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Moon Township, PA – With the regular season now in the books, the 2012 Northeast Conference Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament is set to get underway in less than 24 hours from Joe Walton Stadium in Moon Township, PA. Robert Morris earned the right to host the second-ever tournament after capturing the regular-season crown this season, going a perfect 5-0 in NEC play. The Colonials will face preseason-favorite and defending league champion Mount St. Mary’s, which earned the No. 4 seed after going 2-3 against NEC competition. Bryant, the No. 2 seed after completing the five-game conference slate 4-1, will face third-seeded Quinnipiac. The Bobcats matched the Mount with identical 2-3 records but earned the higher seed due to their head-to-head win earlier this season.
The tournament will feature two semifinal games on Friday, May 4, and will conclude with the championship game on Sunday, May 6. Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s will start things off at 5:30 pm, followed by Bryant and Quinnipiac under the lights at 8:30 pm. The championship game is set for 1 pm on Sunday. All three games will be streamed free of charge on northeastconference.tv, while the NEC New Media staff will be providing live updates via Twitter (@NECmlax).
Making its second straight appearance in the NEC Tournament, top-seeded and 20th-ranked Robert Morris finished the regular season 11-3 overall, 5-0 in conference play, on the strength of six consecutive wins, including a 17-14 victory over Mount St. Mary's at home. Under the direction of first-year head coach Andrew McMinn, the Colonials opened the year with three straight wins and boasted a 5-2 record after seven games with victories over UMBC and then-No. 18 Ohio State, both of which came on the road. After concluding non-conference play with six wins and three losses - all to ranked opponents - RMU rolled through NEC action, outscoring teams 94-55 to maintain its nation-leading average of 14.29 goals per game. Senior midfielder Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek, Ontario/Saltfleet) and junior attackman Jake Hayes (Calgary, Alberta/Central Memorial) anchored the offense by combining for 116 of the Colonials’ 338 points, contributing a team- and NEC-high 58 points apiece. Matisz scored 36 goals and added a team-high 22 assists while Hayes netted 40 goals and dished out 18 helpers. Matisz’s performance from the midfield garnered the 6-5 Stoney Creek, Ontario product national attention as he was recently named one of 25 finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, an honor given to the top lacrosse player in the country. Additionally, the Canadian duo were two of five players that accumulated 25 or more points, making life easier for a defense that saw three goalkeepers win at least three games apiece, highlighted by freshman Matt Bukovac (Ashburn, VA/Briar Woods). Bukovac led the squad with a 4-2 record to go along with an 13.59 goals against average and a .487 save percentage.
No. 2 Bryant, also making its second straight appearance in the tournament, had a sensational regular season, winning 12 games compared to just four losses, all of which came at the hands of either ranked opponents or opponents receiving votes in the national polls by a combined five goals. Following a 2-2 start, head coach Mike Pressler’s team went on a tear with 10 straight wins, highlighted by victories over Albany, Stony Brook, Brown, Drexel and Quinnipiac (9-5). During that streak, the Bulldogs earned their first-ever national ranking and made even more waves on the national stage with junior defenseman Mason Poli (Downingtown, PA/Downingtown East) being named as a 2012 Tewaaraton nominee. Poli played an integral role in the league’s top defense by helping it hold opponents to under eight goals per game (7.72). He also contributed 40 ground balls and nine caused turnovers to go along with 19 goals and 25 points. His play, coupled with the rest of the team, helped senior goalkeeper Jameson Love (Darien, CT/Darien) lead the league in nearly every goalkeeper category, including wins (12), save percentage (.608) and goals against average (7.67). Defense was a big story for the Bulldogs in 2012, but probably a bigger story was the emergence of freshman faceoff specialist Kevin Massa (Huntington, NY/Elwood John Glenn), who led the league and ranked in the top-5 in the country in faceoff winning percentage (.628) and ground balls per game (7.81).
Quinnipiac, which earned the third seed after going 2-3 in conference action, 3-10 overall, looks to snap a four-game winless streak and make a return trip to the NEC Championship game. Last season, the Bobcats defeated Robert Morris to play Mount St. Mary’s in the inaugural title game, falling to the Mount, 14-9. Catching up to now, the Bobcats posted its three wins in consecutive fashion this season, defeating Binghamton, Mount St. Mary’s and Wagner. Offensively, freshman Michael Sagl (West Islip, NY/West Islip) leads the team with 16 goals and 31 points. Classmate midfielder Matt Diehl (Towson, MD/Calvert Hall) follows behind him with a team-high 17 assists and 28 points, while sophomore attackman Dylan Webster (Brampton, Ontario/St. Edmund Campilon) ranks third and is a jack of all trades, totaling 24 points and winning 103 faceoffs to go along with a team-high 81 ground balls. Defensively, the Bobcats have one of the best takeaway guys in the country in senior Chris Coppolecchia (Somers, NY/Somers), who leads the country in caused turnovers per game at 3.31 and has 43 on the season. In net, freshman Dylan Torrey (Darien, CT/Darien) boasts a 3-10 record with a .442 save percentage and a 12.06 goals against average.
Rounding out the field, Mount St. Mary’s (5-8, 2-3 NEC) returns to the four-team tournament after winning the NEC trophy on its home turf last season. The Mountaineers opened the season with one of the league’s biggest wins, downing then-No. 16 Delaware 12-10 on the road. They then picked up victories over VMI and Michigan before going 2-3 in NEC action. Offensively, senior twins Brett and Bryant Schmidt (Great Mills, MD/St. Mary’s Ryken) and junior Andrew Scalley (Arnold, MD/Archbishop Spalding) have provided a majority of the scoring for head coach Tom Gravante. Brett owns a share of team scoring lead with 44 points made up of 26 goals and 18 assists, while Scalley also has 44 points thanks to a 23-goal, 21-assist effort this year. Bryant ranks third with a team-high 28 goals and 34 points. In net, coach Gravante has gone with sophomore Chris Klaiber (Lafayette, NY/Lafayette) as the replacement for 2011 NEC Defensive Player of the Year T.C. DiBartolo this season. Klaiber has played in 13 games, going 3-10 with a 10.98 goals against average and a .461 save percentage.
Check back at www.northeastconference.org for addition updates and game stories throughout the weekend.