Elevated Bulldogs are pups in training
Smithfield-based Bryant University, in its first season as a Division I athletics’ program ogling eventual membership in the Northeast Conference (NEC), implicitly decided to let its women’s soccer team get the most taxing experiment out of the way first.
On tap to entertain the Friars’ home opener Thursday at 4:00, the Bulldogs only settled back into the Ocean State at the beginning of the week after a five-day, two-game break-in bonding excursion to the Rocky Mountains. Beyond a come-from-behind 3-2 OT win at Northern Colorado –officially ringing in the program’s D-I era at a 1-0 transcript- and a 3-1 falter at Wyoming, co-captain Amy Orzechowski recollected her team’s many retreat activities in an online diary posted on the team’s website.
It might as well be fun and games for the time being, for an elaborate five-year plan is in full swing as Bryant transitions out of its severed 28-year membership in the Division II Northeast-10 Conference.
When the school officially accepted the offer to upgrade all of its teams last October, the immediate plan was to render the rest of the 2007-08 season an “exploratory year” and one last crack at any Division II hardware. The female kickers ended up gushing on a 17-0-5 run before they spilled a 2-1 decision in the conference championship and snuffed out of the first round in the NCAA tournament.
Starting this autumn, a full collegiate generation of athletes will have to sacrifice any existing title yearnings as all teams run through a four-year reclassification period. By the end of the 2011-12 academic year, if all goes according to plan, independent schedules will give way to formal membership in the NEC and a shot at D-I championships.
For now, the rigorous vetting regimen is conspicuous by the near-absence of home games and diverse schedule. Putting the western venture aside, the Bulldogs have a smooth string of 14 road games ahead of them. Their 2008 home opener will double as the season finale when Cornell visits Bulldog Stadium on Friday, October 24. Bryant will only encounter three of its future conference cohabitants this autumn, visiting Sacred Heart on September 26, Quinnipiac –which pulled the exact same Northeast-10 to NEC transition in 1998- on September 28, and Wagner October 5.
In all, Bryant will dip into six eastern conferences this season, the most frequent being Ivy League members –Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Yale.
Similarly, the Bulldog men’s team –slated to tangle with the Friars at Glay Field on October 15- has but one formal home game to speak of this season, lined up for October 3 when Long Island University drops in. That game will serve as one of only four clashes with future NEC rivals.
For what its worth, Bryant’s initial two Division I contests staged one uplifting and one indigestible rally apiece. At Stop No. 1 last Friday, the host Northern Colorado sculpted a 2-0 lead on the strength of Sydney Vandervelde’s two second half goals before the Bulldogs finally perked up to strike within the 80th and 83rd minutes. Freshman forward Kaitlyn Hinck polished the comeback on her first collegiate strike at 14:47 of the bonus frame.
Two days later, the primordially hot Hinck spawned an immediate lead 14 minutes into Bryant’s tussle with Wyoming, though the Cowgirls swayed back for three unanswered conversions.
Free Kicks: PC and Bryant previously met in an innocent preseason exhibition over in Smithfield on August 20, 2005, the Bulldogs claiming a 1-0 decision…Providence senior forward Kelly Pettersen and Bryant junior defender Brianne Lustenring share the hometown of Massapequa, N.Y…Thursday will commence a four-game, strictly nonconference home stand for PC, carrying on to Sunday’s 1:00 kickoff with Stony Brook and a repeat Thursday-Sunday pattern with Holy Cross and Manhattan dropping in respectively…The Friars have won their last three home openers, but have not clocked in an overall 1-0 start since they beat Maine, 2-0, in the 2005 regular season opener.