This is the first of a two-part series previewing the 2018 Bryant University men's lacrosse team. Wednesday, BryantBulldogs.com looks at the Bulldogs defensively.
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University men's lacrosse team begins its 10th Division I season Saturday at home against Manhattan as the Bulldogs aim for their sixth Northeast Conference title in the last seven years.
In all five of those conference title seasons, Bryant has ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense. With a solid group returning both among defenders and in goal, the Bulldogs look to continue that success in 2018.
The experience starts in the cage, where senior James Werner (New Rochelle, N.Y.) returns after ranking in the top 10 nationally in goals-against average (7.85) and save percentage (.552) in 2017. Werner will get the start in Saturday's season opener and be backed up by junior Kevin Beimfohr (Mountain Lakes, N.J.), who made two appearances a year ago, and freshman Easton Gormican (Coronado, Calif.).
"In my 12 years here at Bryant, I've never had three goalies playing at such a high level entering the season," said head coach Mike Pressler.
Pressler describes the Bulldogs' close defense as the "backbone of the team," as Bryant returns a duo that started all 19 games last year in graduate student Chas South (Ridgefield, Conn.) and senior Anthony Johnson (Fairfield, Conn.). South ranked third among NEC defenders in ground balls (51) and fifth in the conference in caused turnovers (22), while Johnson added 37 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers.
The duo is joined by senior Jake Chandler (Charlotte, N.C.), who returns to the field after appearing in nine games as a sophomore in 2016. Freshmen Taggart Eymer (Scituate, Mass.) and Ryan Baker (Draper, Utah) also look to make an impact in their first season in Smithfield.
The Bulldogs bring back a wealth of depth among their long stick midfielders, led by a trio of sophomores in Jake Fiske (Poway, Calif.), Zach Coffey (West Newbury, Mass.) and Jack Callahan (Victor, N.Y.). Fiske is the most experienced of the group, as he appeared in all 19 games as a freshman, collecting 19 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. Freshman Scott Phillips (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) looks to contribute to the group as well.
Bryant's short stick defensive midfielders are a group that Pressler was impressed with in the preseason, as some new faces will gain playing time in 2018.
Juniors Will Hamernick (Darien, Conn.) and Matt Wujciak (Essex Fells, N.J.), sophomore Joe Peroni (Lakeville, Mass.) and freshman Emmet Kemble (Clifton, Va.) will lead the Bulldogs' defensive transition group, as a quartet that has logged a combined 17 career games – all from Hamernick – will challenge each other for playing time in 2018.
Bryant opens its 2018 season at home Saturday when the Bulldogs host Manhattan at 1 p.m. The regular season slate also features a pair of teams ranked in the preseason USILA/Nike Coaches Poll, as No. 5 Yale will visit Smithfield March 3 and Bryant will travel to No. 20 Brown in the regular season finale April 24.