No. 5 women’s lacrosse reached one of its highest national ranks in recent years on Monday after adding two more wins to its already undefeated season. The Jumbos have now matched the program’s longest unbeaten streak of 13–0, originally achieved in 1989 when the team only played a total of 13 games and won all of them.
With Tuesday night’s win over the Bates Bobcats, the Jumbos matched their number of wins for the 2018 season with two regular season games and an entire postseason to go. Last year, the team made it to the second round of the Div. III NCAAs. If the Jumbos win one more game, this season will mark their highest number of wins in a decade — in 2009 the team went 16–3.
On Tuesday, Tufts travelled to Lewiston, Maine to face Bates (8–5, 4–4 NESCAC) and put up a dominant performance, scoring 19 goals and allowing five. Junior attacker Emily Games, last week’s Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association National Player of the Week and NESCAC Player of the Week, was a force to be reckoned with from the very beginning, rattling off three consecutive goals in under four minutes. Games went on to score twice more before the half and tallied one assist on sophomore attacker Claire Wright’s goal.
First-year attacker Mae Briody started in place of first-year attacker and Tufts’ leading scorer Colette Smith, who has been sidelined for the last two games due to a mild hamstring injury. Briody, who is left-handed like Smith, fit right in on the left side and scored three goals in her sixth appearance of the season.
“Something new that we capitalized on against Bates were fast breaks,” Briody said. “Our team has so much speed, and our defenders are able to get the ball up really quickly, so a lot of our goals in the first half especially were from fast breaks.”
After the Jumbos established a 13–4 lead in the first half, the offensive unit was given the directive by coach Courtney Shute to experiment with some different plays. After a nearly 15-minute-long scoring drought at the beginning of the second half, the Tufts offense started to click, and they ended the game with a five-goal run.
“Our coach really wanted us to work on being creative, looking for the feeds, working on our plays and using everybody’s strengths,” Games said. “Everyone recognizes each other’s strengths and weaknesses so we know how to play to each other’s strengths. That really helped us [against Bates].”
One of the plays the team tried was a hidden ball trick play orchestrated by Briody and senior attacker Dakota Adamec. From behind the goal, Briody drove first while pretending to hold the ball, and the defenders shifted towards her side, before Adamec rounded the other side of the goal and only faced one defender. Adamec fired a shot off that rebounded, and senior attacker Maria Dattolo was there to bury it into the defenseless Bobcats’ net.
The Bobcats couldn’t find a rhythm against the Jumbos’ staunch defense, which allowed only one goal in the entire second half. In goal, senior Audrey Evers saved six out of 10 shots that came at her. In the second half, first-year Molly Laliberty only contended with three shots, saving two of them.
On Saturday, Tufts faced the Amherst Mammoths (8–4, 4–4 NESCAC) at home during senior day in one of its closest contests of the season. Despite the Jumbos’ strong start to the game, the Mammoths had an answer for each Jumbo goal, and the Jumbo lead was only 6–5 at the half. Tufts’ defensive unit was heavily tested throughout the game but responded impressively, winding down Amherst’ shot clock at least three times over the course of the game.
“You can start to feel when it gets down to 20 seconds [on the shot clock] that we start to get really excited,” first-year midfielder Madison Lehan said. “At that point if we’re quiet, they’re probably going to end up scoring, but if we’re still loud and talking, then you can feel within the defensive unit that we’re about to do something good. Those moments felt awesome and helped us through the rest of the sets.”
However, four yellow cards dealt to Tufts provided Amherst with numerous extra-man opportunities, which the team capitalized on twice. After a pair of yellow cards in the first half, senior defender Hedy Veith, one of Tufts’ key defensive leaders, was sidelined for the rest of the games.
Despite losing such an experienced player, Tufts rallied on the defensive end, forcing 15 turnovers in total to get the ball back into the attack. On the offensive end, the Jumbos had to figure out how to adapt to Amherst’s defensive style. The Mammoths constantly switched defensive sets, forcing the Jumbos to recognize the change and adjust their offensive strategy in turn.
“From the attack perspective, Amherst has a very solid defense, so we tried to stay spread the whole time in order to tire them out,” Games said. “We worked the ball around until we found the best opportunity to score, and it was playing with a lot of patience and making smart decisions that helped us.”
With 8:12 remaining in the game, Amherst tied the score at 11–11, and the game hung in the balance. The Jumbos remained calm and junior attacker Maddie Norman won back-to-back draws that the team capitalized on to score two goals in under a minute. Games made it 14–11 after Tufts cleared the ball out of the defense, putting the game just out of reach of Amherst. The Mammoths managed to score one more goal in the closing seconds, but it wasn’t enough, and the Jumbos came away with the hard-fought victory.
“When it was 11–11 against Amherst, it was already towards the end of the second half, and we were tired,” Briody said. “We came together as a team, took a breath together, and had a ‘we got this’ moment. We just had to execute on the things we do well and trust ourselves. We really came together in that moment.”
On Saturday, the Jumbos travel to Middlebury, Vt. to face the Middlebury Panthers in what will likely be their biggest challenge of the regular season. Despite Tufts’ No. 1 rank in the NESCAC, Middlebury still sits at No. 3 in the nation, one spot ahead of Tufts. The Panthers and Jumbos have had a historically lopsided rivalry, with the Jumbos only winning two games in the last decade. Their most recent win was a 12–11 edging of the Panthers in 2015. The two NESCAC opponents will take the first draw at 2 p.m. at Middlebury College.
“Middlebury is a very good team and they’re probably going to be the hardest game of our season,” Lehan said. “So we’re going to come in with the expectation of a hard game but also know that we have the personnel, and we’ve prepared enough to win the game and get the job done.”