SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- The Bryant University women's lacrosse team makes its fifth-consecutive NEC Tournament appearance in 2017 and will host the league postseason as the top seed for the fourth-straight year. The Bulldogs will take on fourth-seeded Sacred Heart in the first of two NEC Semifinals Friday at 1 p.m. at the Track & Turf Complex.
This year's NEC Semifinal matchup marks the Bulldogs' and Pioneers' 11th meeting and second in the conference postseason. Bryant leads the series, 7-3. The Bulldogs remain undefeated against the Pioneers in Smithfield, including a 13-12 overtime win over SHU in the 2016 NEC Semifinal. The last time the two teams met, in this year's regular-season matchup, the Black and Gold handled the Pioneers, 11-5, in Fairfield.
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS
Sacred Heart finished tied for third in the NEC standings but lost the tiebreaker with Wagner by virtue of a 17-5 regular-season loss to the Seahawks. The Pioneers enter the postseason off back-to-back one-goal wins, defeating Saint Francis U. and Robert Morris in Fairfield last weekend. Senior midfielder Caitlin Delaney has carried the Pioneers this season, leading the team in nearly every statistical category, including goals, assists, points, ground balls, draw controls and caused turnovers. Delaney ranks fifth in the NEC with 1.19 assists per game and is tied for ninth with 3.25 points per game. The senior earned both NEC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week in the final week of regular-season play and is an All-NEC First Team pick. Junior goalie Paige Hammick has started all 16 games this season, ranking fourth in the league with a 12.31 goals against average and eighth with a .377 save percentage.
BRYANT vs. THE NORTHEAST CONFERENCE
For just the second time in program history, the Bulldogs posted a perfect 7-0 record against NEC opponents this season, staying unbeaten through the month of April, including three games on the road. The Black and Goal managed to score more than double the goals of their league foes, netting 115 to their opponents' 56. Bryant tops nearly every category in NEC play. The last time a team was perfect through the NEC slate in league history was when the Bulldogs did so in 2014.
TAKING BACK THE TITLE
After falling short as the No. 1 seed in last year's NEC Tournament, the Bulldogs look for redemption as the postseason tourney returns to Smithfield. After defeating No. 4 Sacred Heart, 13-12, in overtime in last year's semis, Bryant fell to No. 2 Wagner, 11-7, in the championship game. The 2017 postseason marks the Bulldogs' fifth-consecutive NEC Tournament appearance after capturing the league title in 2014 and 2015.
The Bulldogs enter postseason play on a seven-game winning streak, courtesy of its 7-0 mark in the NEC.
As a team, the Bulldogs possess 15 top-100 national rankings, including holding opponents to just 8.53 goals per game to rank 10th in scoring defense. Four Bulldogs -- seniors Molly Martin and Carly Cronin, junior Samantha Santeramo and sophomore Jess DeMeo -- have combined for 13 individual top-100 rankings. DeMeo possesses six rankings on her own, including ranking 30th in the country for goals per game (3.07). Santeramo has put together a standout junior campaign between the pipes, headlining the Bulldogs' national rankings list with two inside the top-10. The goalie averages the sixth-best save percentage in the country (.521) and holds the nation's seventh-best goals against average (8.10). Santeramo leads the conference in both categories.
Thursday's second NEC Semifinal will pit No. 2 Robert Morris against No. 3 Wagner Friday at 4 p.m. The winners of each semifinal will meet in the NEC Championship Sunday at 1 p.m.
All three games of the NEC Tournament can be seen live on NEC Front Row. Fans can follow all the action on twitter with @bryantgameday and @necwlax and follow along with livestats at bryantbulldogs.com.