January 7, 2013

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#LMranks: No. 20 Bryant Bulldogs (Men)

Bryant's Kevin Massa ranked third natinally in faceoff percentage (63.9) as a freshman and will keep the Bulldogs in every game.
© Bryant Athletics

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Team Page/Schedule

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today begins a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Tuesday with profiles of the 19th-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 3*
Defense: 3
Goalkeeping: 2
Faceoff: 4
* Out of 5

Top Returner

LSM Mason Poli (Sr.)
A two-time honorable mention All-American, Poli poured in 25 points (19 goals, 6 assists) to stake his claim as arguably the nation's best offensive long-stick midfielder. The 200-pound bulldog is active on the wings of faceoffs and is a true transition weapon willing to shoot from seemingly anywhere on the field.

X-Factor

FO Kevin Massa (So.)
Massa, who ranked third nationally in faceoff percentage at .639 (257-for-402) in 2012, is the top returning statistical specialist in the country — and he's only a sophomore. He'll keep Bryant, a program traditionally solid at facing off, in every game. Massa finished under 50 percent in just two contests a season ago.

What's New?

A direct path to the postseason. For the first time, the Northeast Conference will send a team to the NCAA tournament through its automatic qualifier. The Bulldogs are the conference frontrunner, and thus can win their way into the playoffs, though they'll be pushed by Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary's and Quinnipiac. All those teams previously flirted with the Top 20, and garnered some NCAA consideration, but never had a guarantee. Now they do.

What's Not?

Coach Mike Pressler returns for his seventh season in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The former U.S. men's national team and Duke skipper has guided Bryant from Division II into the ranks of Division I — a move that happened in 2009 — and made the Bulldogs a conference champion, as they won the NEC in 2012. An NCAA tournament berth seems like the next logical progression in the program's ascent.

2012 Recap

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

Today: No. 20 Bryant
Tuesday: No. 19
Wednesday: No. 18
Thursday: No. 17
Friday: No. 16

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Record: 14-4, 4-1 NEC

In a Nutshell: The Bulldogs were five goals away from an undefeated, 18-0 campaign. They lost three games by one goal — to Fairfield, Yale and Robert Morris — and dropped the season-opener 10-8 to Colgate. The season also included narrow victories over Drexel, Albany and Stony Brook. Along with Loyola, Bryant was one of two teams in the country to feature a scoring offense and scoring defense that ranked in the top-10 nationally.

High Point: In its fourth year as a Division I program and second in the NEC, Bryant captured the conference crown with a 12-6 defeat of Mount St. Mary's, in which senior goalie Jameson Love was named tournament MVP. "It's an incredible feeling," Pressler said following the championship contest. "Today, it was about winning this. It was about winning it in any way, shape or form." A close second: Bryant's 7-6, come-from-behind win over Drexel. The Bulldogs trailed 5-0 at halftime but rallied to upset the Dragons, who were in and out of Top 20 contention for most of the season. Said Pressler: "That was one of the most remarkable comebacks I've ever been involved in in 29 years of coaching."

Low Point: The Bulldogs dropped a game of runs, 13-12, against conference foe Robert Morris, ceding the regular season conference title and a chance to host the postseason tournament. Bryant held an 8-6 advantage at intermission but after surrendering five of the next six goals, never recovered. It was the Bulldogs' only conference loss of the season.

2013 Preview

Best Case: With all but three starters returning from 2012, the experienced Bulldogs rely on their potent offense to help ease the burden on the goal, where they're replacing all-conference keeper Jameson Love. Junior midfielder Colin Dunster, younger brother of North Carolina's Jimmy, garners Tewaaraton Award hype, while Peter McMahon, Dan Sipperly and Cody Isdaner form one of the nation's top attack units. Bryant knocks off Colgate and Fairfield to start the season, then rides the wave to the conference championship, before making the NCAA tournament.

Worst Case: A challenging non-conference slate sends the Bulldogs to a slow start, as they drop five games before the NEC schedule gets going. Bryant rebounds against familiar foes, but drops a mid-April meeting in Maryland against Mount St. Mary's. A couple weeks later, the Bulldogs can't capture revenge against The Mount, as they miss out on the NCAA automatic qualifier.


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