COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Senior attack Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) and junior linemate Cam Ziegler (Carlsbad, Calif.) fueled a fourth-quarter comeback for the Bryant University men's lacrosse team Sunday afternoon, but the Bulldogs would fall just short against No. 1 Maryland, 13-10, in the NCAA First Round at Maryland Stadium.
The duo scored the final five goals of the contest, all within the game's final seven minutes, to cut into a 13-5 Terrapin (13-3) lead down to just three goals. The pair totaled seven of the team's 10 scores on the day, with seniors Ryan Sharpe (Poway, Calif.), Tom Forsberg (Huntington, N.Y.) and Brett Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) recording the remaining Bulldog (11-8) tallies.
Tim Rotanz scored five for the top-ranked Terrapins, while Tewaaraton Award finalist Matt Rambo finished the day with eight points (2g, 6a). Colin Heacock added a pair while four other Maryland players finished with a goal.
After a strong first half that saw the Bulldogs trail by just two, 6-4, Bryant came out on its heels in the third, allowing the home side to score five times in the final 7:15 of the frame for an 11-5 advantage. Ziegler had the only Bulldog score of the quarter, connecting on a shot from five yards out off a pass from Forsberg with 25 ticks to go.
"The first half went like we scripted," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "We couldn't have put together a better first half. Down two on the road, we were right where we wanted to be. But that spurt halfway through the third quarter really hurt us and proved to be the difference in the game."
Maryland would open the fourth with two more to drive its lead to 13-5, but something in the Black and Gold would click midway through the final frame.
Junior midfielder Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.) got the stretch started with under eight to play, fighting for a loose ball near the midfield sideline and streaking to goal to feed James for a one-timer from the right side.
James would complete his hat trick just 30 seconds later with another one-timer off a pass from Forsberg to cut the score to 13-7, and Ziegler would move the margin to 13-8 from the doorstep, connecting up high off an assist from redshirt-freshman Jake Buonaiuto (Miller Place, N.Y.).
The Bulldogs proved why they are the third-ranked extra-man unit in the nation with 2:30 left on the clock, as Kennedy worked himself free to find Ziegler on the edge of the crease, and the junior wouldn't miss his mark.
James would get right back on the board 26 seconds later, netting another goal from the doorstep to cut the home team's lead down to just three, 13-10.
"That was just an incredible fourth quarter down the stretch for our guys," said Pressler. "I could not be more proud of our play and our effort in that fourth quarter."
Kennedy almost cut it to two in the final seconds, with Terps goalie Dan Morris (10 saves) getting just enough stick on a shot to scoop it up off the goal line, but the Black and Gold would not get any closer in the closing moments.
Kennedy finished with three assists on the afternoon, while Forsberg added a pair of helpers for three points on the day. James's four goals upped his season total to a career-high 70, setting a new DI single-season program record, while Ziegler's three marked his fifth hat trick of the year.
"Tucker and Cam have had great seasons," said Pressler. "If they had another five minutes, who know what would have happened. But Maryland made the plays to make that third-quarter spurt, and that proved to be the difference."
In the first quarter, Baker answered two early Terrapin goals at the 10:28 mark, taking his defenseman to nearly goal-line extended and firing a sharp-angled laser across Morris's body to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Maryland would restore a two-goal edge five minutes later, but Forsberg answered with 1:17 to go in the quarter, switching hands just yards from the cage to fire a lefty shot over Morris's shoulder for a 3-2 score.
Colin Heacock sent the home side into the second with a 4-2 lead with three seconds remaining, as the rebound of his own blocked shot popped right back into his stick, giving the senior an open look on goal.
In the second, the teams would trade tallies, with Terps senior Dylan Maltz making Bryant pay for a failed clear just three minutes in. Senior defenseman Kyle Mummau (Carlsbad, Calif.) would create the turnover on defense, but Bryant couldn't possession in the offensive end as Maltz streaked down the field for a transition score and a 5-2 lead.
Sharpe brought it back to two with 9:29 to go, weaving through the defense down the middle to rip a shot from seven yards out. Less than three minutes later, Rotanz would complete his hat trick, and James would complete all first-half scoring with 66 ticks left and Bryant's first of two man-up scores (2-for-3) for the 6-4 halftime margin.
"We slowed the game down by playing some zone, and we were very efficient in our shooting," said Pressler of the first half. "They made a couple plays on mistakes by us. A failed clear, a bad penalty, and they make you pay. Give Maryland credit – they don't beat themselves too often. They make you beat them, and that's why they are the No. 1 team in college lacrosse."
Redshirt-junior faceoff specialist Kenny Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) went 12-for-25 from the X on the day, while junior midfielder Kyle Cornell (Darien, Conn.) led the contest with five ground balls. Junior goalie James Werner (New Rochelle, N.Y.) made four saves before giving way to rookie Viper Scheele (Jupiter, Fla.), who stopped one in the first appearance of his career.
On the contest, the Bulldogs outshot the Terps, 35-28, putting 20 on goal. Bryant also won the advantage on ground balls, 31-25, went 11-of-12 on the clear, and limited its turnovers to just nine – one above the team's season low.
Bryant 12-man senior class drove the Bulldogs all season long, leading the Black and Gold to its fourth NCAA tournament appearance and fifth Northeast Conference Tournament title, posting an 11-8 overall record.
"This is one of the greatest classes of young men that I've ever had the joy to coach in my 34 years," said Pressler. "Great character guys, great students – they are a class that does everything right and a class that I am just so fond of. I am a much better man and a much better coach having them in my life."
The Bulldogs have now won 10 or more games in eight of Pressler's 11 seasons, including three of the last four. The Class of 2017 leaves the program with a 45-28 four-year record.