Men's Lacrosse Wins Second NCAA Title with 12-9 Victory Over Salisbury in Baltimore

MEDFORD - The Tufts men's lacrosse team outscored Salisbury 7-1 in the third quarter and won their second NCAA Championship with a 12-9 victory over the Sea Gulls in the national championship game at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Junior Cole Bailey was named the game's Most Outstanding Player after scoring a goal with five assists. Tufts was behind 4-1 early in the second quarter, but Bailey scored once and had three assists in the second as the Jumbos tied the score by halftime.

Senior goalie Patton Watkins made 17 saves for Tufts, including eight in the third period as Tufts held off a late charge by Salisbury. Sophomore Ben Andreycak, junior Peter Gill and sophomore John Uppgren all scored twice for the Jumbos, with Uppgren adding two assists. Sophomore defenseman Blake Wood caused two turnovers senior Kane Delaney grabbed five ground balls.

The announced attendance was 22,219.

"It's just a great tribute to our alums and all the people and friends that support us," Tufts head coach Mike Daly said.  "We're so blessed with everything. It's a great university, great people, great alumni and great student-athletes.  It's a pleasure to come to work every day. It's a pleasure to be in our facility and be around what you guys got to see today."

Finishing 21-2, the Jumbos set a program record for victories in a season. With their 12 goals in the game, Tufts finished the 2014 season with 423 goals to set a new NCAA Division III single-season record. Their seven assists in the game gave them 45 in the NCAA Tournament to set another national mark.

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"I think our offense did a great job today," Uppgren said.  "We're not one-dimensional.  We have seven or eight guys who can go out there and produce on any given day and take the game over.  I thought it was a great team effort on the offensive end." 

Salisbury, which also finished 21-2, was led by a goal with two assists from Greg Korvin and two goals apiece from Sean Fitzgerald and Donovan Lange. Senior Chris Bank won 13 of 24 face-offs for the Sea Gulls, while Brendan Bormwell caused two turnovers. Knute Kraus finished with four ground balls and goalie Alex Taylor made nine saves.

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Salisbury shut down the Tufts offense in the first period and scored three goals of their own for an early lead. The Jumbos scored first on a goal by Peter Gill 55 seconds into the game, but Salisbury had the next four overall. Korvin scored and assisted on goals 45 seconds apart to get the run started.

After Thomas Cirillo made it 3-1 Salisbury at 6:12 of the first, Watkins made two good saves to keep the margin at two after 15 minutes of play.

The Sea Gulls would strike first in the second quarter as Luke Phipps scored at 11:31 for a 4-1 margin. Tufts would come to life after 22:02 of play without scoring. Bailey figured in the next four goals, scoring once and assisting Beau Wood and Uppgren twice. A Salisbury goal from Rhett DePol was sandwiched in the middle making it a 5-5 game at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Jumbos took their first lead since 1-0 with Andreycak scoring twice in the first 3:03. His second goal came during a man-up situation and gave Tufts a 7-5 lead. The tally also gave the Jumbos 418 goals this season, surpassing the NCAA record of 417 held by Salisbury from the 2007 season.

The Sea Gulls got one back by Lange at 9:04, giving Salisbury six goals by six different players. 

A good save by Watkins led to the five-goal Tufts run that put them in control of the game. Bailey threaded a pass through two defenders to find C.J. Higgins in front of the net for an 8-6 advantage. The Jumbos would then score three times in the next 48 seconds, with senior Dan Leventhal, sophomore face-off man Conor Helfrich and senior Peter Bowers extending the lead to 11-6. Tufts would cap the run with Gill's second goal of the game assisted by Bailey with just 4.3 seconds remaining in the quarter for a 12-6 margin.

The seven goals in the third quarter were the most allowed by the Sea Gulls in a period this season. It's more goals that Salisbury was allowing per game, as they entered the game with a 6.32 goals against average for the season.

"The only thing we said at the half to the guys was everything needs to get smaller in the second half," Daly said. "We need to shorten our passes, shorten everything we're doing. The only thing that gets bigger in the second half is our smiles, and just go out there and show everyone how much fun we have playing this game, how much passion this team can play with, and just smile.  Just get that smile as big across your face as we can get, and that's the short of it." 

The Tufts defense stepped up in the fourth quarter as Salisbury tried to get back in it. They scored twice in the opening 5:05 of the period by Lange and Mike Kane cutting the Jumbo lead to 12-8. When Fitzgerald recorded a man-up goal it was a three-goal game (12-9) with 6:52 remaining.

Watkins was at his best in the final six minutes, making several saves. Meanwhile, the Jumbo defense led by the efforts of Blake Wood, Cem Kalkavan, Dan Alles and Garrett Read limited Salisbury's quality shots.

"We've been in the shadow of the offense all year," Watkins said.  "Scoring 20 goals a game it's hard to look spectacular on defense, but we're not worried about that.  We're not worried about the individual awards.  We're just focused on the next stop on defense, getting the next ground ball, the next clear and the next goal." 

Soon the Jumbos were storming the field to celebrate another national title.  

In winning their second NCAA championship including 2010, the Jumbos overcame the early deficit and a 5-2 disadvantage in penalties. Tufts shut down the first four man-up chances by Salisbury until their final goal. The Jumbos finished 1 for 2 on man-advantages. Tufts was also playing without junior Chris Schoenhut, the nation's leading goal scorer with 80 who was hurt at the NCAA semi-final win at RIT.

This was the third time Tufts and Salisbury have met in the NCAA Final. The Jumbos won 9-6 in 2010 and the Sea Gulls prevailed 19-7 in 2011. All three games have been played in Baltimore. Tufts now leads the series 2-1. The Jumbos capped a 2014 season in which they won their fifth NESCAC title in a row earlier this month. Playing in their sixth straight NCAA Tournament and seventh overall, Tufts has compiled17-5 record in NCAA Tournaments overall following this year's 5-0 run.

Bailey's Most Outstanding Player Award capped a season in which he was won the USILA Turnbull Award, was a First Team All-American and was named NESCAC Player of the Year. 

"I wouldn't have that award without the guys who are playing with me," Bailey said about the Most Outstanding Player honor.  "They set me up for so many successful plays.  It's an honor to play with them, so that's that."

Watkins summed  up the day best at the post-game press conference.

"It was so much fun," he said.  "So honored to be a part of this.  I couldn't be happier right now.  I don't even know what to say.  The emotions are just all over the place."

Photo Gallery by Kelvin Ma / Tufts