WALTHAM, Mass. – Rivals Bentley University and Merrimack will meet for the second time this season on Tuesday night, this time in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Men's Lacrosse Tournament. Face-off is set for 7:00 p.m.
Bentley (7-6, 7-3 NE-10) is the fourth-seed in the tournament and Merrimack (9-5, 6-4 NE-10) is the fifth-seed. The winner will meet the regular season champions and top-seed Le Moyne in the semifinals on Friday.
The other quarterfinal on Tuesday will pit third-seeded Saint Michael's against sixth-seeded Assumption, with the winner playing at second-seeded Adelphi on Friday.
The Falcons are making their fourth straight appearance in the NE-10 postseason, 10th in 11 years and 14th under head coach Jim Murphy. They'll be looking to advance to the semifinals for the third straight year, but they haven't been able to get over that hump. Merrimack denied them a trip to the finals in 2009 with a 9-6 win in the semis.
In the first meeting of the season between these two teams, Bentley came away with a 9-8 victory in North Andover on April 19. Junior Brendan Grant (Walpole, Mass./Xaverian Brothers) and freshman Nick Astarita (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Guertin) each had three goals and the Falcons used a 4-0 second half run to pull ahead for good. That was Bentley's first win in the series since 2004.
Grant and Astarita are two of Bentley's three All-Conference selections, senior Dante Mancini (Syosset, N.Y./Syosset) is the other, and they helped lead a Falcon offense that averaged 8.46 goals per game, fifth in the league. While Grant led the way with 27 goals, the rest of the offense was balanced, with no other player scoring more than 15 goals, that being senior Matt Boilard (Wilbraham, Mass./Minnechaug). Outside of Grant and Boilard, six other players had at least five goals.
The Falcons were also a strong defensive team, causing the second most turnovers per game in the league at 9.38, led by 21 each from Mancini and freshman defenseman Tim Cobb (Hingham, Mass./Thayer Academy). Senior goalie Mike O'Neil (Marblehead, Mass./Marblehead) was a big reason for the team's defensive success as well. A two-time NE-10 Goalie of the Week, his .578 save percentage was among the league's best in the regular season among starters.
Merrimack, coming off its first conference championship last season after upsetting Le Moyne 12-11 in overtime, has five All-Conference performers. Sophomore attack Corey Lunney headlines the group, as he was named to the first team after scoring 30 goals. Sophomore Mike Perdie is the top assist man with 14.
Sophomore Connor Reagan has started 13 of 14 games in goal and has a .506 save percentage. He plays in front of a defense that has two All-Conference selections, junior Peter Schielke on the first team and Jimmy Holland on the All-Rookie team.
Tuesday's game will be the sixth playoff meeting between the two teams with Bentley holding a 3-2 edge. They hold a 13-11 edge in the all-time series.