This season, seven NESCAC teams currently sit at .500 or better, and all of them have at least one loss. Therefore, the women’s lacrosse team’s wins over Williams and Wesleyan took on extra import as they moved Tufts (5-2, 9-2) into sole possession of third place and above the fray in the NESCAC.
“I think the keys to success in both of those games were respecting possession, staying composed with the ball and playing great team defense,” senior tri-captain attack Kali DiGate said.
Tufts moved up to third place in the NESCAC with Saturday afternoon’s 17-8 rout of last-place Wesleyan, lowering the Cardinals’ conference record to 0-6. With the nets weighted down by sandbags due to windy conditions at Bello Field, the Jumbos rode a 10-goal second half to victory. The game was initially much closer than the final score would indicate, as both sides traded goals for the first 15 minutes. Tufts led 7-5 at the half, then broke the match wide open with a second half scoring rampage. The Jumbos’ passing game was exceptional given the adverse conditions, shredding the Cardinal defense and setting up numerous scoring opportunities.
“Everyone deserves a shout-out for the Wesleyan game because our whole team put on strong performances, which was reflected in the final score,” Taylor Meek, a first-year attack, said.
The box score was just as lopsided as the final result. Tufts took 29 shots on goal — more than double Wesleyan’s total of 14 — and controlled the ground ball game 17-10. In addition to going a perfect 12 of 12 on clears, the Jumbos also won three more draws and committed four fewer turnovers than the Bantams. DiGate and junior tri-captain attack Caroline Ross paced the attack with 13 goals between them. Ross was also the team leader in assists with three, scoring or lending a hand in 10 goals.
“Kali Digate and Caroline Ross had great games this Saturday,” senior midfielder Lindsey Walker said. “[Junior midfielder] Brigid Bowser coming up with almost all of the draw controls in the second half of the Wesleyan game was a momentum changer and allowed us to pull ahead of our opponent.”
Tufts avenged last year’s NESCAC tournament defeat to Williams with Wednesday night’s 8-6 triumph. Playing under the lights at Farley-Lamb Field, the visiting Jumbos jumped out to a 4-0 lead, scoring their first goal 43 seconds into the game on Bowser’s free-position shot. Following a lengthy but fruitless Williams possession, Tufts reeled off three straight goals as DiGate, Ross and Walker all found the back of the net in rapid succession for the Jumbos.
Williams broke through for its first goal of the game at 8:57 with senior Rebecca Bell scoring off an assist from junior Anne Rehfuss. After six minutes of scoreless play, the Ephs scored another goal from junior midfielder Natalie Gill with 2:55 remaining in the first half. Gill’s goal — her ninth of the season — came on a free-position attempt and trimmed Tufts’ lead to two.
Williams continued to play well in the second half but was unable to overcome their early deficit. Bowser controlled the opening draw and scored again at 29:20 to make the Jumbos’ advantage 5-2, but Bell responded for the Ephs with her second goal of the game less than two minutes later. Both teams alternated goals again before Meek netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal, putting Tufts up 7-4 with 18:11 to go. The Jumbo defense fended off a late surge by the Ephs, holding on for the 8-6 victory.
“[Against Williams], our defense played the best defense of the entire season thus far,” Meek said. “I was so proud as I watched every single girl on the defensive end have such an amazing game.”
Bell led all scorers with three of the Ephs’ six goals. Bowser, Ross and Walker all scored twice for the Jumbos, with Bowser adding an assist and three ground balls. First-year goalie Hannah Wiltshire had a strong game for Tufts as well, notching 10 saves in 16 attempts. Her performance merited another start against Wesleyan on Saturday, to which she responded with six stops in another solid effort.
“Hannah [Wiltshire] really stepped up and played amazing in both games,” DiGate said.
In both games, however, Tufts played considerably better in one half. With their season heading into the home stretch, the Jumbos are still searching for more consistency going forward.
“Playing good lacrosse for 60 minutes has been a team goal since the beginning of the season and continues to be something we strive for,” Bowser said.
Tufts has a full week of practices before traveling to upstate New York for games against Hamilton and Cortland State next weekend. The Jumbos will look to extend their current winning streak to five against the Continentals on Saturday.
“I feel the team is in a great place, and we are really starting to fully come together on all aspects of the field, which is something that is very rewarding to see as an athlete,” Walker said. “We all are on the same page and want the same things going forward with the rest of our season.”