|SMITHFIELD, R.I. - A goal and two assists were all Bryant University men's lacrosse senior Zack Greer (Whitby, Ont.) needed to match the NCAA Division I all-time points scored record, and that's exactly what he did Wednesday night as the Bulldogs took a 13-3 win over Holy Cross in their 2009 season finale at the Bryant Turf Complex.|
Nine seniors played in their final contest as Bryant wrapped up a successful inaugural Division I season with an impressive 10-5 overall record. Senior Kevin Hoagland (Glastonbury, Conn.) led the scoring with five points off four goals and an assist while linemate and fellow senior Bryan Kaufmann (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) added a trio of goals and an assist of his own, guiding Bryant to a victory on Senior Night. Sophomore Matt Larson (Cheshire, Conn.) also had a big game on offense, recording a trio of unassisted tallies in the winning effort.
"There are so many mixed emotions here," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "It was such a great ride. To think about where we came from at the beginning of the year versus Virginia and to go through those 15 games and end the season at 10-5 overall just exceeded our expectations in so many ways.
"And to see the Class of '09 go out on top - a group that led us in so many ways - we're just so proud of them," he continued. "They leave Bryant University, those nine seniors, with a great, great legacy."
But in the final game of the season for both teams, it was the Crusaders (3-12) who came out to play early, recording their first goal just 10 seconds into the contest, a rebound goal by Colin Flood, to take a quick 1-0 lead.
"It was really something different to have somebody kinda pop it forward and get a break against us on the faceoff," said Pressler, who isn't used to losing many faceoffs with top specialist Andrew Hennessey (Wading River, N.Y.) at the X. "But 60 minutes is an eternity so once we settled down we certainly played better."
It would take the Bulldogs 4:04 to respond, and the response came from an unusual place - starting defenseman Matt Murnane (Rockville Centre, N.Y.).
With just under 11 minutes to play in the first quarter, Murnane intercepted a Holy Cross pass in the defensive zone, carrying the ball all the way downfield to bounce in a goal past Crusaders netminder Jimmy Harrison (15 saves), scoring his first career tally to even the score at 1-1.
"Matt's got the capability to score," Pressler said. "He's arguably our best defensemen in so many ways, but to see Matt get a great interception and run down the field and score - it was no surprise to us that he was capable of doing that."
The score would stay knotted through the end of the first period, but Bryant would open up in the second frame, scoring four-straight goals in the first six minutes.
After Matt Tyburski (Mendham, N.J.) picked up a ground ball on a Holy Cross turnover, the senior came into the offensive zone, passing the ball off to Kaufmann on the left side, who opened the scoring drive with a tally less than two minutes into the frame.
Back-to-back goals from Hoagland followed - the first one man-up and assisted by Greer for his 351st career and first point of the night - within a minute of each other, giving the home side a 4-1 advantage.
Exactly 60 seconds later, Greer turned his defenseman inside for a side netting goal, notching his only tally of the game and moving just one point shy of tying the record of ex-teammate Matt Danowski.
Flood answered Greer's goal for the Crusaders, scoring man-up and even-strength goals in the final three minutes of the half to close the gap to 5-3. But Hoagland and Greer weren't ready to retire to the locker room quite yet.
Triple-teamed with 14 ticks left on the clock, Greer laid the ball off to his linemate on the left side, allowing Hoagland to fire a bullet right into the net past Harrison to send the Bulldogs into halftime up, 6-3.
"We got up, 5-1, and kind of let them crawl back in it," said Pressler. "Hoagland had a big goal just before the half, but we weren't shooting well. We weren't taking our time putting the shots away from the goal and away from the goalie's stick, so that was the main thing to address - to just shoot the ball better."
But Holy Cross wouldn't be a threat again, as the Bulldogs would hold the Crusaders scoreless for the remainder of the game after the intermission.
"I didn't think that would happen. To do that against anybody is quite a feat," Pressler said. "We had the ball on offense a lot which certainly helped, and I think Jameson Love had some big saves in the second half and we played well defensively. But to shut out any team for 30 minutes is a big feat and it's a great way for our defensive guys to go out, holding off a solid Holy Cross team."
Scoreless, however, would not be the case for the home side, who saw Larson get going offensively after the break, scoring a pair of unassisted tallies at the second- and seventh-minute marks of the third quarter to give Bryant an 8-3 lead.
A goal by Bryant Amitrano (Valley Stream, N.Y.) would cap off a three-goal third before Hoagland, assisted by freshman Max Weisenberg (Long Beach, N.Y.), would score his final collegiate goal with 9:16 left to play in the game.
Larson chipped in one more, again unassisted, with 3:30 to play, and Kaufmann and Hoagland - one of the most prolific, four-year scoring tandems in the history of Bryant lacrosse - connected for the last time as Bryant teammates with 2:11 to play to put the Bulldogs up, 12-3.
And as the Bulldogs sought to get Greer the ball that would break the record, Kaufmann put away one more in the waning seconds of the game for the 13-3 final and 10th victory of the season.
Greer, who used a fifth year of eligibility to play for the Bulldogs in 2009, leaves the collegiate lacrosse field with 353 career points and tied for the NCAA Division I all-time scoring record.
"We certainly thought [after three quick points to end the half] that he would get that last point," Pressler said. "We tried not to make a big deal about it - we didn't really tell the rest of the guys until the very end. And not that we were overly trying to get Zack extra opportunities, but I think what really hurt Zack was the tough collision he took early on. He tweaked his back and he was never really the same player.
"It was just not meant to be," he continued. "But to see Matt Danowski and Zack Greer share this record - they were great teammates together and knowing both Zack and Matt, they'll be satisfied with that. And a lot of those points on their way to 353 they scored together, so maybe it's only fitting that they share it."
On the day, the Bulldogs sent 51 shots in the direction of the Holy Cross cage, while the Crusaders peppered freshman goalie Jameson Love (Darien, Conn.) (11 saves) with 19 shots. Bryant, led by six from Andrew Hennessey (Wading River, N.Y.) and Murnane, picked up 40 ground balls to Holy Cross's 22, also presenting a stalwart riding game that caused the Crusaders to complete just 13-of-29 clear attempts.
Hennessey, the nation's top faceoff specialist, ended his junior season on another strong note, winning 16-of-20 faceoff opportunities.
"If we just had a winning season, that would have been a spectacular year," Pressler said of the 2009 season. "But to come and surpass that and get double-digit wins in our first year certainly more than surpassed my expectations.
"But now the bar is set for the future," he added. "That's the great thing the Class of '09 has done - their legacy, all they accomplished in Division II, how they led us and what they accomplished in Division I - they're the core of this team and they have so much to hang their hats on looking back at their four years at Bryant University."