In its first game since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tufts women’s lacrosse team made a statement, defeating Connecticut College by a final score of 17–5 on Saturday.
The Jumbos, who were recently ranked by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association as the No. 2 Div. III team in the country, had not taken the field for 392 days prior to Saturday’s game. It was played at Conn. College in New London, Conn.
“Nothing’s guaranteed this season, and it has been a year since we played our last game,” senior attacker Emily Games said. “We definitely wanted to go out there and make the most of what we were given and celebrate the little things … I was really proud of how our team performed.”
The Jumbos controlled possession and pace of play for the majority of the game. While Conn. College attempted 14 shots (13 on goal), Tufts shot 43 times (30 on goal).
Tufts led Conn. College 16–8 in draw controls, with junior midfielder Kathryn Delaney and sophomore midfielder Sami Rothstein winning four draw controls each. This allowed Tufts to open up more scoring opportunities and keep the pressure on Conn. College’s defense for a significant portion of the game.
The first goal of the season was scored just over two minutes into the game. Tufts senior attacker Catherine Lawliss outran defenders to score an unassisted goal that connected with the top left corner of the net, going directly over Conn. College first-year goalkeeper Violette Nidds.
Senior attacker Kirsten Grazewski scored the Jumbos’ next three goals, two of which were on assists by Lawliss, prompting the Jumbos to lead 4–0 just over 15 minutes into the game.
In the first 17 minutes, Tufts attempted 14 shots, five of which were saved by Nidds and five of which were blocked by the Conn. College defense. According to senior attacker Emily Games, Tufts quickly adjusted to these challenges.
“I think in the beginning, we were struggling a little bit with our shots, and we were able to kind of rearrange that and overcome some of the obstacles we were faced with,” Games said.
Conn. College’s first goal came with 13 minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the first half, as first-year midfielder Julianna Ingrassia scored while surrounded by multiple defenders. Ingrassia finished Saturday’s contest leading the Camels with two goals.
Leading 4–1, Tufts went on to score seven more goals in the first half, five of which were made on free-position shots. Junior midfielder Ananda Kao snuck in a powerful shot off of an assist by Lawliss with 32 seconds remaining in the half, sending the Jumbos into the break with an 11–3 lead.
The Jumbos opened the second half strong, connecting on four goals within the first 10 minutes.
“The first half, even though we were winning, we were sort of in a slower pace,” sophomore midfielder Sami Rothstein said. “By the second half, we were able to really push and score a lot of goals.”
Tufts allowed two unassisted goals but scored twice more in the second half, sealing the victory with a final score of 17–5.
Eight of Tufts’ total goals were scored on attempted free position shots, four of which were split by Lawliss and junior attacker Colette Smith. Lawliss led the team with five goals and nine attempted shots by the end of the game, followed closely by Grazewski and Games who each scored three goals.
In the net, Tufts’ Molly Laliberty — a junior recently named as U.S. Lacrosse’s Div. III Preseason Goalie of the Year — made eight saves on 13 attempted shots on goal. Nidds finished with 13 saves on 30 shots on goal for Connecticut College.
Tufts led its opponent in successful clears with a near-perfect 18–19 display. Seven of the Camels’ clears failed, leading them to perform at 15–24 on clears.
“I think a lot of our deep, defensive players are really solid,” Games said. “[Laliberty] did a great job on the clears and getting them out, whether they were short or far balls.”
Two Jumbos also recorded the first goals of their careers, as Rothstein and first-year attacker Emma Joyce both scored late in the first half on free-position shots.
“That was super exciting, I was really happy,” Rothstein said. “Hopefully there’s more to come soon.”
The Jumbos started the 2020 season with a promising record of 3–0, but all spring 2020 sports were canceled when the university suspended in-person classes as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, members of the women’s lacrosse team have engaged in a variety of practice regimens to adapt to changing COVID-19 restrictions, including socially distanced practices and small-group training. When the university lifted several restrictions on the Medford/Somerville campus earlier this semester, the team was allowed to practice in contact scrimmages against each other.
On March 9, the NESCAC presidents gave the go-ahead for schools to resume their spring seasons. Tufts decided that it would allow spring competition, while top rivals Amherst, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Williams opted out of play for the semester.
In their shortened conference-only season, the Jumbos are scheduled to play three more games against Colby, Conn. College and Bates. The championship game — which this year will automatically occur between the top two teams in the conference, rather than through a traditional NESCAC tournament — will occur on May 1, provided that the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t introduce further restrictions.
Saturday’s win places the Jumbos at the top of the NESCAC conference, and with the limited season, every game counts. Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, the team is grateful to be able to play this season.
“At this point, none of us were expecting to be able to have a season, so anything that we’re given, we’re super grateful for,” Rothstein said. “So even having four games before the playoffs, I know it may seem like not a lot at all, but to us, it’s worth everything.”