Jumbos win NESCAC title, meet Cardinals again in NCAA quarters

Junior midfielder Nick Katz is checked by a defender in Tufts' 12–9 victory over Wesleyan in the NESCAC championship game on May 6. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts men’s lacrosse team breezed through the first two rounds of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, defeating Merchant Marine 25–8 and Ithaca 18–11 to reach the quarterfinals for the eighth time in the last nine years. The Jumbos advanced to face the Wesleyan Cardinals, whom they defeated 12–9 in the NESCAC championship game on May 6.

Against Merchant Marine on May 9, rising sophomore midfielder Garrett Samuelson led the team with five goals, and graduating senior midfielder and c0-captain Frank Hattler added three. Three days later, the Jumbos found success against the Ithaca Bombers due to their balanced attack, as four players scored three or more goals, while rising junior goalie Mason Pollack made 19 saves.

On May 9, the Jumbos won their NESCAC-leading eighth conference title, besting the top-seeded Wesleyan Cardinals 12–9 in Middletown, Conn. Rising senior attacker Ben Connelly scored four times for the visitors, graduating senior attacker Andrew Seiter added three goals and rising senior attacker Danny Murphy tallied five points (two goals, three assists). Pollack recorded 16 saves to secure Tufts’ eighth NESCAC championship in nine years. Coach Casey D’Annolfo’s men defeated Middlebury and Amherst on their way to the title game.

After a 2017 season in which it lost its last four regular-season games, Tufts closed out the regular season strong this year. After losing to Amherst, 20–16, on April 14, the team rattled off three straight victories over NESCAC opponents to wrap up the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.

Tufts’ wins against Bates and Middlebury on April 17 and 21, respectively, were particularly exceptional, as they came back from large deficits both times. Facing an 8–4 deficit midway through the second quarter against the Bobcats, the Jumbos outscored their opponents 16–4 the rest of the way to take a commanding victory. Connelly led the team with four goals, all of which came in the second half. Four days later, Tufts faced a 7–3 deficit in Middlebury, Vt. Again, the Jumbos reeled off a dominant run, scoring 10 straight goals to grab an insurmountable lead. Seiter, Connelly and Samuelson each scored two goals during the team’s second-half surge.

Tufts’ sole loss of the regular season came on April 14 to then-No. 4 Amherst.  The visiting Mammoths jumped out to a 7–2 lead at the end of the first quarter, before extending their advantage to 15–5 at halftime. However, Tufts made a charge in the second half, outscoring Amherst 6–1 in the third quarter behind two goals apiece from Hattler and rising junior midfielder Nick Shanks. The Jumbos closed to 16–14 before Amherst pulled away for a 20–16 win.

The Jumbos began the season on an 10–0 undefeated tear, with the highlight coming in their 16–15 win over the then-No. 14 SUNY Cortland Red Dragons. Trailing by one with just over two minutes remaining, Hattler tallied his sixth goal to send the game to overtime. After the first extra period went by scoreless, Hattler ended the game with his seventh goal — two short of the program’s single-game record — to maintain Tufts’ undefeated record.

The Jumbos will lose 13 graduating seniors next year, including a trio of co-captains in Hattler, defender Connor Lansdale and midfielder Cam Irwin. Also in the Class of 2018, which won three NESCAC championships and reached two national championship games (winning one in 2015), are Seiter, midfielder Auric Enchill, goalie Robert Treiber, midfielder Holden Rosen Grupp, midfielder Drew McLaughlin, attacker Griffin Johnson, midfielder Jake Geppert, midfielder Zach Lesko, attacker Nico Pollack and midfielder Matt Purdy.