SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University women’s lacrosse team struggled for goals all afternoon, however, found themselves down by just one at halftime, but Wagner College separated in the second half and did allow the defending Northeast Conference champs to claw back, as a new titleholder was crowned with Sunday’s 11-7 decision in Smithfield.
The Bulldogs (13-5) and their impressive season comes to an end despite a stellar showing from sophomore attack Catlin Brown (San Diego, Calif.). The all-tournament team selection paced her team all weekend, scoring three goals and handing out an assist in Sunday’s loss. After being held in check in Friday’s semifinal win over Sacred Heart, freshman mid Jess DeMeo (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) netted a pair of goals and had an assist. Senior attacks Lauren Descalzo (Hauppauge, N.Y.) and Nicole Britton (Monmouth Beach, N.J.) tallied a goal and an assist, respectively, and sophomore mid Meaghan Brennan (Glen Head, N.Y.) scored a goal.
The Seahawks (10-8) were paced by their senior-laden group. Reigning NEC Midfielder of the Year Shea Gegan had three helpers, Kimmy Tumolo had a goal and two assists and the tournament MVP Tori McGrath had two goals and one assist. Olivia Streilein netted three goals off the bench and Heidi Colford and Stephanie Peterson added two scores. Netminder Katie Ferraro played out of her mind, making 12 stops in the win, also earning all-tournament honors.
Brown got the Bulldogs on the board just two minutes into the game after a nice feed from Britton in front of the cage. Though the first score came early, the game would be a defensive battle for much of the first half.
McGrath netted her sixth goal over the last two games at the 20:37 mark to make it 1-1. It took another 10 minutes of back-and-forth contesting before the third goal of the afternoon was sent into the cage, as Streilein gave the visitors their first lead, 2-1.
Brown converted a free-position attempt and then set up fellow all-tournament team member Brennan for a goal to make it 3-2 in favor of the hosts with 4:24 to go in the half. But McGrath and Colford tacked on scores over the final 3:39 to give the Seahawks a 4-3 edge at the break.
Trailing by just one heading into the second frame, the Seahawks made sure that Bryant would not secure a third-straight NEC title, as they scored the first three goals in an 11-minute stretch to make it 7-3 with 19:05 to play.
Brown netted her third of the game on her second free-position rip midway through the stanza to make it 7-4, but Tumolo and Streilein continued to add to the visitor lead with goals over the ensuing six minutes.
After making no saves in the first half, sophomore goalie Samantha Santeramo (Wantagh, N.Y.) made five stops in the second to try and keep her team within striking distance. Although the Seahawks attempted 13 of their 19 shots in the second half, they only took shots that presented themselves, as they were able to shave extensive time off the clock when they had possessions.
The Bulldogs had a handful of chances, but were unable to convert those opportunities until DeMeo caged her first at the 4:30 mark to make it 9-5. It was as close as the defending champs would get to make a third-consecutive NCAA Tournament. Gretchen Fay and Peterson responded to the DeMeo goal with two more for Wagner, making it 11-5 with under two minutes to play. Descalzo closed out her career with one final score with 13 seconds to play, but it was much too little too late, as Wagner won its first NEC title in program history.
The outstanding careers of Descalzo and Britton come to an end, as both will go down as two of the best players to every don a black and gold uniform. Descalzo walks away as the program’s all-time leader in goals (177) and tied for second on the all-time points list (195). Britton exits as Bryant’s top draw control winner (171) and second for career assists (83).
Though the Bulldogs came up short and could not attain a third-straight NEC Tournament crown or trip to the NCAA Tournament, 2016 marked the third-straight season that they had won at least 13 games. The group featured just three seniors, so the majority of this season’s key contributors will be back in 2017 when they look to return to the top of the league.