SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University men's lacrosse team never trailed against No. 19 Monmouth Wednesday evening, getting goals from seven different players en route to a 10-7 NCAA Opening Round victory to earn the right to face No. 1 Maryland in the NCAA First Round Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs (11-7) are now 2-1 in NCAA Opening Round contests and a perfect 2-0 when hosting. The Black and Gold will faceoff against the Terrapins Sunday in College Park, Md., on ESPNU.
"Speaking for our entire program, we are absolutely thrilled to win an NCAA game at home and have a chance to play the No. 1 team in the nation at their place Sunday," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "It was a great day for the Bryant Bulldogs."
MAAC Champion Monmouth (14-4) found itself in a 3-0 hole less than nine minutes into Wednesday's game thanks to two scores from senior midfielder Brett Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) and the second-career score from senior Pearse McEneaney (Glastonbury, Conn.).
"That was huge for us, especially at home," said Pressler. "Monmouth was playing in their first NCAA playoff game ever, and to force them to play from behind was exactly the kind of start that we needed."
Eamon Campbell would close that gap to just one, 3-2, with consecutive tallies to wrap up the first quarter, but senior Tom Forsberg (Huntington, N.Y.) would respond 19 ticks into the second as a result of the opening faceoff victory. Junior attack Cam Ziegler (Carlsbad, Calif.) saved the ball on the sideline and passed it off to classmate Kyle Cornell (Darien, Conn.), who found Forsberg on the right side. Forsberg charged to the edge of the crease and fired a close-up shot right over the shoulder of Hawks goalie Nick Hreshko (8 saves) for the 4-2 edge.
Junior Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.) upped the Bulldogs' lead minutes later off a pass from senior linemate Ryan Sharpe (Poway, Calif.), but the Hawks closed out the half with an Eric Berger tally for a 5-3 margin at the intermission.
A deadlocked third quarter would break wide open for the Bulldogs in the final three minutes, starting with a man-up goal from Sharpe that would tie the senior at the top of the national rankings (9 man-up goals in 2017). Just 50 seconds later, Hreshko gave up a slight rebound off a shot from Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) that dribbled to the edge of the crease, where redshirt-freshman Jake Buonaiuto (Miller Place, N.Y.) gobbled it up and flicked in home for a 7-3 Bulldog advantage.
With 1:40 remaining, McEneaney got back on the board, barreling through a scrum in front of the net to scoop up a loose ball and fling it past Hreshko. It was the first multi-goal game for the senior, who has now scored three goals in the last three games after not registering a tally previously in his career.
"Pearse has really been coming on strong in practice over the last month," said Pressler. "He's earned the right to play as a senior, and we couldn't be more proud of him. He's earned this and he deserves this."
With just five seconds left in the third, James got himself on the board with a sharp-angle shot from just above goal-line extended to send Bryant into the fourth with a 9-3 lead.
Bryant hit the 10-goal mark – just the fourth time Monmouth has allowed double-digit scores – with 12:08 left in regulation off the second tally of the day from Forsberg. And while sloppy play marred the final minutes of the fourth, allowing Monmouth to score four times in the final 5:23, the Bulldogs would hold on to win and advance out of opening-round action.
The Bulldogs move past Monmouth, 10-7, in the NCAA Opening Round. They now will face No. 1 Maryland on Sunday at 2:30 pm in College Park. pic.twitter.com/np4laeE75L— Bryant Athletics (@BryantAthletics) May 11, 2017
Junior goalie James Werner (New Rochelle, N.Y.) made nine saves to preserve the victory, while junior faceoff specialist Kenny Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) finished the day 14-for-19 with nine ground balls. Massa was a perfect 6-for-6 in the fourth and went 9-for-10 in the second half alone.
"Kenny really picked up his play in the third quarter, and I think his faceoff wins mirrored our production," said Pressler. "His wins allowed us to make that run to blow the game open from a 5-3 game to a 10-3 game."
On the day, Bryant won the margins for shots, 30-26, and ground balls, 31-25. Both teams failed just two clears, while the Bulldogs went 1-for-1 with the extra man. Monmouth scored on three of its four extra-man opportunities. Bryant saw five caused turnovers in the affair, including two apiece from Cornell and senior LSM Jared Kaden (Martinsville, N.J.).
But the Bulldogs won't have long to enjoy the victory, as a date with the Terrapins looms just days away. Last time Bryant advanced out of the NCAA Opening Round (2014), the Bulldogs went on to upset second-seeded Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals, marking the last time Bryant and Maryland faced off.
"We've been in this scenario before," said Pressler. "I think we are accustomed to it. Maryland is Maryland – they are one of the most storied programs in lacrosse. They are No. 1 in the nation right now, and we have the opportunity to go to their place and play them on Sunday. It's great exposure for our program and just a great opportunity for our team overall."