Morrell, Waldt Lead Bryant to Third Straight NEC Title
from press release
PHILADELPHIA – Sophomore attack Shane
Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) found the back of the net five times and
sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made 14 saves to keep
Hobart off the board, as the No. 20 and second-seeded Bryant
University men's lacrosse team topped the Statesmen, 10-4, to win
its third-straight Northeast Conference Tournament Championship and
earn a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
"I am so happy for our team, especially our seniors," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "This is their third NEC title, and so many of these guys have been a part of the past ones. And to do it on the road is even more rewarding."
The Bulldogs (14-4) also saw a four-point outing from senior midfielder Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.), who was named an NEC All-Tournament Team selection along with Waldt, Morrell and junior faceoff specialist Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.). Massa continued his impressive season and tournament by going 15-of-18 at the X with 12 ground balls, also scoring a goal five minutes into the contest to be named tournament MVP.
Cam Stone distributed a pair of helpers for the Statesmen (5-10), while Hobart was held to single goals from a just quartet of players.
"Gunnar is back," said Pressler. "He was nursing a muscle strain for the last week or two, but we got him some rest, and Gunnar was lights out for the entire tournament. And Kevin was an incredible, remarkable 35-of-39 for the weekend and very deserving of the NEC Tournament MVP.
"When Kevin and Gunnar are on their game, we are tough to beat," added Pressler. "But I also thought that Connor Dent was great on the ground today, and Matt MacGrotty controlled the middle. We gave Hobart four goals in four quarters – No. 1, we didn't allow them to have the ball much, and No. 2, we played some great defense in front of Gunnar."
Bryant jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening quarter thanks to tallies from Dunster, Morrell and Massa before Hobart broke through to start the second with a Cooper Stefaniak marker less than five minutes into the stanza.
A long offensive possession for the Statesmen followed, but a turnover by Stone got the ball into the stick of longpole Cody O'Donnell (Smithfield, R.I.), and the redshirt-freshman streaked down the middle of the field, passing to JK Poirier (Coatesville, Pa.) in transition. Poirier stepped in the box and dished it off to a waiting Morrell, who put the transition goal home for the 4-1 lead.
"JK is without question our best transition player," Pressler said. "He gets out over the top like no other."
Zach Reed cut Bryant's edge to just a pair two minutes later when he found himself left wide open from 15 yards out, winding up and finding the upper left corner for a 4-2 margin that would stick through the halftime break.
It took Dunster less than a minute into the third to renew Bryant's three-goal lead, getting his second of the day at the 14:02 mark, and 61 seconds later, Morrell finally broke through the Statesmen's man-down defense, netting a pass from Brian Schlansker (Glenville, N.Y.) to convert the Bulldogs' fourth extra-man opportunity of the game.
Morrell would cap off scoring in the third with just under 10 minutes to go in the frame, scoring another transition goal that began with a huge kick save from Waldt between the pipes. Senior Rob Goeren (Massapequa, N.Y.) picked up the ensuing ground ball and passed it off to Poirier, who streaked down the field to connect with Morrell for the second time of the day and a 7-2 Bryant advantage.
"This thing with Shane has been going on for the last month," said Pressler. "His game has risen to a level second to none that we've seen to date. He is playing with great poise, great confidence and great skill.
"I think that spark in the third quarter, that three-goal spurt we had, really put the game out of reach," he added, "especially with Kevin winning faceoffs the way he was."
Hobart would cut into the Bulldogs' lead with a man-up score from Brendan Saylor three minutes into the fourth, and with 5:22 to play, Jake McHenry took a pass from Stone and pasted it into the upper 90 for a 7-4 margin favoring the Black and Gold. But the tally was the Statesmen's last, as senior attack Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.), Morrell and Goeren all got on the scoreboard in the final five minutes for the 10-4 final to clinch the NEC Championship for the third-straight season.
"There's nothing like it," said Pressler. "To be back in the same setting we were in May a year ago – conference champions at 14-4, playing for the national championship – is so rewarding for our players in particular and especially our seniors."
Guaranteed a place in the 2014 NCAA tournament with the victory, the Bulldogs will now await word on their tournament fate. The NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Selection Show will air live Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
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