#20 Bryant Advances to NEC Title Game over Sacred Heart

PHILADELPHIA Paced by hat tricks from senior attack Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) and sophomore All-NEC First Team attack Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.), the No. 20 and second-seeded Bryant lacrosse team topped third-seeded Sacred Heart, 12-8, Thursday night at Sweeney Field to advance to Saturday's 2014 Northeast Conference championship game.

Bryant (13-4) advances to the title bout for the third-straight season, having won the 2012 and 2013 NEC Tournament Championship. The Black and Gold will take on fourth-seeded Hobart Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

"I was really pleased with our start today in particular," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "Up, 11-4, I was hoping we could close it out a little bit better, but at the end of the day, it's about winning and advancing, and we have the chance to play again on Saturday."

Morrell and NEC Rookie of the Year Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) paced the game/side with four points apiece, with the latter scoring twice and adding a pair of assists. The Bulldogs got three points from Sipperly and senior midfielder Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) (2 goals, 1 assist), while Bryant got single scores from sophomore Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.) and junior Brian Schlansker (Glenville, N.Y.).

NEC Player of the Year Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) went 20 of 21 with 17 ground balls from the faceoff X, while NEC Defensive Player of the Year Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made seven stops for the win. The Pioneers (6-9) were paced by two goals apiece from Cody Marquis, Mike Mawdsley and Alex Dodge.

"It's almost like you've come to expect it from him, which is incredible to even think like that," Pressler said of Massa and his Player of the Game performance. "He saw every possible variation at the faceoff X, and he was beyond dominant again."

Bryant jumped out to a 4-0 lead through the first 10 minutes thanks to goals from Sipperly, James, Gantz and Morrell before Dodge finally broke through for the Pioneers with 3:49 to go in the opening frame. Schlansker responded at the 1:36 mark off a dish from senior linemate Bo Redpath (Norwich, Vt.) to complete a 5-1 first quarter favoring the Black and Gold.

Sacred Heart started and closed the second quarter with scores, but the Bulldogs tallied a pair in between to keep the margin at four heading into the locker room at the break. MLL draftees Dunster and Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) connected with 7:30 to play in the stanza following the quarter-opening goal by Dodge, and Morrell would follow with an unassisted goal at the 2:42 mark for a 7-2 Bulldog lead. But with 36 seconds remaining, Marquis picked up a loose ball and evened out the second-quarter scoring with a roller past Waldt for the 7-3 halftime margin.

Sipperly got himself back on the board quickly in the third, faking out new Sacred Heart goalie Jon Flood right on the doorstep. The Pioneers got the tally back with a goal from Alex Miller and would possess for the majority of the of the third, but after a long SHU possession, the Bulldogs caused the turnover and streaked down the field to score a quick transition goal with just one second to go in the quarter. Morrell would complete his hat trick with the score, which was assisted by captain JK Poirier (Coatesville, Pa.) for the 9-4 Bulldog advantage.

"That was a huge play," said Pressler. "We put the game out of reach right there, up 9-4 with one second to go."

James put the Bulldogs into double digits to open the fourth off an assist from Dunster, and 90 seconds later, Sipperly scored a pass from James for an 11-4 Bulldog lead. Mawdsley got a pair back with consecutive goals midway through the stanza, but Dunster doubled up the Pioneers in unassisted fashion with 3:52 to play, 12-6.

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