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2018 Season Preview: Attack, Midfield

Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography
Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography

This is the second of a two-part series previewing the 2018 Bryant University men's lacrosse team. For the first installment, click HERE.

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University men's lacrosse team enters 2018 having graduated four of its top six goal scorers from a year ago and four of its top seven players in points.

It presents an opportunity for a talented group of attackmen and midfielders, led by a trio of seniors, to take the next step in Bryant's quest for its sixth Northeast Conference title in the last seven seasons.

It starts at the X, where graduate student Kenny Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) returns after winning 58.4 percent of face-offs a year ago, a mark that led the NEC and ranked 15th nationally. Massa added 120 ground balls for the Bulldogs, good for seventh in the nation, and was a first-team all-NEC selection.

Head coach Mike Pressler, entering his 12th season in Smithfield, called Massa "one of the most dominant" players he's coached among face-off specialists. In all five of Bryant's conference championship seasons, the Bulldogs have fielded the top face-off specialist in the NEC, as Massa's older brother Kevin held the top mark from 2012-15 before Kenny did it in 2017.

There is depth behind Massa at the position in 2018, as sophomore James Stoler (Penfield, N.Y.) and freshman Jack Aigner (Brighton, Mich.) will also be ready to take a face-off when called upon.

Bryant boasts two four-year starters in the midfield in seniors Kyle Cornell (Darien, Conn.) and Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.). Both were all-conference selections a year ago and return a combined 68 points to the Bulldog offense. Kennedy's 24 goals a year ago were good for third on the team, while Cornell's 22 assists were second. Pressler describes the duo as "two of the best two-way midfielders" he's coached at Bryant.

A deep group that includes seniors Tommy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) and Nick Hallmark (Novato, Calif.), juniors Kevin Quigley (Fairfax Station, Va.) and Matt Heldberg (Kings Park, N.Y.), sophomore Andre Gomez (Melville, N.Y.) and freshmen Nick Beeson (Poway, Calif.) and Austin Kent (Franklin, Mass.) will challenge each other for time on the field in 2018.

A veteran presence also leads the Bulldog attack, as four-year starter Cam Ziegler (Carlsbad, Calif.) returns after a 31-goal, 16-assist season in 2017. Ziegler had seven multi-goal games a year ago and five of three or more tallies.

Redshirt-sophomore Jake Buonauito (Miller Place, N.Y.) was an NEC all-rookie selection a year ago with 14 goals and 20 ground balls in his first full season on the field. Junior Luke Finneran (Greenwich, Conn.) and freshman Marc O'Rourke (Hingham, Mass.) will also contribute on attack for the Bulldogs.

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.

Follow Bryant University men's lacrosse on Twitter and Instagram to get an inside look at the program.