SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The Hawks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and would never trail as the Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad defeated Bryant, 11-6, in SJU's Northeast Conference opener at Beirne Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Hawks improve to 5-4 overall (1-0 NEC) while the Bulldogs fall to 2-7 overall (0-2 NEC).

Saint Joseph's additionally improves to 26-5 all-time in regular-season conference games since joining the NEC in 2014.

The Hawks' defensive unit turned in a dominant showing as sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler (5-4, 1-0 NEC) made 13 saves in the full 60:00 and close defensemen Thomas Tarleton, Liam Hare, and Tyler Makar held the Bulldogs' offense to just six scores.

"This was a huge team win," said head coach Taylor Wray following SJU's fifth victory of the season, and second in a row. "Overall, I'm excited to get a conference win over an always tough and well-coached Bryant team. After last week, we talked to our veteran guys on defense about stepping up and playing better. We have three captains at the defensive end, and that needs to be the backbone of our team. They answered the call and really led us today. Mike was terrific in net and Tommy, Liam, and Ty played the way they are capable of playing."

Led by sophomore attackman Nate Patterson's four points (2g, 2a) and sophomore midfielder Austin Strazzulla's game-high three goals, all six members of SJU's starting attack and midfield units scored; sophomore midfielder Evan Campbell added three points (2g, 1a) in his first collegiate start while linemate Nick Vernacchio added a goal and two helpers.

Saint Joseph's sophomore midfielder Teo Domic (11:58), Campbell (9:47), and Patterson (7:17) scored a trio of unassisted goals to give SJU a 3-0 cushion midway through the first quarter before Bryant scored twice in under a minute (2:02, 1:10) to close its deficit to one, 3-2, nearing the end of the first quarter.

However, Bryant was hit with a 30-second penalty for pushing with 54 ticks remaining in the first, and Patterson found Campbell for the EMO score (0:40) to close out the opening quarter.

SJU added to its lead with a pair from Vernacchio (13:28) and Strazzulla (12:01) and Adler shut down Bryant's two second-quarter attempts on net as the Hawks took a 6-2 advantage into the halftime break.

The Bulldogs made a run with three of the game's next four goals to inch back to within two, 7-5, entering the final 13:49 of regulation.

From there, the Crimson and Gray took over.

Vernacchio hit Patterson on an EMO goal at the 12:37 mark and, following a Bryant penalty for an illegal body check on that scoring play, Patterson hit Strazzulla on a second man-up situation just 16 seconds later to extend SJU's lead to four, 9-5.

The Hawks then scored a second pair of quick goals to complete the four-goal run as Vernacchio hit sophomore attackman Matt Tufano (5:19) and Tufano hit freshman attackman Ryan Doran (5:08) to put the game away. 

"Our offense got off to a good start," said Wray. "Bryant shifted into zone and it slowed us down. But we made some key plays in transition and down the stretch in the fourth quarter that helped secure the victory."

Freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole returned to the line-up to go 11-of-19 from the X with a game-high six ground balls while junior long stick midfielder Josh Bosher (4gb, 2ct) and freshman midfielder Andrew Chilson (3gb) added to the Hawks' 33-31 ground-ball advantage for the game.

Of note, SJU went 4-for-7 in man-up opportunities.

"I was pleased to see our man-up unit improve," added Wray. "We've made some changes there and spent some time working in that area, and I was happy to see it pay off."

Saint Joseph's returns home to host Robert Morris next Saturday, March 30 in a rematch of the 2018 NEC title game. Opening face-off is set for 1:00 p.m. on Sweeney Field.