The No. 6 Tufts women’s lacrosse team (10–1, 6–0 NESCAC) won all three of its games in the last week, extending its winning streak to six games leading up to what figures to be a difficult end to the regular season.
On Sunday, the Jumbos defeated the Babson Beavers (6–5) in a non-conference game in Wellesley, Mass. The hosts got on the board twice to start the scoring, but the Jumbos responded with three straight goals — including a pair from senior midfielder Caroline Nowak — to take a 3–2 lead at the 19:04 mark of the first half. The teams remained neck-and-neck for much of the period, with each converting a number of their respective opportunities. With the game tied at five, however, Tufts again reeled off three goals in a five-minute stretch to enter halftime up 8–5.
Whereas the first half of play was closely fought, the second half was a different story — one that was all Tufts. Helped, in part, by taking advantage of free-position chances, the visitors went on on a 7–0 run to swell their lead. The Jumbos were as solid defensively as they were active offensively, ultimately outscoring the Beavers 9–1 in the second half en route to a commanding 17–6 win. Nowak led all scorers with five goals, while junior attacker Dakota Adamec added three. Adamec now ranks third in the NESCAC in goals scored with 35, and Nowak slots in at eighth with 28.
Nowak, who was named NESCAC Player of the Week with 13 points in Tufts’ three games, shared that draw controls were a point of discussion at the half for Tufts, as the team sought to return to its usual form.
“We were losing a lot of the draws in the first half,” Nowak said. “[Coach Courtney Shute‘s message] was go back to the basics of what we know to be Tufts lacrosse.”
The Jumbos responded, winning seven of 11 draw controls in the second half and 14 of 25 overall. Sophomore midfielder Maddie Norman and first-year midfielder Catherine Lawliss led the team with five and four draw controls, respectively.
The day before, Tufts faced then-No. 14 Wesleyan (7–4) in a noontime contest at Smith Field in Middletown, Conn. The Jumbos got on the board first when Adamec converted a free-position shot just under nine minutes into the game. Wesleyan quickly responded with a goal from first-year midfielder Sydney Prokupek to level the score. Less than three minutes later, Adamec sparked a 5–0 Tufts run by slotting a shot past Wesleyan sophomore goalie Allegra Grant. Adamec, herself, scored three of the five goals for a total of four in the first half. However, three key Wesleyan goals in the last five minutes reduced Tufts’ advantage to 6–4 entering the break.
The Cardinals found success at the beginning of the second half, clawing back to level footing with the visiting Jumbos. At the 13:03 mark, Wesleyan tied the game at seven on a free-position shot from first-year attacker Johanna Copeland. The goal proved to be the hosts’ high-water mark, however, as the Jumbos finished the game on a resounding 5–0 run to secure a 12–7 victory.
Adamec led all players with six goals, while also adding an assist and six draw controls. Norman and sophomore attacker Emily Games led the team in ground balls with four apiece. Games — last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a member of the All-Conference First Team — also netted two goals, while junior goalie Audrey Evers finished the day with seven saves. Collectively, the Jumbos dominated the circle, winning a stellar 17 of the game’s 20 draws.
Evers shared that even though the scoreline was tight at times, the team’s defensive play was steady throughout.
“I think that defensively our game didn’t change throughout the whole 60 minutes,” Evers said. “I think that was kind of the difference … that we just stayed ready. Even when we were tied, it didn’t feel like we were down. We didn’t feel like we were having big momentum swings on our end. We were just continually trying to do our best to give our attackers the ball and get it out of our end.”
On their home turf at Bello Field, the Jumbos took on the Williams Ephs (4–6) in a Wednesday evening tilt. Despite their record, the visitors promised to put up a tough fight. While Williams has only been victorious in one NESCAC game (an 11–10 win against Conn. College on March 17), the team lost by just a single goal apiece to both Wesleyan and Bates.
Williams first-year midfielder Claire Fitzpatrick opened the scoring for her team at the 25:39 mark with an unassisted goal. It took less than a minute for the Jumbos to respond, as junior midfielder Annie Sullivan netted off Lawliss’ assist to put Tufts on the board. The score remained close until Williams went on a 3–0 run midway through the half to take a 5–3 lead. Undeterred, the Jumbos stormed their way back into the game, going on a 5–0 run to close out the period, with Norman and Nowak each contributing two goals for an 8–5 halftime advantage.
The second half was entertaining, as both teams put the ball in the back of the net. Tufts increased its lead to 10–5 at the 23:47 mark, before Williams went on a 3–0 run to pull within two. Key goals from junior attacker Maria Dattolo and Lawliss inside of 14 minutes stopped the bleeding, though, and gave the Jumbos just enough of a cushion to survive the half. While Williams outscored Tufts 3–2 over the last 10 minutes, the hosts ultimately prevailed, 14–11.
Nowak led all scorers with five goals, including three in the second half. The Glenview, Ill. native also won a pair of ground balls and draw controls and added two assists. Lawliss tallied three goals of her own, while Norman notched two. The Jumbos also outdrew the Ephs 14–13, again holding an advantage in the circle thanks to Norman’s five controls and Sullivan’s four.
“Winning the draw is huge — [we] can’t win a game without possession,” Nowak said. “Also pushing the pace has been a big part of our identity, so pushing the fast-break transition from defense to attack will be really big to continue [our] success.”
The rest of the Jumbos’ schedule will likely pose significant challenges. The team begins by traveling to No. 4 Amherst (9–1) on Saturday for a midday matchup. After a midweek contest against Bates (7–5), Tufts concludes its regular season with games against No. 9 Middlebury (9–2) and No. 18 Bowdoin (8–3). Both the Mammoths and the Panthers currently sit one game back of the Jumbos in the NESCAC standings.