Tufts improves on 2017 record, advances to NCAA second round

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

In its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2015, the Tufts women’s lacrosse team reached the second round, where it lost to Franklin and Marshall. The team qualified for the tournament after wrapping up its regular season campaign with an impressive 12–3 record to earn the No. 3 seed in the NESCAC tournament, where it fell in the quarterfinals to sixth-seeded Trinity for the second straight year. The Jumbos’ mark in the 2018 campaign was an improvement from the 10–5 finish it achieved last year.

The team, which consisted of only three graduating seniors, looked to juniors and sophomores to step up all spring.

“I think what’s special about our team is that we only had three seniors but a really large junior class that stepped up and took leadership roles,” graduating senior midfielder Caroline Nowak said. “A lot of people stepped up and handled it with a lot of grace in the fall and spring.”

After easily dispatching Fairleigh Dickinson – Florham, 17–8, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Tufts faced two-time national champion Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster, Pa. The Jumbos came back from a 6–3 first-half deficit to take a 10–6 lead with 22 minutes remaining. However, Franklin and Marshall scored six of the last seven goals to advance with an 11–10 victory. Rising junior midfielder Maddie Norman led Tufts with three goals.

The youthful Jumbos started their season strong, relying on consistent draw controls and solid defensive play to lock up four straight wins, most of them by wide margins. In its first contest on March 3, Tufts beat NESCAC rival Hamilton in a resounding 17–4 victory.

[Rising junior midfielder] Lily Baldwin takes most of our draws and she has been an absolute work horse, we literally call her that,” Nowak said. “She gives us a lot of opportunities off draw control.”

The squad’s first loss came on March 21, against then-11th ranked Washington and Lee University. After leading the game for most of the first half, Tufts allowed its opponents to go on a 8–0 scoring run spanning the end of the first half and beginning of the second. This would become a troublesome pattern for the team as it often struggled at the opening of the second half.

Undeterred, the young Tufts team went on a six-game winning streak, which included victories against four NESCAC opponents: Trinity, Conn. College, Williams and Wesleyan. The team’s hot streak ended on April 14 with a 14–13 loss to another conference rival, Amherst.

The team rounded out April with three more NESCAC matches, defeating Bates and Bowdoin, but falling to Middlebury, 15–10. In the last regular season game, the Jumbos fought hard for an 11–10 victory over the Bowdoin Polar Bears to gain momentum going into post-season play.

“It was crazy pouring rain, probably the worst playing conditions I’ve ever played in, and we were down by one at halftime when usually we are up at halftime,” Nowak said. “We just came together, and I think everyone was on the same page and we went on a 5–0 run to open up the second half.”

In an unusual inversion of the team’s typical pattern, Tufts was the team that regained control of the game in the second half. Aided by two consecutive goals by rising senior attacker Dakota Adamec only 50 seconds apart, the Jumbos were able to strengthen their lead to 10–6 before the Polar Bears countered with a score of their own. A goal by Nowak with 16 minutes remaining allowed Tufts to go up by four, before a final late rally by Bowdoin fell short.

“That game, we proved to ourselves that we could put two halves together and proved we are the team we talk about being all the time,” Nowak said.

Tufts’ 12–10 home loss in the NESCAC quarterfinals on April 28 was a surprising result — especially after it had beaten Trinity 12–9 earlier in the season — though the visitors had a more talented team than their record indicated.

“What it came down to was in the last 12 minutes we just didn’t capitalize,” Nowak said. “We are a team that hosted the tournament for the first time in 10 years, and we talked a lot about making history and doing something different, and we just let our mistakes snowball while they took advantage of opportunities.”

Despite the tough loss, Tufts received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Adamec led the team with 51 goals and also contributed 16 assists. Rising junior attacker Emily Games notched 37 goals and paced the Jumbos in assists with 21. At the end of the regular season, the NESCAC named Adamec the conference’s Player of the Year. Adamec was also honored as a member of the All-NESCAC First Team, while two other Jumbos — rising seniors midfielder Annie Sullivan and defender Hedy Veith — made Second Team All-NESCAC.