The No. 3 Tufts men’s lacrosse team (9–0) triumphed over No. 4 Wesleyan (8–2) by a score of 14–10 on Saturday afternoon at Bello Field. Both teams were undefeated in NESCAC play heading into the game, sporting matching 5–0 conference records.
The Jumbos used a 4–0 run in the second quarter to separate themselves in an otherwise tightly contested game. Paced by their defense and a balanced offensive attack, the hosts were able to keep Wesleyan at bay in the second half, never letting their lead slip under four goals.
Junior attackers Danny Murphy and Ben Connelly continued their strong play to lead the offensive effort. Murphy tied his season high with seven points, and Connelly had four goals of his own — two of them assisted by Murphy. Despite the duo’s impressive performance, Tufts had seven different players score on Saturday, a tribute to its fast-paced and collective approach to offense.
“We always say we have six threats to score the ball — anyone that’s on the field at the time,” junior midfielder Henry Hollen said. “Obviously, Ben and Danny are unbelievable players, but they rack up points because someone got open for them or someone made a good pass. It’s always a team effort.”
Wesleyan was able to keep the game close thanks to the heroic play of sophomore goalie Otto Bohan. The Westlake, Ohio native made 18 saves on the day, including six in the third quarter when the Jumbos were threatening to put the game out of reach.
Though Tufts never increased its lead to an insurmountable margin, the home side felt comfortable playing its aggressive style throughout the second half instead of resorting to a defensive approach.
“It is just the way the game goes. We never decide to pack it in and play conservative to preserve a lead,” junior midfielder Nick Katz said. “We have an attacking mentality for 60 minutes, and we don’t take our foot off the gas — we just trust our game plan.”
Ultimately, the Jumbos’ defense dictated the play on Saturday. The unit stymied Wesleyan in the first half, giving up just four goals and forcing 15 turnovers in the first two periods. Tufts’ defense has been rock solid all season and has recently upped its game at the most important time of the year; the group hasn’t conceded more than 10 goals to an opponent in its last three games.
“We have meshed really well this year. We are flying around a lot more,” junior defender Arend Broekmate said. “It has really just been team defense. We aren’t even always making the right play, but we are covering for each other and fixing our mistakes.”
Broekmate, who started in 19 games for the Jumbos last year, anchors the defensive line along with fellow junior Stewart Stockdale and senior defender and co-captain Connor Lansdale.
The Jumbos’ physical play shows on the stat sheet, as they led the Cardinals in the ground-ball battle, 34–27, and converted 22 of their 25 clear opportunities. Hollen led the way, picking up seven ground balls for the hosts.
“Ground balls are a staple of our team,” Hollen said. “Because they don’t count as a point or get the attention of goals and assists, it’s just about being tough and wanting it more. We make sure we dominate in that aspect of every game.”
Tufts travels to Endicott (3–7) on Tuesday for a mid-week non-conference game before returning home for a marquee matchup against No. 7 Amherst (9–2) on Saturday. The Mammoths sit one game behind the Jumbos for the top spot in the NESCAC, and both teams are positioned to make a run at the regular season title. Nevertheless, Tufts remains steadfast in approaching every game with the same mentality.
“Especially after last year, when we started off hot and then fell off in the second half of the season, we aren’t going to make that mistake again… We just keep the same attitude going into every game,” Stockdale said.
Katz echoed the measured outlook of his teammate.
“The mentality never changes,” he said. “The next team is the most important team to us, no matter how good they are.”