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Bulldogs top Colonials, 15-13, in NEC clash of unbeatens, clinch fifth-straight NEC Tournament berth

Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography
Photo by Gretchen McMahon Photography

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – In a heavyweight Northeast Conference battle that pitted the league's last two unbeatens against each other, sophomore Lauren Britton (Monmouth Beach, N.J.) broke a 12-12 tie with six minutes left in regulation and the Bryant University women's lacrosse team never looked back, escaping Moon Township, Pa., with a 15-13 road victory over Robert Morris.

The victory secures the Bulldogs (9-4, 5-0 NEC) their fifth-straight NEC Tournament berth and marks the team's fifth-straight win.

After ties at 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5 through the opening 22 minutes of the contest, Bryant junior Meaghan Brennan (Glen Head, N.Y.) broke a 6-6 tie with 2:44 to play in the first half off a feed from sophomore Jess DeMeo (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) for a score that would start a four-goal run over the final three minutes. The stretch would give the Black and Gold a 10-6 halftime lead.

But the Colonials (10-5, 4-1) used the intermission to regroup and came out firing in the second, netting six of the first eight goals in the half to draw even once more, 12-12. Robert Morris called on five different scorers over the stretch that knotted the game for the sixth time at the 15:45 mark, while the Bulldogs saw the second tally of the day from senior Ali Cardinal (Schenectady, N.Y.) and game-high fourth from rookie Caitlin Breglia (Long Beach, N.Y.).

The teams would see even, scoreless action for the next 10 minutes of regulation before the Bulldogs finally broke through the draw, as Britton made good on a free position opportunity for her second score of the afternoon and a lead Bryant would never relinquish.

Senior Emily Columbus (East Northport, N.Y.) would net the eventual game winner less than 30 seconds later off her own free position firing at the 5:29 mark, and while Maggie Stella would pull the hosts back within one, 14-13, with 2:43 showing on the clock, Britton would polish off her hat trick with a security goal 88 seconds before the final whistle for the 15-13 final.

Breglia led the Bulldogs with four tallies and an assist for a game-high five points, while DeMeo joined Britton with a hat trick performance. Both netminders looked strong between the pipes, with Bryant junior Samantha Santeramo (Wantagh, N.Y.) recording 10 stops, including six in the second half. Katelyn Miller turned away 11 despite taking the loss for the Colonials.

Both teams played short benches in the contest, with Robert Morris supplementing its starting 12 with only two subs. The Bulldogs saw six come off the bench with four making an impact on the scoreboard in the form of goals from Columbus and Brennan and assists from rookie Leah Nocera (Westwood, Mass.) and junior Kendall McCartney (North Kingstown, R.I.).

Dana Davis led Robert Morris offensively, equaling Breglia's four tallies, while Stella and standout rookie Annie Sachs each chipped in hat tricks of their own.

Bryant dominated off the draw, winning the margin, 20-9, behind four wins apiece from senior defender Carly Cronin (Feeding Hills, Mass.), DeMeo and Britton. The Bulldogs fired 32 shots to the Colonials' 26, while both teams were strong on the clear.

Robert Morris won the edge in ground balls, 18-15, behind five from Davis, who also led the game with three caused turnovers. Santeramo led the Bulldogs in both categories with three ground balls and two caused turnovers.

Sunday's win clears the way for the Bulldogs to control their own postseason destiny entering the final weekend of regular-season action. Bryant will look to post their second unbeaten conference season in the program's 16-year history (2014) and second in the tenure of head coach Jill Batcheller when they host Mount St. Mary's (Friday, 4 p.m.) and Wagner (Sunday, 1 p.m.) at the Bryant Track & Turf Complex. The Mountaineers and the Seahawks are tied for third in the NEC standings.