After stringing together eight victories in a row, including wins against some of the top teams in Div. III, the No. 4 men’s lacrosse team finally hit a roadblock Tuesday night, falling on the road to unranked Endicott College, 12-10.
The loss brings Tufts’ overall record to 8-3, and was the Jumbos’ first defeat since returning a full roster of players. The team started the season 0-2 down 27 players, who were suspended for two games after a third-party investigation found them guilty of inappropriate conduct at a September Tufts volleyball game.
The Endicott game was sandwiched between five crucial NESCAC matchups, and the Jumbos were caught by the proverbial trap game, failing to play consistently and maintain focus for four quarters.
“We need to just focus on the next game,” senior midfielder Brian Ruggiero said. “We’ll learn from our mistakes and have a short memory about what’s happened in the past because we can only control what happens from here out.”
Tufts held a two-goal lead at halftime, but lost control in the third quarter, conceding six goals while only putting one into the back of the net. Senior co-captain attackman Connor McCormack paced the Gulls, tallying three goals and one assist in the game and bringing his season goal-scoring total to 23.
The Jumbos did recover in the fourth quarter, twice cutting the deficit to two, with goals from junior midfielders Beau Wood and Peter Bowers, but were ultimately unable to find enough offense to get by Endicott’s Cameron Bell, who made 13 saves on the night.
In what is becoming a troubling trend for the Jumbos, the team went cold for an extended period of play, conceding four unanswered goals in the third quarter.
Previously the Jumbos have often been able to overcome the poor stretches, but this time, despite outshooting Endicott 13-8 in the fourth quarter, they were unable to recover and come back for a win.
There is no magical fix for these lapses in play, and when asked to name the areas that Tufts needs to most improve, senior defenseman John Heard gave a clear answer.
“Consistency. We all know we haven’t played to our potential yet and we need to keep getting better every day to reach that potential,” Heard said. “I think the best way to [avoid cold streaks] is to take a deep breath, focus on our fundamentals, and think about only the next play.”
With the Endicott game behind them, the Jumbos have now directed their attention to Amherst, who they are set to play this Saturday at 1 p.m. The Lord Jeffs are 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the NESCAC. They are led by junior attacker and captain Devin Acton, who has 19 goals and six assists so far this season.
Tufts is very familiar with Amherst. The Jumbos played the Jeffs twice last season, winning 15-5 in the regular season and 14-10 in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Tufts will need to focus defensive attention on Acton, who scored seven goals in the quarterfinal a year ago, willing Amherst to an 8-8 tie midway through the third quarter, until eventually running out of steam in the fourth, where Tufts pulled away with the win.
The Jumbos currently trail Conn. College by one game in the NESCAC standings. The next four games for Tufts, all against NESCAC teams, will be critical to playoff seeding. If the Camels slip up and the Jumbos can win out, they will have the opportunity to play the NESCAC championship at home, an advantage Tufts utilized in route to winning the title a season ago.
“It would be great to have home field advantage, no doubt,” Ruggiero said. “But we really need to be focused on winning the next game ahead of us this Saturday. That’s the only thing we can control right now, our effort going forward.”