This week, the No. 4 nationally ranked Tufts men’s lacrosse team (12–1) dethroned two of its closest NESCAC rivals, winning a 19–4 game against the Bates Bobcats (9–3, 6–2 NESCAC) on Tuesday and defeating the Amherst Mammoths (11–2, 6–2 NESCAC) in a nail-biting 15–14 away win on Saturday. Following Saturday’s game, in an affair that could only be described as proboscidean, the Jumbos solidified their place as the highest ranked NESCAC team in the country, usurping the No. 4 spot previously held by the No. 5 Wesleyan Cardinals (10–2, 6–2 NESCAC). Additionally, the back-to-back Jumbo victories also confirmed their hold on the best record in the NESCAC, sitting atop the conference rankings with a record of 7–1.
On Tuesday night, the Jumbos hosted the No. 12 Bates Bobcats in a game to decide which team would sit atop the NESCAC, as both teams entered the match with a tied conference record of 6–1. Although Bates was the first team to score less than one minute into the game, Tufts followed up with a dominant 8–1 scoring drive to lead the Bobcats 8–2 with over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter. However, Bates closed out the first half with a similar 5–0 drive, scoring its seventh goal with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the half to set the score at 8–7 in favor of Tufts.
Despite a strong comeback attempt by the Bobcats in the second half of the Bates game, the Jumbos were able to score 11 more goals in the third and fourth quarter to win the game by a final score of 19–4. The Jumbos’ survival in the game was accredited to a historic performance by electric senior attacker and co-captain Ben Connelly, who scored a career-high seven goals, tying senior attacker and co-captain Danny Murphy for the highest single-game scoring performance.
Saturday’s victory came in the midst of an eight-game string of NESCAC games that began on Saturday, March 23, with a dominating 25–12 victory over Trinity (8–5), and will continue until the end of the regular season when Tufts faces Bowdoin College (6–7, 2–6 NESCAC) on April 24. With five teams nationally ranked in the NCAA Div. III, the NESCAC has solidified itself as one of the most dominant lacrosse conferences in the country, providing superb preparation for Tufts’ NCAA championship push.
Tufts coach Casey D’Annolfo highlighted the importance of undergoing the NESCAC gauntlet.
“The NESCAC games are really important,” D’Annolfo stated. “[They’re important] in terms of where the postseason placement is, and for the NCAA tournament if we’re fortunate enough to get there.”
Although the Jumbos led 10–1 in the second quarter, by the game’s end it was their third in a row decided by one goal. The Jumbos held a lead over Amherst throughout almost the entire 60 minutes of regulation, but the Mammoths trampled back, tying up the game in the fourth quarter and pushing the Jumbos to their limit. In the end, it was sophomore midfielder Garrett Samuelson’s goal, assisted by senior attacker Matt Treiber, that won the game with 3:15 left.
Initially, the Jumbos charged at the Mammoths’ defense right out of the gate. Led early on by three goals by prolific sophomore attacker Max Waldbaum — who currently leads the team with an astounding 44 goals on the season — the Jumbos wreaked havoc on the Mammoths, scoring seven unanswered goals in the first and second quarters. Although the Mammoths managed to score three goals by the halftime break, the Jumbos responded with three goals of their own, closing out the first two quarters with a 10–3 lead.
While the first half of the game belonged to the Jumbos, the Mammoths put a stop to the trouncing in the final two quarters of regulation. Although Connelly scored the Jumbos’ 13th goal of the game to give the Jumbos a nine-point lead just over five minutes into the second half, Amherst came back with a fury, scoring five unanswered goals to bring the Mammoths back into contention and trailing 14–9 by the end of the third quarter.
The matchup was Tufts’ to lose by the fourth quarter, but Amherst capitalized on its different offensive weapons — five different members of the team scored five straight goals to nearly shut out the Jumbos in the final quarter of the game. With just over four minutes remaining in the game, Amherst junior attacker Colin Minicus sunk in an unassisted goal to tie the game at 14.
With the game tied, Samuelson scored in the clutch to put the Jumbos up by one point with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth. In the final three minutes of regulation, both teams scrambled, attempting a combined four shots on goal between both the Mammoths and the Jumbos. Amherst attempted three of these shots, one of which shot wide and two of which Tufts junior goalkeeper Mason Pollack saved. In the end, however, none of the shots sank in the final drives of the game, allowing Tufts to escape with a 15–14 victory.
Pollack saved a season-high 19 shots, and was subsequently honored as the NESCAC Men’s Lacrosse player of the week for his efforts.
Pollack’s performance can be attributed to the large focus of the team on staying calm in the moment and executing its goals. Senior defenseman and co-captain Arend Broekmate, who tied his season-high of five ground balls in Saturday’s game, spoke about some of the ways the team prepares to ensure their efficiency.
“We did a training program with Navy SEALS and Marines, and we learned some stuff about ourselves,” Broekmate said. “We need to focus on what’s directly in front of us instead of what we call ‘staying far.’ So that when you get to the end of whatever task you’re doing, you’re not freezing up, but you’re kind of finishing through and making sure you’re taking care of business.”
This winning mindset will be crucial for the Jumbos in the upcoming two weeks, as they prepare to close out their regular season with games against unranked Middlebury on Saturday and Bowdoin on Wednesday.