Defending national champion softball and men’s lacrosse teams ranked No. 1 in preseason polls

While the 2014-2015 school year has been highlighted by the Tufts soccer team’s National Championship victory, the 2013-2014 school year had its own fair share of success on the national stage. Headlined by the Tufts softball and men’s lacrosse teams, last spring was a very eventful season for Tufts athletics. Both teams won National Championships, achieving the pinnacle of triumph in their respective sports.

With the winter season now in full swing, Tufts students may not have to wait until spring to see a Tufts team once again hoist a national championship trophy. Especially in light of the recent release of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Div. III preseason rankings for both sports, the opportunity for a championship repeat, or in the case of the softball team, a three-peat, is now in full focus.

Winning a national championship is an extraordinarily difficult accomplishment to achieve, and as shown most recently by the Seattle Seahawks, winning consecutive championships is even more so. This difficulty is accentuated in collegiate sports, due to teams losing major contributors when they graduate each year. Yet a repeat victory is far from impossible for both the softball team and the men’s lacrosse team, as both will see the return major contingents from last year’s championship teams. The NFCA and USILA agree, ranking both teams No. 1 in the nation.

After losing a strong senior class to graduation last spring, including both of the team’s co-captains, the softball team will attempt to march its way to the national championship on the back of star pitcher Allyson Fournier. Fournier, a senior, started 29 of the team’s 51 games last season, finishing 28-1 with a 0.49 ERA and 314 strikeouts in 202 innings. Her stellar 2014 season came in the wake of an equally excellent 2013 season that earned her the NCAA Div. III Athlete of the Year Award. As long as the Jumbos have Fournier on the mound, a third consecutive National Championship won’t be too far out of reach.

The men’s lacrosse team will begin its season in a similar situation, having lost all three of it’s tri-captains to graduation last spring. But the Jumbos will return last season’s leading scorer, senior Chris Schoenhut, who netted 80 goals on 163 shots in 22 games played. In addition, the team will return it’s leading point scorer, junior John Uppgren (124 points) and its assist leader, senior Cole Bailey (65 assists). Bailey will remain the team’s offensive playmaker, coming off a season in which he garnered the USILA Turnbull Award for Oustanding Attackman, NESCAC Player of the Year honors, First Team All-American honors and the national title game’s Most Valuable Player accolade.

The men’s lacrosse team will begin its title pursuit on Feb. 28 in a home game against Middlebury, and the softball team will commence its own title pursuit with 14 games in Clermont, Fla. over spring break.