Bryant Wins NEC Title to Make First-Ever NCAA Tournament
from press release
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Northeast Conference Tournament MVP Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.) scored his third-straight hat trick while NEC Player of the Year Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) went 21-for-25 at the faceoff X as the Bryant University men's lacrosse team earned the NEC's first-ever auto bid into the NCAA tournament as well as the school's first Division I NCAA tournament berth with a 14-7 victory over Robert Morris Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.
Junior midfielder Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) recorded a contest-best six points off two goals and four assists while the Bulldogs (8-10) dominated nearly every facet of the game as the Black and Gold defended their NEC Tournament Championship and 2013 regular-season title.
The Colonials (8-7) fell behind, 6-2, at the halftime break but used a four-goal third quarter to pull back within a single tally, 7-6, entering the final 15 minutes of play. But in the fourth quarter, the top-seeded Bulldogs exploded for seven goals – six of which came unanswered – to pull away for the victory in front of the home crowd.
"Our ability to close the game out was just remarkable today," said head coach Mike Pressler. "To win not only in front of our fans, our President and Athletic Director, but to also be the first team in Bryant history to go to the Division I NCAA tournament – there is so much emotion and excitement in that."
The hosts used a 4-0 first quarter on the back of tallies from Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.), Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.), Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) and McMahon to jump out ahead of the Colonials, who would quickly cut that lead in half to open the second off scores from Connor Martin and Dave Morton.
But those would be the only tallies of the first half for second-seeded Robert Morris, as the Bulldogs saw all-tournament team selection Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) put the home team up, 5-2, with 3:32 to go before the halftime break. Rookie midfielder Charles Everett (West Tisbury, Mass.) made it 6-2 with the first marker of his career, taking a pass from Morrell at the doorstep with two minutes left in the second to send Bryant into the intermission with a 6-2 advantage.
"The attack played great, and our middies were terrific," said Pressler. "And that sixth goal right before half from Charlie Everett – what a spectacular play to get us pumped up going into halftime."
But in the third, it was all Robert Morris, as Martin scored again just 14 seconds into the frame to cut the margin to 6-3. Brian Schlansker (Glenville, N.Y.) would temporarily restore the four-goal cushion with a man-up tally two minutes later, but the Colonials would close out the quarter with three-straight goals and narrow the gap to just one, 7-6.
The fourth remained close through the opening five minutes with scores coming from both sides – the first from Sipperly and the second from RMU's Eric Rankel – but Dunster would connect with Bulldog rookie Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.) for another man-up goal to extend Bryant's lead to 9-7 with just over nine to go, and the home side wouldn't look back, getting five more scores – two from McMahon, two from Dunster and another from Gantz – to close out the 14-7 victory.
On the day, Bryant outshot Robert Morris, 44-25, won the ground balls game, 59-26, and allowed the Colonials just four faceoff wins in 25 tries. Massa picked up 20 of those ground balls, while redshirt-freshman and all-tournament team pick Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made 11 stops between the pipes, including five in the fourth quarter.
McMahon would finish the NEC Tournament with six goals and four assists to pave the way to the NCAAs for the Black and Gold, while Bryant's starting attack wrapped up the tournament with 19 points. The first-line midfield of Gantz, Dunster and Zomerfeld chipped in 14 points, while Massa went 36-of-48 (.750) with 29 ground balls in the two-game stretch.
"There's no player more fitting to be the MVP than Peter McMahon," said Pressler. "He is playing the best lacrosse of his career right now, and I'm not sure if he isn't playing at this level that we are sitting here today as the NEC Champions."
Now, the Bulldogs will wait to hear who they must face in the NCAA tournament's opening round, a matchup they will find out Sunday night during ESPNU's 9:00 p.m. selection show.
"It doesn't matter who we play," said Pressler. "We will be traveling somewhere, and it doesn't matter. Our goal was to get to this point, and then once you get there to figure it out and find a way to go beyond.
"But we're going to come up with a plan to compete, and to beat," he continued. "We aren't going in there for any other reason. We are going in there to win – anything less than that wouldn't be us."
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