Jumbos begin season with commanding win over NESCAC rival

Sophomore midfielder Lily Baldwin is double-teamed in Tufts' 16–8 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on March 15, 2017. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts women’s lacrosse team (1–0) opened its 2018 season with a bang on Saturday, dominating then-13th-ranked Hamilton (0–1) with a score of 17–4. Tufts junior attacker Dakota Adamec led the way, scoring eight goals, tied for a program record.

Though Hamilton grabbed the first score of the game on a shot by first-year attacker Julia Rowland only 2:26 into the first half, Tufts commanded the rest of the half, including a commanding 8–0 run over the final 17:11. Part of the Jumbos’ domination stemmed from their ability to keep the pace of play extremely fast, as their transitions from defense to offense often caught the Continentals’ defense completely off guard.

“Something that looked really good, and that the team feels really good about, was the pace that we played at,” senior attacker Taylor Meek said. “We’ve been putting a huge emphasis on moving the ball quickly and playing at a fast pace … since captains’ practices.”

Their fast pace allowed the Jumbos to command the game in other statistical respects, as well. At the half, the squad held a large advantage, 10–2, but also led in shots (27–8), converted free-position shots (4-of-7 compared to Hamilton’s 0-for-3) and draw controls (8–5). With Adamec taking most draws, supported by junior midfielder Annie Sullivan and sophomore midfielder Maddie Norman on the outside, the Jumbos were able to control possession on a majority of the restarts.

“For us on both the defensive [end] and on the attack, there were a lot of great moments, but also through the midfield with really good draw control,” Tufts coach Courtney Shute said.

Meek agreed, explaining the importance of winning draws for the squad to set up its offense perfectly.

“We practiced it so much, [and] we really dominated in the circle,” she said. “That meant some really strong players were finding the ball on their sticks because once we have possession, we can start to work the offense.”

Again coming out of the gates strong, Hamilton struck first to begin the second half and followed that goal with another after a Tufts foul. The visitors’ two quick goals generated momentum, shifting the dynamic of the game.

“Going into the half, we had huge control over the game, so I think in general the team that is down in halftime is going to come out super strong,” Meek said. “But we knew we had the leg up, and … I think we just started taking control in the middle of the field again and started getting the draws.”

As such, it was once again the Jumbos’ talented play in the circle for the draws that allowed them to halt any hopes of a Continentals comeback. In addition, Tufts’ defense stepped up and took care of business for the entirety of the season opener, Shute noted.

“Our defensive unit played a lot of minutes, and that core group is really strong and knows each other really well,” Shute said. “I thought there was great defensive play across the board, and we had eight to 10 people in there, rooting on those spots.”

Though Hamilton mounted only 13 total shots on net throughout the game (compared to the host’s 33), Tufts junior goalie Audrey Evers performed well, stopped nine of them for a 69.2 save percentage.

“Our defense was so strong. They were all playing together and communicating well, and Audrey made some great saves,” Meek said. “We all love having her in net.”

Just like in the first half, the Jumbos swung the momentum with an unstoppable barrage of goals. After Tufts junior midfielder Maddy Schwartz caused a Hamilton turnover and sophomore midfielder Margaret Chase scooped up the ground ball, Sullivan started the scoring streak at the 25:13 mark, assisted by Adamec. The Jumbos scored six more unanswered goals before the final whistle, half of them from Adamec, who was named NESCAC Co-Player of the Week for her efforts.

“Dakota had some crazy goals, and we could tell she was just having so much fun on the field, which is just who she is,” Meek said. “She picked up a ball that could’ve been a turnover, and she literally had almost a ‘twizzler’ shot where she just chucked it behind her.”

The Katonah, N.Y. native’s goal, on a nearly blind behind-the-back shot, made both the sideline and the stands go wild.

“You couldn’t do that if you planned it,” Meek said. “She was just so in the moment, she picked it up and launched it backwards. Stuff like that, our team thrives [on]. We were jumping up and down and sticks were flying.”

Though Adamec certainly showed incredible talent, her goals would have been impossible without the efforts of her teammates. Sophomore attacker Emily Games often cut through the defense, opening up space for Adamec to drive.

“We are not going to win with just one person dominating,” Meek said. “The reason we played well, especially in the second half, is because we were looking out for each other and looking to set each other up.”

Even after their masterful performance against the Continentals, the No. 12 Jumbos — who advanced nine spots in the national rankings — are looking to improve their shot selection, according to Shute. The squad will continue its quest to go “1–0, 15 times” on Wednesday, when it faces off against Endicott (2–0).