It’s a familiar, eye-roll-inducing cliché: Athletes regularly describe themselves and their teammates as members of a “family.” The explanation lies in the fact that players commonly live together, eat together, study together and more, despite already seeing hours of each other at daily practices.
For No. 10 Tufts men’s lacrosse, however, the metaphor of family crosses over into reality. On the team of 51 players, there are four pairs of brothers. There are also other players whose older brothers have graduated, or whose younger brothers might come to play at Tufts once they graduate high school.
Graduating senior defenseman Tyler Carbone and graduating senior attackman Austin Carbone are fraternal twins from Summit, N.J. who have played lacrosse together since grade school. In high school, both earned U.S. Lacrosse All-American Honors. They were also both named to the All-State First Team, and Austin received the award for New Jersey Attackman of the Year.
Because one is a defenseman and the other is an attackman, the two have been pitted against one another in practices and scrimmages throughout their lives. Now, after successful four-year careers, the Carbones are graduating — Tyler with a degree in history and Austin with a degree in sociology.
Also graduating this May is midfielder and computer science major Lucas Johnson, whose younger brother Griffin Johnson is a rising senior attackman on the team. The Syracuse, N.Y. natives are actually two years apart in age, but after Lucas took a year off between sophomore and junior year in high school to study abroad in Sweden, the gap in class years was reduced to one. This peculiarity offered the brothers the opportunity to play on the same team for two years in high school, when previously they would not have overlapped because of how the teams were organized.
Two other pairs of brothers — rising senior goalkeeper Robert Treiber and rising sophomore attackman Matt Treiber, and rising senior attackman Nico Pollack and rising sophomore goalkeeper Mason Pollack — are also separated in age by two years, but their respective grade gaps meant that they played on the same team relatively infrequently before coming to Tufts.
All four of the Treibers and Pollacks are in the School of Engineering, and both younger siblings (Matt and Mason) are computer science majors. A consistently echoed sentiment among the four was that they chose Tufts because it gave them the uncommon opportunity to pursue engineering while playing NCAA lacrosse.
“I knew that I wanted to go somewhere that had engineering,” Robert said. “[Tufts] is a good balance between sports and academics that’s hard to find. A lot of places told me that I couldn’t do engineering and play lacrosse, so that’s something I was really looking forward to doing.”
Coincidentally, in both pairs, one brother is a goalkeeper while the other is an attackman. As with the Carbones, the direct opposition in positions foments a unique dynamic when the brothers face off against each other in practice almost every day.
The team often channels these sibling rivalries toward productive ends. In fall semester captain’s practices, the team uses the natural competitiveness between brothers to generate scrimmage teams that encourage a high level of competitiveness. Once a year, each pair of brothers has their turn to draft teams against each other in what the Johnsons referred to as the “Johnsons Battle.”
According to Mason, who plays goalkeeper, he can always tell when it’s Nico who is shooting on him.
“I would say that us knowing each other makes it even harder to play,” Mason said. “It’s almost like we’ve been scouting each other for our whole lives so we really have to think about what we’re going to do on the field before we do it.”
Because the goalie-shooter interaction on the team is such a head-to-head encounter, both the Treibers and Pollacks benefit from being able to ask their sibling for advice or feedback on a regular basis.
“If Mason saves one of my shots, I always ask him whether he saved it because it was a bad shot or because he knew where it was going,” Nico said.
“The answer is usually that I knew where it was going,” Mason answered.
Robert Treiber has played between the pipes in every game for the Jumbos this season, recording a 52.4 save percentage on the season.
“One thing that’s great when we play is that if I have something wrong, [Matt will] notice it because he’s trying to score against me,” Robert said. “Or if he has a question, he’ll always ask me ‘How did you know what I was doing there?’ It really helps for both of us to feed off each other and grow and learn from each other.”
As the brothers’ own stories revealed, the impact of an older sibling’s attendance at Tufts on a younger sibling’s decision about college is far more complicated than it appears. Indubitably, having an older sibling at Tufts provided a level of exposure to the Tufts lacrosse program that the younger sibling wouldn’t necessarily have had. However, most players interviewed shared the general sentiment that the younger brother independently decided on Tufts for a variety of factors unrelated to having an existing family connection.
“Initially I was hesitant to look at Tufts because [Lucas] was here,” Griffin Johnson said. “But I was looking to use lacrosse as a way to get into a good academic institution, so I was looking at NESCAC schools and other similar places. It came down to the great coaching staff, a great lacrosse program, 5,000 undergrads and Boston — you couldn’t beat it.”
“I told him, ‘Just make your choice,'” Lucas recounted. “‘Don’t not come to Tufts just because I’m here. Do whatever you want, and if we end up at the same place that’s cool.'”
This is not the first season that brothers have taken the field together for the Jumbos. Rising senior midfielder Auric Enchill and his older brother, midfielder AJ Enchill (LA ’16), spent two years on the team together. One of the most successful players in program history, Beau Wood (LA ’14), also played alongside his younger brother Blake Wood (LA ’16) for two seasons, including the Jumbos’ 2014 national title-winning season.
According to Matt Treiber, having so many pairs of brothers facilitates the development of a cohesive and supportive culture that extends to include the entire team.
“One of the great things about Tufts lacrosse and having so many brothers on the team is that we stress having our team be a family,” he said. “When you actually have pairs of brothers that are legitimate family members, it helps build that bond and create that family environment.”