Jumbos remain unbeaten after seven games

Senior midfielder Michael Mattson skips past a defender's check in the game against Endicott College on March 10. Courtesy Jumbos Lax TV

The No. 2 Jumbos had a productive spring break, increasing their run of wins to seven on the season so far, remaining unbeaten. Tufts faced two conference opponents – Trinity and Colby, who they defeated 22-9 and 10-7 respectively — and non-conference rival Stevenson 16-13, who at the time of the matchup was ranked No. 8.

On Saturday, the Jumbos hosted the Trinity Bantams (2-4, 0-4 NESCAC) in what became their second game in the season during which they scored more than 20 goals. Tufts went five goals up in less than five minutes led by a pair of goals from sophomore midfielder Nick Katz. Thanks to sophomore face-off expert Henry Hollen, who won the first five face-offs and two-thirds total, the Bantams did not see their first offensive possession until they were already five goals down. The Bantams scored three in a row before the end of the quarter to minimize the deficit, and the game went to the second quarter with a score of 5-3.

Coach Casey D’Annolfo praised the Jumbos for their strong offense.

“There are some teams we play that slide really early and force us to really move the ball quickly and use our teammates,” D’Annolfo said. “Trinity was one of those teams, and forced us to play good team offense, but our guys did a good job of taking advantage of that.”

Tufts opened the second quarter with possession and a man-down situation, but the team was able to ride out the disadvantage. After sophomore goalkeeper Ben Shmerler grabbed a save, a successful clear saw first-year midfielder Nick Shanks take the ball downfield and score his first career goal for the Jumbos.

Four more Jumbos found the net before the half, with senior attackman Zach Richman scoring two and one each from senior co-captain defenseman Tucker Mathers, senior midfielder Lucas Johnson and sophomore attackman Ben Connelly. 

Two more goals from Lucas Johnson in the second half made him the contest’s highest scorer, with only three goals because the Jumbos had 13 different goal scorers that day.

“In the offense, we like to let the defense dictate who scores our goals,” Lucas Johnson said. “We just find the open guys, and it just ended up being me who got them on Saturday.”

Sophomore midfielder John Cordrey similarly acknowledged the team’s strong offense.

“We drew slides and moved it to the guys with the best shots,” Cordrey said. “When you can jump on a team really early like that, it throws them off their game. We kept our foot on the gas throughout the whole game, and it was awesome to see the scoring be so spread out across the entire team.”

Shanks added his second career goal later in the third quarter. Sophomore attackman William Pasik and first-year attackman Fitz Reese both recorded their first career goals as well.

Lucas Johnson applauded the Jumbos’ defense.

“Against Trinity, everyone did their jobs,” he said. “The goalies made a ton of saves, the defense got stops and the face-off unit dominated every matchup and got the ball to the offense.

A midweek competition against the Stevenson Mustangs was the Jumbos’ first encounter against another top-10 opponent, though the Mustangs have been demoted to No. 11 after their loss to the Jumbos.

Stevenson got on the scoreboard first, but Cordrey grabbed two points back to back with a goal and an assist to senior attackman Michael Mattson to give Tufts its first lead. Richman added a pair of goals 18 seconds apart, and Murphy grabbed his own. The Mustangs managed a goal with 12 seconds remaining to cut the Jumbos’ lead to two before the end of the quarter.

The Mustangs netted four in the second quarter, compared to three by the Jumbos, allowing the Jumbos a single goal advantage before the half. In the third quarter, two goals from Cordrey and one apiece from Murphy, Mattson and Lucas Johnson gave them the three-goal lead that they maintained for the rest of the game.

“There was no pump-up speech at half time,” D’Annolfo said. “We were doing what we wanted to do. We just had to continue driving away, [and] the goals would come. Legitimately, nothing changed at half time. It was mostly just our guys connecting on their shots. Our goalies played really well throughout the entire game, and Stevenson had fewer chances than us.”

On March 18, the Jumbos handed the Colby Mules their second conference loss after scoring seven unanswered goals in the first 15 minutes. Six different Jumbos scored in the first quarter, indicative of the spread of talent both in the starters and bench players this season.

The remainder of the contest was a different story, with the score from the final three quarters totaling 3-7 to Colby. The scoreline in each quarter was 0-2, 1-2, and 2-3, but despite the Jumbos being outscored each time, the Mules could not cancel out the significant deficit that they had incurred in the opening quarter.

“We strayed away from some of the stuff that we do well, so it wasn’t one particular phase of the game,” Cordrey said. “In the first quarter, we played really good team offense, drawing the slides and moving the ball so the defense couldn’t get set.”

The Jumbos are one of the most aggressive teams in the NESCAC at preventing the other team from successfully clearing. However, against the Mules, they prevented only four of 22, compared to preventing nine of the Bantam’s and 10 of the Mustang’s.

Another contributor was Colby’s sophomore goalkeeper CJ Layton, who saved nearly two-thirds of Tufts’ shots. The contest was the Jumbos’ lowest scoring match-up of the season so far by six goals, and well below their average of 17.86 goals per game.

However, the Jumbos remain ranked at No. 2 in the nation and lead the NESCAC in goals and assists, with Shmerler leading the NESCAC in goals against.

The Jumbos looks ahead to this weekend where they will play Conn. College, who are 1-2 in the NESCAC.