2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 20 Bryant (Men)

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRYANT ATHLETICS


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 20 BRYANT

2021 Record: 9-4 (5-2 NEC)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 16
Coach: Mike Pressler (16th year)

Mike Pressler called last year his most difficult as a college coach.

“And that includes the other thing,” he said, referring to the fabricated Duke lacrosse case that briefly derailed his 36-year career in 2006.

“We didn’t just coach lacrosse. We coached COVID,” Pressler said. “It was about player safety. We met in Zoom. My office was my truck. We didn’t get into the locker room for six months.”

Bryant’s rollercoaster 2021 season stalled three times due to COVID-19 protocols. Star attackman Marc O’Rourke missed the first eight games with myocarditis stemming from his own encounter with the coronavirus. Top scorer Logan McGovern, who has cystic fibrosis, also tested positive. The Bulldogs’ rotation included eight freshmen who were forced into action because other players were either ill or injured.

“We were one positive test away from being shut down by the Rhode Island Department of Health,” Pressler told USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Patrick Stevens before the NCAA tournament last May. “Our goals changed. It wasn’t game to game. It wasn’t day to day. It was minute to minute.”

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Virginia

2. Maryland

3. Duke

4. Georgetown

5. Notre Dame

6. North Carolina

7. Loyola

8. Yale

9. Penn

10. Rutgers

11. Lehigh

12. Denver

13. Army

14. Syracuse

15. Johns Hopkins

16. Delaware

17. Drexel

18. Cornell

19. Vermont

20. Bryant

O’Rourke’s mid-April return sparked Bryant, which upended second-seeded Hobart and top-seeded Saint Joseph’s in the Northeast Conference tournament to claim its fifth conference title since 2013. The Bulldogs, who in 2014 pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history when they ousted Syracuse, gave Virginia fits in the first round before relinquishing a fourth-quarter lead in a season-ending 13-11 loss.

Playing with a heart monitor implanted in his left pectoral muscle, O’Rourke scored six goals in his first game back and finished with 21 goals in just five games.

“We talked about playing him half a quarter and resting him,” Pressler said. “Guess what? That lasted about half a quarter.”

O’Rourke returns as a third-year captain and one of four players utilizing an extra year of eligibility to pursue an MBA at Bryant and compete as fifth-year seniors. (Three others are graduate assistants.)

“He’s right there with the best I’ve ever seen,” Pressler said of O’Rourke, likening the big lefty to Zack Greer as a scorer and Matt Danowski as a dodger. “He’s an underrated feeder too. We run him out of the box all the time.”

Bryant boasts an enviable combination of top-down leadership and bottom-up depth, with a young core that could keep it in the top-20 conversation for years. McGovern (20 goals, 26 assists) was technically a third-year freshman per his eligibility in 2021. Faceoff specialist Jacob Alexander (57.9 percent), who outdueled All-Americans Zach Cole (Saint Joseph’s) and Petey LaSalla (Virginia) as an injury replacement for Nathan Laliberte, was a second-year freshman. NEC Rookie of the Year Bennett Abladian (29 goals, eight assists), Kevin Groeninger (10 goals, nine assists) and Aidan Goltz (16 goals) were first years.

True freshmen accounted for more than 40 percent of the Bulldogs’ offensive production last year.

“Those guys performed and came back with confidence,” Pressler said. “From last spring to this fall, you could see it oozing through their pores.”

Bryant purchased 12 new lockers in November to accommodate those looking to max out their eligibility in Smithfield. Pressler expects the current 54-man roster to balloon to more than 60 players next year. Senior goalie Luke Caracciolo (52.7 percent), the NEC championship MVP, already has rerouted his plans to enroll in the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School to start his MBA and come back in 2023.

“For us, it’s just the momentum,” Pressler said. “The way we ended last year, that five-game stretch in the regular season, the NEC tournament and the battle with Virginia until the end—that momentum continued this fall. We really like the team we return in every spot.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Luke Caracciolo, G, Sr.

Bryant’s best teams have always been strong up the middle, a formula that starts with a sound goalie. A fourth-year starter, Caracciolo was outstanding down the stretch, making 17 saves in the NEC semifinal win over Hobart and tying a career high with 18 saves in the conference final against Saint Joseph’s. He also had a buzzer-beating save in a one-goal win over Merrimack. For the season, Caracciolo set new career highs with 147 saves and nine wins, posting a save percentage of 52.7 percent.

Logan McGovern, A, Jr.

Pressler said McGovern’s pulmonologists credited his superior anaerobic conditioning and healthy eating habits for his avoiding any serious complications of COVID-19. “He is ripped,” Pressler said. McGovern led Bryant with 26 assists and picked his spots as a shooter (20-for-58) to finish with a team-high 46 points in 11 games. He too has already committed to coming back in 2023 and should have additional eligibility beyond that.

Marc O’Rourke, A, Gr.

The fastest player in Bryant’s Division I history to accumulate 100 points (it took him just 29 games) and just the fourth player to score at least 100 career goals, O’Rourke is an All-American caliber attackman who has not played a full season since 2019 due to the pandemic. An accomplished lefty, he has developed a strong right hand as well. O’Rourke had not practiced for six months when he came back to score six goals in his first game. Imagine what he will do with a full offseason and training camp under his belt. The sky is the limit.

KEY ADDITION

Cole Braun, M, Fr.

Pressler loves recruiting under-the-radar Californians (seven on the current roster) and prefers big multi-sport athletes with football experience. “Our MO is that we recruit a three-star recruit and try to make him a five-star player,” he said. “We’re in player development here.” A 6-foot-6, 210-pound midfielder from Danville, Calif., Braun is also a bit of an entrepreneur. He started his first business building and selling websites in eighth grade, according to this article by ADVNC Lacrosse. Braun was Pressler’s first recruit in his class. Consider us intrigued.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Aidan Goltz, M, So.

Speaking of big California middies with backgrounds on the gridiron, Goltz, a 6-foot-2 specimen out of Newport Beach, started as a true freshman on Bryant’s first line and was drawing long-stick matchups by the end of the season. “They took the pole off [two-time All-NEC midfielder] Trevor Weingarten and put it on Aidan,” Pressler said. “Aidan doesn’t even know a pole is on him. He’ll just run by him.” Recruited by Cal to play football as a split end, Goltz chose lacrosse, the sport his father, Ian, played growing up in Canada. Look for him to build on his 16-goal freshman campaign. Pressler also identified sophomore defenseman LaJhon Jones (31 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers) as a breakout candidate.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Bulldogs:

“Love the zone defense making you play slow, but they are willing to bust out from it and push the tempo. … Will always be superb at the FO X with Casey Brodersen on staff. … One of those teams I don’t trust, but don’t want to play either. Teams that have a lineup of guys I’ve never heard of — they’re the ones that scare me.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

7.21

There is something in the water up in Rhode Island. When I calculated the most efficient players in Division I men’s lacrosse, two of the top five were Bryant Bulldogs. You know the name Marc O’Rourke, but the player with the highest usage-adjusted EGA in the nation last year was his teammate, Isaiah Davis. I’ll be watching to see if he’s able to make a leap this season. — Zack Capozzi

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