Tufts continues mid-season success with pair of commanding wins

First-year defender Emma Tomlinson picks up a ground ball during Tufts' 26–5 win over Wellesley on March 14. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The No. 7 Tufts women’s lacrosse team continued its mid-season domination with impressive wins over Endicott College and Conn. College on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The Jumbos are now 7–1 on the season and 4–0 against NESCAC opponents.

Fresh off its commanding victory over Endicott, Tufts visited a NESCAC opponent in Conn. College (3–6) on Saturday. After defeating the Camels 17–4 at home last season, the Jumbos put on an even stronger showing this time around, notching a 20–4 victory in New London, Conn. For the second straight game, Tufts’ cushion allowed coach Courtney Shute to give playing time to every healthy member of the team.

“For both games, every single person was able to be on the field at one point, and that’s great for our team’s morale,” senior attacker Taylor Meek said. “We started seeing girls getting a chance to go in very early on in the [Conn.] College game, and that’s just awesome for our program and our team’s energy.”

From the opening whistle, the hosts’ defense struggled to contain a communicative and adaptive Jumbos’ offense.

“Our coaches only called in one or two sets, which means our offense was flowing so well [that] we didn’t need any structure to help put the ball in the back of the net,” Meek said. “That’s super exciting. We were trusting each other and setting each other up, and we didn’t necessarily need a set play.”

Statistically, the Jumbos bested their NESCAC opponents in nearly every respect. At the final whistle, Tufts led Conn. College in shots (39–10), draw controls (15–10) and free-position shots (12–0), while committing seven fewer turnovers. Once again, the Jumbos’ ability to play solid defense without fouling — an aspect of play they’ve been working on all year — paid off against the Camels.

“We only had one foul in the entire second half, which means we weren’t swinging randomly after their attackers but just playing solid body defense,” Meek said. “Our defense is just using their bodies to get in front and slow the ball down.”

Junior defender Megan Toner agreed, adding that the team’s defensive pressure is not limited to just its defensive end.

“We are trying out high-pressure backers, so we are going to work on playing body defense throughout the field and trying to cause some turnovers up the field,” Toner said. “That way, we get the ball over to the offense.”

Once the Tufts offense had possession against Conn. College, the ball found the back of the net often. The Jumbos scored seven consecutive times to start the game, conceding the Camels’ first goal at the 14:43 mark of the first half. Senior midfielder Caroline Nowak scored twice during the 7–0 run to lead a balanced Tufts attack. The hosts had a chance to crawl back into the game on the man-advantage after Tufts sophomore midfielder Maddie Norman was called for a foul with 7:32 left in the half. Instead of conceding goals, however, the Jumbos only expanded their lead, thanks to a pair of scores from junior attacker Maria Dattolo.

Tufts, led by Nowak’s four goals, closed a dominant first half leading 13–2. With the game out of reach, the Jumbos let off the gas pedal in the second half, though they still managed to score seven more goals while only conceding two.

Taking on Endicott (6–3), the 2017 Commonwealth Coast Conference champion, two days prior, Tufts relied on early draw success and a strong defensive performance to keep possession for much of the game. Meanwhile, the Jumbos’ balanced attack sliced through the Gulls’ defense for a 17–7 victory. The scoring output was par for the course for a Tufts squad that is averaging 16.5 goals per game this season.

“Against Endicott especially, we absolutely dominated on the draw control,” Meek said. “Everyone in that circle was successful in hunting down balls, and honestly, I would also give so much credit to our defense; they were like a wall.”

Though Tufts has focused on improving its offensive play in recent weeks, it was the team’s stellar defensive effort that stood out in the convincing victory.

“There were a couple of key stops that we made where we played 90 seconds of defense,” Toner said. “So we were able to make a couple stops by playing good defense and just running down the 90 second shot clock… which is something that we’re trying to carry over into our next few games.”

In the circle, sophomore midfielder Lily Baldwin often took the draw and hustled to control possession herself. The Cincinnati, Ohio native was supported by Norman, sophomore midfielder Margaret Chase and junior attacker Dakota Adamec, who combined to win 13 of 25 draws, including eight of 13 in the first half. The squad has won more draws than its opponent in every game this season — a huge source of its success.

“Lily has been an absolute force on the draw … and it is so important,” Meek said. “You aren’t guaranteed possession after a goal in lacrosse, so our offense really does start with the draw.”

Tufts began the game in Beverly, Mass. with a 5–0 scoring run, which included an unassisted goal by sophomore attacker Emily Games just 25 seconds in and two goals by junior midfielder Annie Sullivan. Endicott finally got on the board with a goal at the 10:58 mark and added another a few minutes later through sophomore midfielder Jennifer Lacroix. Nonetheless, the Jumbos scored four goals in the last five and a half minutes to lead 10–3 at the break.

Tufts scored another seven goals in the second half and held Endicott to just four. Adamec, the Jumbos’ leading scorer this season with 25 goals, put two shots in the back of the net in the first five minutes of the period to effectively clinch the victory.

Despite authoritative winning margins in its past two games, and its three-game winning streak, Tufts continues to search for potential improvements, especially in their shot selection and shot placement.

“I think moving forward, we are most specifically focused on our shot and how we are shooting in games,” Meek said. “For our attack and midfield, shot placement is key. In general, we never settle — we know just because things went well in one game, they don’t have to be the same in the next.”

Tufts will bring that mentality, along with its defensive prowess, into today’s home game against NESCAC rival Williams. The Ephs enter the contest with a 4–4 overall record, including a 1–3 mark in conference play.