The Northeast Conference finally earned auto-bid status to the NCAA Tournament this season. This is not unlike a child getting his first tricycle: The world at large, once a scary place filled with danger, is now a playground for discovery and toolin' around (with streamers hanging from the handlebars). The NEC isn't exactly a destructive force of a conference -- it ranks eighth out of Division I's nine leagues -- but where it lacks in national competitiveness it makes up for with special circumstances: Spitting into the atmosphere a first-time participant in the NCAA Tournament.
Before today, Bryant had never tasted The Big Barbecue in its short history as a Division I program. After today's 14-7 shellacking of Robert Morris on its home field, the Bulldogs are now among the caste of programs that claim membership in college lacrosse's more exclusive clubs. The Bulldogs didn't mess around in its pursuit of an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament, building a 4-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, surviving a 7-4 run from the Colonials from the 12:17 mark of the second quarter to the 13:32 mark of the fourth quarter, and punching the accelerator when it mattered most -- a 6-0 run over the final 9:10 of play (highlighted by two goals each from Collins Gantz, Peter McMahon, and Colin Dunster (McMahon and Dunster accounted for three points each in that stretch) put the game away and sent Bryant and Mike Pressler (who hasn't gone on a May adventure since 2005 with Duke) to Valhalla.
Here's a truncated tempo-free box score:
|Offensive Efficiency (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||28.00||35.90|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.00||1.13|
|Offensive Shooting Percentage||28.00%||31.82%||Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||48.00||53.85|
|Team Save Percentage||46.20%||61.11%|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||30.77||44.00|
The outcome doesn't necessarily impact the construction of the NCAA Tournament field -- the NEC was only getting one bid regardless of whether Robert Morris or Bryant earned the league's title -- but the Bulldogs do provide a unique first round opponent for a highly seeded team. (Lower situated unseeded teams are often treated as fungible goods for the Selection Committee, and it's not totally set in stone at this point whether Bryant will draw the top seed in the bracket (the MAAC final tomorrow is going to indirectly impact Bryant's draw).) There aren't many teams in the country that are going to be thrilled about facing Kevin Massa at the faceoff dot for 60 minutes.