Jumbos falter against Mammoths, bounce back in league contests

Sophomore midfielder Maddie Norman, charges upfield in Tufts' 14–9 home win over Bates on April 17. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

With the end of the regular season in sight, the No. 6 Tufts women’s lacrosse team (11–2, 7–1 NESCAC) recently faced off against some of its toughest opponents so far. After falling to NESCAC rival Amherst on Saturday, Tufts quickly bounced back to best another league opponent, Bates, on Tuesday.

In a resounding home victory at Bello Field, the Jumbos relied on their usual possession advantage against the Bobcats (7–6, 2–6 NESCAC), ultimately winning 14–9.

“Against Bates, our draw control made a big difference,” junior midfielder Meg Toner said. “We did a lot better on the draw [than against Amherst], which gives us more opportunities to score.”

Four minutes into the first half, with the score tied at one apiece, sophomore midfielder Lily Baldwin won the draw, leading to a shot from junior midfielder Annie Sullivan that was blocked by Bates junior goalie Eliza Statile. However, senior midfielder Caroline Nowak’s shot just 10 seconds later found the back of the net to give the Jumbos a lead they did not relinquish.

The game remained competitive early in the first half, with back-and-forth scoring and many turnovers. With 11 minutes left in the half, Tufts junior defender Hedy Veith scooped up a ground ball, which led to a goal from first-year midfielder Catherine Lawliss that put the hosts up by two. The Jumbos then scored four straight goals, including another from Lawliss and two from junior attacker Dakota Adamec, to build a 9–3 lead. While a late Bates goal cut the deficit to five, Tufts was pleased with its momentum doing into halftime.

“If you just focus on the runs we went on, going on that 5–0 run in the first half … really builds our momentum,” junior goalkeeper Audrey Evers said. “For us, those are the most exciting parts of lacrosse.”

The second half began with significant pushback from the Bobcats. After scoring less than two minutes into the period, Bates added two more unanswered goals to close the score to 9–7. The hosts managed to stem the damage, however, thanks to an unassisted goal from sophomore attacker Emily Games.

Games’ goal followed a critical Tufts timeout, which Toner credits to the team’s experience.

“That [timeout] says a lot about the leaders on our team,” Toner said. “They are able to see when we aren’t playing as well as we can be, and [to] know what we have to do to play like the team we know we are.”

However, Bates answered Games’ strike with two more goals to cut its deficit to just one at the 15:07 mark. The Jumbos closed the game on another hot streak, scoring four unanswered goals over the last 15 minutes of play.

Though not obviously apparent on the scoreboard, Tufts was in command, statistically speaking, for most of the contest. The team more than doubled its opponents in draw controls (18–7), registered more shots (32–21) and committed fewer turnovers (20–19).

With the win, the Jumbos improved to 7–1 in NESCAC play and now are tied atop the conference standings with the Amherst Mammoths (12–1, 7–1 NESCAC).

Three days before taking on Bates, Tufts faced off against fourth-ranked Amherst at the latter’s Pratt Field, where it fell by a score of 14–13. The game proved to be a tough battle all the way through, with both teams going on long scoring runs and battling until the final seconds. According to Toner and Evers, Tufts uncharacteristically struggled to maintain possession, which spelled trouble.

“I do think in general, [the] draw control is something we are really good at, so maybe it wasn’t make-or-break,” Evers said. “I think on Saturday the real problems were turnovers. We lost the draw balls, and we lost the ground balls a lot.”

The struggle was apparent from the opening whistle, as the Mammoths started off the game on a 4–0 tear. Tufts didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 20:09 mark, as Games slammed a free-position shot into the net. Another free-position goal by Games at the 12-minute mark capped a five-goal run for the Jumbos, as they took their first lead of the game, 6–5. The game flow was extremely competitive and demanded the players’ focus, according to Toner.

“I think that game was pretty much a mental battle because we were so close for a lot of [it],” Toner said. “Something we’ve been working on is staying composed when we aren’t in the lead and knowing how to play when we do have the lead.”

Thanks to Sullivan’s unassisted goal with only 18 seconds remaining in the first half, Tufts closed the opening period with a 9–7 lead. Whereas the squad struggled early in the second half against Bates, it extended its lead with three quick goals — from sophomore midfielder Maddie Norman, Sullivan and Lawliss — against Amherst.

After a key ground pickup, however, the hosts answered with a goal at the 20-minute mark to make the score 12–8. The Mammoths then reeled off five unanswered goals in less than 10 minutes to grab a stunning, 13–12 lead. Many of Amherst’s goals came from its “stack” offense (in which players line up close together and set multiple picks), which caught the Tufts defense off-guard according to Toner.

“I think [Amherst was] very good, and I think the mental wear-and-tear of the game was making people tired,” Toner said. “But on the defensive end, we needed to improve guarding stacks. We did a much better job against Bates.”

Games tied the score at 13-all with her fifth goal of the game — and 23rd of the season — at the 9:09 mark. The Mammoths had the last laugh, however, as first-year midfielder Leah Ritterband scored the game-winner with less than five minutes to play.

Tufts faces a difficult stretch to close its regular season, as No. 8 Middlebury (10–2, 6–1 NESCAC) comes to town on Saturday before the team travels to No. 13 Bowdoin (10–3, 5–3 NESCAC) for the season finale on Wednesday.