No. 19 Bryant Stops Siena on Last Shot in NCAA Play-in Game

SMITHFIELD, R.I. Behind a heroic 14-save performance from sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.), the No. 19 Bryant lacrosse team made history Wednesday afternoon, earning its first-ever NCAA tournament victory with a 9-8 topping of Siena at Bulldog Stadium.

With the win, the Bulldogs (15-4) advance to the NCAA tournament First Round, where they will meet second-seeded Syracuse University for the second-straight season at the Carrier Dome Sunday at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPNU. Wednesday's victory in the NCAA play-in game also set a program record for wins in a season (15).

"This is a monumental day not only for Bryant lacrosse, but for Bryant University," said head coach Mike Pressler. "It's another first for our team, and I am so proud of our players, especially our senior class."

That senior class scored four of Bryant's nine tallies and totaled seven points, including the feed from senior captain JK Poirier (Coatesville, Pa.) on the game winner from sophomore attack Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) with 5:11 to play in the fourth quarter that would give the Bulldogs the 9-7 advantage.

Jordan Barlow closed the game to one goal with 2:47 to play with his second of the day, but Waldt came up with key stops to keep the Saints (11-6) out of the cage in the final minutes to secure the one-goal victory.

"He is the First Team All-American in my book," Pressler said of his netminder. "He is the best goalie in college lacrosse."

Senior midfielder Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) netted the first goal of the game on Bryant's first offensive possession of the day, but Siena dominated the first quarter, owning a 3-1 margin after the opening 13 minutes.

Senior midfielder Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.) closed the gap to one, 3-2, with 1:51 left in the frame, and each team would get on the board just once in the second for a 4-3 halftime score that favored the visiting Saints.

But 90 seconds in the third after killing off the remaining 1:51 of a Matt MacGrotty (Westminster, British Columbia) penalty that ended the second quarter NEC Rookie of the Year Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) tied the score at 4-4 with a man-up goal on the team's only extra-man opportunity of the day. The score jumpstarted a three-goal Bulldog run that would put the hosts in the lead for the first time in the contest.

With 9:25 to play in the third, senior attack Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) fed the ball to a waiting Morrell right on the crease for a one-timer that handed the Black and Gold the 5-4 edge. Less than five minutes later, Sipperly himself would put the Bulldogs up by two, taking a pass from Zomerfeld and firing a bounce shot that eluded Siena goalie Tommy Cordts (11 saves) for the 6-4 lead with less than five to go in the stanza.

"The play of the game was the third-quarter man-down stop," said Pressler. "Then we went down to score the next three goals to make it 6-4. That really turned the game in our favor, that momentum burst in the third quarter."

The Saints struck again with 2:17 remaining, scoring on their fourth and final man-up chance of the afternoon off the stick of Kyle Curry to send the game into the fourth with just a single tally separating the teams.

James renewed Bryant's two-goal edge, 7-5, just more than two minutes in off a feed from sophomore midfielder Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.), but Siena responded quickly, as leading scorer Richie Hurley (4 assists) dished out a pair of helpers for consecutive goals from Conor Prunty and Kevin Cousin just a minute apart to reknot the score at 7-7 with 10:40 left in regulation.

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