The No. 7 Tufts men’s lacrosse team cruised to its third win of the season on Saturday with a decisive 16–7 victory over the Stevens Institute of Technology. The Jumbos were only winning by two goals at halftime, but with a stifling defensive effort in the second half, they were able to shut out the Ducks in the third quarter and win the half, 9–2.
“One of our biggest points all year — something we have talked about a lot — has been not getting complacent,” junior attacker Danny Murphy said. “We fell into that trap a lot last year, and we are trying to be a different team. We almost let them back into it when we were leading 7–1 in the second quarter, but we talked about not being complacent at halftime and that fired us up.”
Murphy, who added two goals and two assists to his season totals against Stevens, was Tufts’ leading scorer last year. However, Saturday’s game belonged to his fellow junior attacker, Ben Connelly. Connelly rattled off four goals and five assists, including scoring or assisting on four goals during the Jumbos’ 6–0 first-half run. The Winnetka, Ill. native now leads the Jumbos in goals with 11.
“Crazy, right?” Connelly said. “Just the right place at the right time, that’s all it was. It is easy to rack up points when all I have to do is pass it and the other guy does all the work.”
Tufts junior midfielder Henry Hollen, who saw his first action of the season against Stevens, mentioned that the team wasn’t at all surprised by Connelly’s performance.
“The defense either wasn’t sliding to him, which gave him a chance to shoot, or slid to him and he’d pass out of it for assists,” Hollen said. “We know he is capable of that kind of a game.”
Senior attacker Andrew Seiter added four goals to up his season tally to 10, while sophomore midfielder Nick Shanks added two goals and an assist to pace the Jumbos.
In a game in which the teams’ shots, saves, turnovers and clears were all nearly dead even, two statistical categories stand out: ground balls and face-offs won. Tufts dominated in loose-ball situations, with a 42–19 edge in ground balls — something that is preached to them in practice every day by coach Casey D’Annolfo. Hollen led Tufts with seven ground ball pick-ups on Saturday.
“Ground balls are just a hustle stat,” Hollen said. “It is simply about who works the hardest and who wants it more, and I think we made it clear, especially in the second half, that we wanted it more.”
Hollen was also the reason for the Jumbos’ success in face-offs, as the San Diego, Calif. native went 16-for-22 en route to the hosts’ 18–7 advantage at the dot. First-year midfielder Evan Cunningham, who filled in for Hollen in his absence during the first two games, won two of his three face-off attempts to continue the strong start to his first-year campaign.
“We know how dominant [Hollen] can be, so it is nice to have him out there,” Murphy said. “He is a force.”
Nonetheless, Hollen is still hungry for improvement.
“The numbers look good, but I could have been better,” Hollen said. “I’m serious — watch the tape. I just put the ball between my legs and let the better athletes handle it. All credit to my teammates.”
As much as Tufts’ attackers and face-off men deserve credit, it was the team’s dominant defense that held Stevens to just two second-half goals. The experienced group, spearheaded by senior defender and co-captain Connor Lansdale, has yet to give up more than 10 goals to an opponent this year, not has it allowed more than five goals in any half. Against Stevens, sophomore goalie Mason Pollack made 13 saves to record his third win of the year.
“Our defense is dominant, and they play a complete game,” Connelly said. “They dictate our offense and get stops. We rely on them a lot and they’ve been great.”
Tufts brings it 3–0 record into the first game of its NESCAC schedule on Saturday, a home tie against Colby (1–1). In the teams’ matchup last year, the Jumbos defeated the Mules, 10–7, on March 18.
“NESCAC game. Home conference opener. Big game. That’s all,” Murphy said.