Men’s lacrosse No. 4 in the nation after undefeated opening weekend

Senior attacker Ben Connelly celebrates a goal in the second round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament on May 9, 2018. (Evan Sayles for Tufts University)

The Jumbos (3–0) opened their weekend by skyrocketing themselves to an undefeated record, securing their place as the fourth-best team in the nation. Tufts played a grueling three games in four days en route to the three-game sweep.

On Saturday, Tufts opened the season by traveling to Clinton, N.Y. to face off against NESCAC rival Hamilton (0–1), where they won 20–11. Following the win, the Jumbos then traveled 58 miles southwest to face off against the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons (0–2) in what would be a much closer match. The Jumbos emerged victorious once again, winning 19–15. Finally, the Jumbos returned home to battle the Keene State Owls (0–2) in a game that was rescheduled from Tuesday as a result of Monday’s snowstorm. Following the unforeseen one-day break in between the games, the Jumbos trounced the Owls 19–6.

Tufts coach Casey D’Annolfo, who is in his third year leading the Jumbos, talked about the weekend’s games.

“We feel like we’re doing some good stuff and moving in the right direction,” D’Annolfo said. “[The team] definitely took some strain over the course of the last few games. Playing three games over the course of four days is never an easy thing to do. [But, being] undefeated is nice, and we’re doing a lot of things that we feel we are going to get where we need to get to at the end of the season.”

Tufts senior defenseman and co-captain Arend Broekmate, who recorded 11 ground balls on the weekend, spoke about the team’s attitude toward their victorious weekend.

“I think we’re definitely happy that we came out of that really difficult stretch — three games in four days — with three wins, but the message is that we need to keep getting better,” Broekmate said. “We have a lot of the season ahead of us, and we can’t be happy with last games’ performance, we’ve got to keep building off of that.”

Originally, the Jumbos were scheduled to play three games in a row, concluding their weekend with a home opener on Monday against the Owls. Following Monday’s snowstorm, though, the game was postponed to Tuesday, and with a day of rest, the Jumbos hit the ground running by immediately building up a 3–0 lead over the Owls in the first seven minutes of play. Keene State struggled against a strong Tufts offense that capitalized on two 4-point-plus scoring runs that catapulted the Jumbos to a whopping 19 points throughout the game and a 13-point win to end their weekend with an undefeated record.

Two days before their win against the Owls, the Jumbos came off another victory against the Hamilton College Continentals. Exactly 24 hours after the Jumbos’ victory over the Continentals, Tufts senior midfielder Henry Hollen was lining up for the faceoff to start their game against the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons.

After winning the faceoff, Tufts got off of the ground running with senior attacker and co-captain Ben Connelly firing a shot in the first minute of play. However, after Connelly’s shot was blocked, Cortland senior attacker Terrence Haggerty responded with a goal for the Red Dragons just over one minute into the game. What followed was a game marked by the Jumbos steadily gaining a lead over the Red Dragons, with Connelly, senior attacker and co-captain Danny Murphy and sophomore attacker Max Waldbaum tallying goals to give Tufts a 10–7 lead at the half.

Waldbaum ended up leading the team with six goals throughout the game, an effort that led to the Jumbos eventual 19–15 victory over the Red Dragons. Connelly and junior midfielder Nick Shanks, who each scored four goals in the afternoon, added to the impressive offensive effort.

Of course, the Jumbos’ undefeated record thus far would be impossible had Tufts not come out victorious over Hamilton in its road opener on Saturday. Although the final 20–11 score in Saturday’s season opener might suggest an uncontested win for the Jumbos, the Continentals held the lead early in the game. With his team trailing 2–0 in the first six minutes of play, Murphy scored the Jumbos’ first goal of the season with just over eight minutes remaining in the quarter.

Following Murphy’s goal, the game remained a one-score affair throughout nearly the entirety of the first half. Three goals in rapid succession in the final three minutes of the half broke this pattern, catapulting the Jumbos to a 9–6 lead going into halftime.

Coming out of the halftime break, the Jumbos changed the tone of the game and proved why they deserve to be considered a top lacrosse program in the nation. Waldbaum, who recorded three goals in the first half, led the Jumbos in scoring and finished the game with six goals.

Junior goalie Mason Pollack, who saved 17 out of the 28 shots on his goal, put a shot of his own past Hamilton’s goalie with a highlight coast-to-coast score in the third quarter. Hamilton was never able to manage or replicate Tufts’ success throughout the remainder of regulation, losing its only game of the season so far.

Needless to say, the Jumbos looked promising and dominating in their three opening games of the season, a fitting conclusion to a weekend capitalized by strong play. One particular player whose efforts were notable were those of up-and-coming Waldbaum, whose offensive efforts were good for a staggering 15 goals across three games. Waldbaum’s performance did not go unnoticed in the Div. III sports world; the prolific sophomore was named the NESCAC Men’s Lacrosse Player of the WeekBroekmate addressed the impact that several of these new players have had on the team to open the season this year.

“We have a ton of guys who’ve stepped in that maybe didn’t get as much playing time as they’d wanted to last year,” Broekmate said. “They’ve done a really, really good job, and people are making plays all over the field.”

Adding on to Broekmate’s thoughts, D’Annolfo also praised newer members of the team as they capitalize on newfound opportunities as part of the Jumbo rotation.

“I think the guys who didn’t play a lot last year, when given the opportunity, have played pretty well. Max [Waldbaum] is playing pretty well right now,” D’Annolfo said. “Ultimately, those guys are not trying to do too much. They’re playing within the system, they’re playing really well, and good things happen when you allow those guys to do the things they’re doing right now.”

In an effort to maintain both their spot in the national rankings and their undefeated record, the Jumbos travel this Saturday to face off against the No. 9 Stevens Institue of Technology Ducks (3–1) at 12 p.m. Following that game, the Jumbos will host the Endicott College Gulls (0–2) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.