The No. 5 Tufts men’s lacrosse team continued its excellent 2018 campaign with another conference win on Saturday, defeating Middlebury (8–6, 4–5 NESCAC) on the road, 13–10. Like in their victory over the Bates Bobcats earlier in the week, the Jumbos relied on an impressive comeback to triumph in Vermont.
The first quarter passed by with back-and-forth action, as senior attacker Andrew Seiter put two shots in the back of the net for the visiting Jumbos. Despite the Panthers’ prolific offensive efforts, firing 19 shots in the opening quarter compared to the Jumbos’ five, they only managed to score two goals. The NESCAC foes found themselves knotted at two after the first frame.
Middlebury’s offensive blitz cooled off a bit in the second quarter, though the hosts still managed to get off 13 shots. Tufts was able to turn up the heat, though it still lagged behind with nine shots. However, the Panthers held the advantage in the statistic that matters most, scoring three goals to the Jumbos’ one in the quarter. Tufts junior attacker Ben Connelly, the team’s leading scorer with 36 goals, was able to sneak a shot past Middlebury junior goalie Charles Midgley with 3:36 left in the half, yet that was all the visitors could muster. Meanwhile, the Panthers put three shots past sophomore goalie Mason Pollack, with the third putting the hosts up 5–3 with less than a minute left.
After mounting a first-half comeback against Bates to tie the score at 10 by halftime, Tufts was forced to overcome its deficit in the second half on Saturday. A pair of Middlebury goals in the opening minutes of the third quarter, which extended its lead to 7–3, didn’t help the team’s chances. It was familiar territory for the Jumbos, however, who faced an 8–4 deficit against the Bobcats earlier in the week.
“There are times where we try to do a little bit too much,” Seiter said of the laggard start. “That generally results in us not getting great looks on offense. What really allows us to make runs is when we keep things simple.”
Tufts’ response against Bates was to score eight unanswered goals to take the lead and the game. The group’s answer against Middlebury? Ten unanswered goals.
From the 11:38 mark of the third quarter until there were less than eight minutes remaining in the fourth, the Jumbos took over. Pollack stood on his head in net, recording eight of his career-high 23 saves during Tufts’ 10–0 run.
“As a whole, the offense has been starting slowly lately,” Connelly said. “Luckily, our defense has been able to keep us in it. Adjusting a couple fundamentals at halftime and refocusing on what we want to do as an offense has helped us be able to get those runs. Obviously, when the defense gets stops, it’s easier to make those runs.”
Seiter, Connelly and first-year midfielder Garrett Samuelson led the Jumbos’ second-half offensive explosion with two scores apiece. The visitors also received goals from junior attacker Danny Murphy, senior midfielder Holden Rosen Grupp, senior attacker Griffin Johnson and senior midfielder and co-captain Frank Hattler to open up a 13–7 advantage. Middlebury senior midfielder and co-captain Henry Riehl scored three straight in a late rally attempt, but the damage was already too severe, as Tufts ultimately triumphed 13–10.
Despite the Panthers’ superiority in shots (55–31), the Jumbos converted more of their chances. Tufts’ team-based approach on offense was also clear from the stat line, scoring 10 of its 13 goals off assists, compared to Middlebury’s four assisted goals. Finally, the Jumbos converted all three of their chances with an extra man on the field after a penalty, while Middlebury took advantage of just one of its seven opportunities.
“Credit to Mason Pollack — he played like a stud,” Connelly said. “He was able to weather their storm of shots. The defense was giving him shots that he could see. The defense gives us a chance to be in these games. If we only get 31 shots [on offense], well, I’m happy we were able to can enough to get a win.”
The win improves the Jumbos’ overall record to 12–1, with an 8–1 mark in the NESCAC. Currently tied with Amherst and Wesleyan atop the conference standings, Tufts will host Bowdoin (8–5, 4–5 NESCAC) on Wednesday in a regular-season finale with postseason implications.
“We’re continuing to try to play a full 60 minutes,” Seiter said of the matchup. “I don’t think we’ve played a full 60 minutes yet as a team, and we’re still working on that. We’re just focused on playing our brand of lacrosse.”
As the team heads into the winding moments of their regular season and beyond, they have one more chance to improve on their game and prepare for the NESCAC tournament. They feel confident that they can continue their impressive season.
“It’s been a fun season with these guys,” Connelly said. “We’ve got one game left. Bowdoin beat us in the regular season last year, so we definitely want to finish the regular season and our NESCAC conference schedule strong. Moving forward, this game is big as far as the NESCAC tournament, so we want to keep up our pace with wins.”