Bulldogs Claim First NEC Title, NCAA Bid with Win vs. Wagner

SMITHFIELD, R.I. Sophomore attack Lauren Descalzo (Hauppauge, N.Y.) scored six goals and added an assist Sunday afternoon, while senior Kimberley Sniffen (Redding, Conn.) added a hat trick of her own, leading the top-seeded Bryant lacrosse team to a 14-6 victory over Wagner to claim the program's first-ever NEC tournament title and the league's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

"All season long, we've made this our goal to be here, and the girls have never faltered," said Bryant head coach Jill DePetris-Batcheller. "They've always believed this was how it was going to turn out, so I am so proud of them for staying true to Bryant lacrosse."

Descalzo's seven points and six goals both marked career highs for the NEC Tournament MVP, and she was joined on the all-tournament team by senior NEC Offensive Player of the Year Lisa Vendel (Sandy Hook, Conn.), senior attack and All-NEC First Teamer Haley Bloom (Hauppauge, N.Y.), and senior defender Lindsay Langella (Northport, N.Y.).

Vendel finished the day with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and the NEC Tournament with seven (4g, 3a), while Bloom scored twice Sunday and finished with nine points (6g, 3a). Descalzo's 11 total weekend points and 10 goals were both tournament highs.

"She's so unbelievably quick, but she's also someone who consistently does her job no matter what the circumstance," DePetris-Batcheller said of Descalzo. "She's the person on the attack that everyone on the outside looks to, and to be that key player for us all season long and not get caught up in the pressure is unbelievable for a sophomore."

The Seahawks (11-7) controlled the opening minutes of the game, but on just their second offensive possession, the Bulldogs (15-3) put themselves out in front, with Bloom finding Descalzo for a shot that bounced in past Wagner goalie Katie Ferraro.

A free position shot by Kimmy Tumolo three minutes later would even the score, but Sniffen and fellow senior midfielder Katherine Keckeisen (Danbury, Conn.) gave Bryant a quick 3-1 edge with less than seven minutes gone in the frame.

Descalzo netted her second of the day this time off a pass from classmate Nicole Britton (Monmouth Beach, N.J.) as the first half approached the midway point, and Keckeisen made it 5-1 in the Bulldogs' favor off her own free position tally with 14:28 to play before the break.

It would take another free position opportunity before Wagner got back on the scoreboard, this time with a tally from Taylor Pastore, but Sniffen put Bryant back up by four, 6-2, seconds later off the second assist of the day from Britton.

Pastore struck again with 5:50 remaining in the first, and Tumolo came streaking across the goalmouth for an open shot that beat senior Brianna Watt (Babylon, N.Y.) (7 saves) to close the gap to two, 6-4, with just over four minutes to play before the intermission.

With less than three minutes to go, Vendel outran a triple team to find Descalzo wide open in the middle for a one timer from the sophomore, but a yellow card on Bloom allowed Gretchen Fay to score a man-up marker seconds later to send the team's into the halftime break with a 7-5 margin favoring the Bulldogs.

Five minutes into the second, Bloom and Sniffen doubled that lead with tallies just one minute apart, 9-5. Tumolo completed her hat trick with 22:33 remaining in the stanza for a 9-6 score, but four-straight Bulldog goals would allow the top-seeded hosts to more than double up their opponents, 13-6, with less than 14 minutes to play in the championship bout.

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