Second Half Surge Propels Bryant Men’s Lacrosse To Win Over #7 Harvard

Bryant University Press Release

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University men’s lacrosse team outscored No. 8/7 Harvard, 8-3, in the second half to pull off an impressive upset, 12-9, Tuesday night in front of the home crowd.

"We were so embarrassed on Saturday against Yale," said Bryant head coach Mike Pressler. "With such a short turnaround we really dug deep to our competitive core and our guys delivered."

Junior mid fielder Ryan Sharpe (Poway, Calif.) paced the Bulldogs (4-2) and tied a career-high with three goals, while sophomore attack Cam Ziegler (Carlsbad, Calif.) and senior attack Collins Gantz (Denver, Colo.) each netted two scores. The Black and Gold also got timely contributions from juniors Tom Forsberg (Huntington, N.Y.), Brett Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) and Cody O’Donnell (Smithfield, R.I.). Senior keeper Gunnar Waldt (Freeland, Md.) made just seven stops, but three timely saves in the third period.  

The Crimson (4-1) were led by a trio of two goal scorers in Devin Dwyer, Morgan Cheek, and Joe Land, as Dwyer added an assist. Robert Shaw turned away 17 shots in the loss, as Bryant outshot Harvard, 53-29, 29-16 on goal.

The Bulldogs opened up the game with a goal from Ziegler just outside the crease to take a 1-0 lead just four minutes in. But the Crimson responded with four unanswered scores, reminiscent of the Yale game on Saturday, to close out the frame and take 4-1 edge after one.

Sharpe caged his first goal just two minutes into the second stanza, and Gantz followed with his first goal on a rocket from about 20 feet out at the 8:36 mark to make it 4-3.

"It was a slow start for us going down 4-1, but we didn’t hang our heads," said Pressler. "That second score from Gantz got us going and gave us confidence to know that they weren’t going to run away with it."

Cheek and Dwyer tacked on Harvard goals over the final seven minutes of the half. Junior attack Tucker James (Essex Fells, N.J.) registered a score at the 6:27 mark after he was held without a point for the first time since 2014 on Saturday, making it 6-4 at the half.

"We take great pride in the first five minutes of the third period," said Pressler. "Our emphasis was to make it at least a one goal game heading into the fourth, and we came out firing outshooting them, 19-5, in the third."

The Bulldogs certainly came out firing in the third frame, as O’Donnell netted his second goal of the season with the long stick at the 10:08 mark to spark three 3-0 period for the Black and Gold.

Bryant was able to outshoot Harvard, 19-5, in the third (35-9 in the second half) thanks to a significant increase in possessions courtesy of sophomore Kenny Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) being dominant at the faceoff. Massa was just 5-for-12 in the first half, but he played like a man possessed in the third and fourth quarters by winning 10-of-13 opportunities over the final 30 minutes. Massa also secured a career-best nine ground balls.

"Kenny going 10-for-13 in the second half was critical for us," said Pressler. "We didn’t give up many opportunities because of his efforts, and our defense knew that they didn’t have to win it on their own since the offense would carry us."

The defense felt comfortable knowing they didn’t have to win it on their own, not just because the Crimson had few possessions, but because Waldt made some incredible saves in the third quarter. 

"I think we did a terrific job clamping down in the third, and although Gunnar didn’t make a lot of saves, he made timely saves," said Pressler. "We had that five goal spurt that stretched into the fourth and it was sparked by a lot of what Gunnar did with his one-on-one saves. He didn’t just make saves either, he caught them with his stick which allowed us to move forward and work quickly in transition."

Baker fired in his first score for the third goal of the five-goal spurt, and the fourth came on a side-armed rip from Forsberg. Sharpe’s completion of the hat trick ended the run on an unassisted beauty that took him all the way around the crease before netting a shot as he fell to the ground with 7:29 to play, making it 9-6.

"Ryan was tremendous in transition and he’s one of our lead ponies with Gantz and Ziegler," said Pressler. "But Tom Forsberg and Brett Baker were great for us and Cody O’Donnell scoring from the defensive mid field were major contributors, and it makes us a great team when our reserves step up the way they did today." 

Long-stick mid Jack Breit sprung a rocket past Waldt in the upper right corner of the cage to make it 9-7 with 7:09 to go, and Lang added a score to bring the Crimson to within just one with 5:29 remaining. But Ziegler and Gantz answered with their second goals of the night in the final two minutes to give the Bulldogs an 11-8 edge.

Senior Shane Morrell (Glen Mills, Pa.) had a relatively quiet night, but his goal on an empty net with 30 seconds left gave him 114 for his career, moving into first place past Colin Dunster for the most goals in Bryant’s Division I history.

The victory over No. 8/7 Harvard marks the highest ranked team that Bryant has defeated in Smithfield in its Division I history.

"It’s a confidence game for us, especially after what happened to us this past weekend against Yale," said Pressler. "To turn around so quickly and win a game like this, it jumps starts us going forward, but we’ll enjoy it tonight and get back to work to prepare for Drexel."

The Bulldogs will enjoy this well-deserved victory, but get back to action on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at the Bryant Track and Turf Complex when they face the Dragons for a sixth-straight season.