler (4g, 2a) paced the game with six points apiece.
Following an opening goal by Ziegler, Manhattan (0-1) midfielder Reid Martin knotted the score off the Jaspers' first shot of the day. But the deadlock would last less than three minutes before a sharp-angled shot by James got the senior captain his first goal of 2017 and 99th of his career to put Bryant back on top, 2-1.
Ziegler and junior Tom Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) would pad that lead for a 4-1 advantage, and the season's opening quarter would end with a tally from Manhattan's Brandon Grinnell with 1:28 left in the frame.
A second-chance goal from Parker Giarratana off a Bryant turnover in transition cut the Bulldogs' lead just one, 4-3, midway through the second. Just seconds into the first extra-man opportunity of the year, though, Kyle Cornell (Darien, Conn.) (4 assists) connected with Ziegler on the left side, and the junior lasered a shot past Jasper goalie Michael Zingaro (16 saves) to complete his first-half hat trick.
Rookie Jake Buonaiuto (Miller Place, N.Y.) earned his first collegiate score with 3:09 to go before the intermission off a pass from Ziegler to double-up the Jaspers, 6-3, and Vailas and James (2) would also tack on scores in the final minutes to send the Black and Gold into the halftime break with a comfortable 9-3 advantage. The first of James's consecutive scores marked the 100th of his career.
"I was really pleased with the last six minute of the second," said Pressler. "It was a 4-3 game and we scored five in a row to really stretch the lead going into halftime. That was the turning point of the game. We really blew the game open there, and, being on the road, that was huge for us."
Back-to-back Jasper goals less than a minute apart early in the third closed the gap to 9-5 with 11:39 still to play in the stanza, but Ryan Sharpe (Poway, Calif.) would connect with the upper right corner on the extra-man chance to return Bryant's lead to five with 8:02 remaining on the clock.
Off a failed Manhattan clear minutes later, Kevin Quigley (Fairfax Station, Va.) got in on the action, ripping a long shot from the right side into the net, and junior midfielder Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.) made good on his own deep shot to end the third with a 12-5 margin favoring the Bulldogs.
The visitors would pour in five more goals in the final quarter of action – these from Ziegler, Buonaiuto, Kennedy, Quigley and Sharpe – and the hosts would get on the board five more times themselves, but Bryant would hold tight to the victory, 17-10, at the final whistle.
"The key for us offensively was that our attack overall had a very good day," said Pressler. "Jake Buonaiuto was rock solid in his debut, and Cam did a really good job of taking advantage of his opportunities. I thought Tucker was good today but maybe a little overzealous at times. He was hyped up for his debut in his senior season. But we saw nine goals from our attack today, and that's what you want from any good offense."
Grinnell led the Jaspers, solidifying a hat trick in the fourth quarter of his collegiate debut, while Giarratana, Martin and Luke Hanson all finished the day with two scores. Hanson also registered the only caused turnover of the day for the hosts.
Werner faced 29 shots from the Manhattan lineup, making nine saves (.562) and letting in seven goals before giving way to sophomore Kevin Beimfohr (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) for the final 3:25 of the contest.
"I thought James was solid in his debut," said Pressler. "Not only was it his debut as a starter, but he grew up 10 minutes from that field, so this was his backyard. He made key saves for us today, and I could not be more pleased with how James played overall."
Junior faceoff specialist Kenny Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) went 13-for-25 from the X (.520) before giving way to rookie James Stoler (Penfield, N.Y.) in the fourth (0-6). Massa led both teams with nine ground balls, while seven different Bulldogs combined for eight caused turnovers. Robert Carroll went 18-of-30 at the faceoff with seven ground balls for the Jaspers.
On the day, Bryant went 3-for-4 with the extra man and went 15-of-17 on the clear. But the Jaspers won the ground ball game, 29-25, and committed just two faceoff violations to Bryant's seven.
The Bulldogs will enjoy the victory but won't dwell on it too long, with a Feb. 11 visit to Bucknell looming just a week away. Bryant will faceoff against the Bison in Lewisburg, Pa., next Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We rode the momentum of a very good preseason in this game," said Pressler, "and going into our second game of the year – a tough one to say the least – I like where our team is headed here in early February."