The No. 6 Tufts men’s lacrosse team suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday, losing 20–16 to No. 4 Amherst. The Jumbos bounced back, however, with a 20–12 win over the Bates Bobcats on Tuesday night. The up-and-down week has Tufts (11–1, 7–1 NESCAC) tied atop the conference standings with Amherst and Wesleyan.
Tufts’ game against Bates (7–6) on Tuesday night in Lewiston, Maine, initially mirrored the team’s loss to Amherst. After trailing in the second quarter by scores of 8–4 and 10–7, the Jumbos caught fire with a massive run. Unlike in its loss to Amherst three days prior, though, Tufts refused to relinquish its lead.
The Jumbos’ commanding 9–0 run started with a goal by sophomore attacker Matt Treiber at the 3:51 mark of the second quarter and was not broken until senior attacker and co-captain Clarke Jones scored for the hosts with just over 11 minutes left in the fourth. By that point, Tufts had erased its three-goal deficit to take a 16–10 lead. The Jumbos coasted to their seventh NESCAC victory of the season, scoring four more goals in the final quarter.
“Momentum is extremely important to our team and our style of play,” junior midfielder Nick Katz said. “The energy starts from the sideline, and we have to bring that to every game. The key is just continuing to sell out on the field and having the right demeanor.”
The Jumbos were buoyed by four goals from their leading scorer, junior attacker Ben Connelly, and received three-goal performances from a trio of players: Treiber, senior attacker Andrew Seiter and sophomore midfielder Nick Shanks. After a disappointing showing against Amherst, junior midfielder Henry Hollen returned to his usual form, controlling 20 of 35 face-offs. Sophomore goalie Mason Pollack made 10 saves for his eighth win of the season, and Tufts’ defense buckled down in the second half, allowing just two goals.
Most importantly, the Jumbos showed an ability to quickly bounce back from a tough loss — something they were unable to do last season, when they lost six of their last eight games.
“Nothing changed in our preparation,” Katz said. “The hard work showed on the field against Bates, and that has to be the standard.”
On Saturday, Amherst (11–2) was in complete control of the first half, going up 15–4 late in the second quarter to put host Tufts in its first double-digit hole of the season. The Mammoths dominated the Jumbos in nearly every statistical metric in the first half, as the visitors went on a 7–0 run late in the second quarter to take a 10-goal advantage into halftime.
Amherst outshot Tufts 35–25 in the opening 30 minutes and held a plus-five advantage in ground balls. The Jumbos didn’t sugarcoat anything about the first half, which was clearly their worst stretch of the season.
“We need to be better,” Hollen said. “We didn’t come out the way that we needed to, and [we] let them go on a run. We need to play full games to win.”
Hollen, who has typically been very reliable at the face-off dot for the Jumbos, went just 14-for-34 on Saturday. The San Diego, Calif. native’s subpar performance was not the only disappointing one for the hosts.
Tufts’ defense, which had carried the team in its previous three games, conceded 15 first-half to an Amherst team that ranks third in Div. III in scoring offense, averaging 17.15 goals per game. The Jumbos had allowed 15 goals in an entire game only once all season, in a 16–15 win over the Cortland Red Dragons on March 25.
Moreover, Tufts’ offense scored just five goals in the first half after netting at least seven in the opening 30 minutes of every game. With five goals on 25 shots, the Jumbos’ conversion mark fell well short of their season average (32.2 percent).
“We lacked focus in our fundamentals, and it hurt us,” Hollen said.
The second 30 minutes at Bello Field was a completely different story, however. Tufts held Amherst scoreless for nearly the entire third quarter and netted six goals of its own during the period to cut the deficit to five entering the fourth. Shanks and senior midfielder and co-captain Frank Hattler each had two goals during the Jumbos’ run.
The hosts’ surge continued into the fourth quarter, as the Mammoths failed to find the net in the first four minutes of the final frame. Meanwhile, the Jumbos tallied three goals — including two by Treiber in man-up situations — to close the score to 16–14. The 9–1 second-half run was typical for the Jumbos, who have scored in bunches all year.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Hollen said. “We pride ourselves on being able to take punches and hit back harder.”
Unfortunately for Tufts, Amherst returned to its first-half form with 10 minutes to play. The Mammoths rattled off four straight goals in a span of five and a half minutes to increase their advantage to six, effectively putting the game out of reach.
After its come-from-behind win on Tuesday night, Tufts turns its attention to its final two regular-season games. The team will visit Middlebury (8–5) on Saturday afternoon before hosting Bowdoin (8–4) in its season finale on Wednesday.