MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Sophomore goalie Mason Pollack made 16 saves and junior Ben Connelly scored four goals leading the Tufts University men's lacrosse team to its eighth NESCAC championship with a 12-9 victory at Wesleyan University on Sunday.
With their eighth conference title, Tufts breaks its tie with Middlebury College as the program that has won the most NESCAC crowns. The Jumbos captured seven consecutive league championships from 2010-16. This is the team's first under second-year head coach Casey D'Annolfo.
The game was even at 5-5 at the start of the second half, and Wesleyan went up 7-6 with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter on a goal by Carter Hawthorne. The Jumbos scored the final three goals of the third (Frank Hattler, Andrew Seiter, Holden Rosen Grupp), with the last one coming during a crucial segment. Pollack made an outstanding save on freshman Ronan Jacoby with 1:39 left in the frame, and then 21 seconds later, Tufts senior Holden Rosen Grupp buried a shot in stride, pushing the lead up to 9-7.
A goal by Connelly 15 seconds into the fourth gave Tufts a three-goal edge, but Taylor Ghesquiere fired back for Wesleyan with 10 minutes left, trimming the deficit to 10-8. A pivotal part of the game occurred with 9:19 left when junior Arend Broekmate was sent to the box for Tufts with a two-minute, locked-in penalty for an illegal body check, but the Jumbos were able to kill off the entire infraction. The unit then carried the momentum into even-strength play, and went up 11-8 45 seconds after the end of the penalty on a goal by Connelly. The Cardinals closed to within 11-9, but Danny Murphy scored to put a cap on it for the Jumbos.
Tufts' win at Wesleyan snaps the host's 22-game home winning streak, dating back to the 2016 season. The Cardinals defeated the Jumbos twice there last year and three times overall. This is Tufts' second victory against the Cardinals this year including a 14-10 home win on April 7. The squads could run into each other again in the NCAA Tournament that starts this week, with the Cardinals likely to earn an at-large NCAA berth. The all-time series between Wesleyan and Tufts is all even through 56 games with both teams holding 28-28 records.
Connelly, Seiter and Murphy combined for 14 points for the No. 6-ranked Jumbos over No. 5 Wesleyan at Jackson Field today. Connelly had four goals and one assist, Murphy tallied two goals with three assists and Seiter finished with three goals and one assist to lead third-seeded Tufts (16-1).
The top-seeded Cardinals (14-3) were led by a five-goal performance by Ghesquiere, while juniors Hawthorne (two goals, three assists) and Christian Barker (one goal, three assists) also led offensively.
Barker had put the Cardinals on the board first with three minutes, 38 seconds elapsed off the clock in the opening period, sending a bouncing shot into the cage off a heads-up, behind-the-net feed from Hawthorne. Tufts responded with two unanswered goals, and four of the next five. Jumbo sophomore Matt Treiber put a pass from the behind the net right into the stick of Murphy in front of the net, and the Hauppauge, N.Y. native took his time and calmly sent a shot past the goalie, tying the game at 1-1 with 10:12 left in the first.
Pollack, who hails from Arlington, Va., made an outstanding save with 5:50 left in the period on a shot by Cardinals junior midfielder Scott Irwin from the right side. With 4:38 showing on the scoreboard, senior Harry Stanon rifled a turnaround shot from the right doorstep, but Pollack stood tall again.
Seiter put the Jumbos up 2-1 with a goal from distance on the right side with 3:46 remaining. Hawthorne evened the score at 2-2 one minute, 44 seconds later, sneaking up on the left edge of the crease, and netting a perfect pass from Barker.
Tufts took the lead at 3-2 on a man-up goal by Connelly with 13:45 left in the second. The Jumbos extended their lead to two with an even-strength goal eight minutes, 28 seconds later, as freshman Garrett Samuelson beat Cardinals sophomore goalie Otto Bohan short side on the right. Ghesquiere stepped up for the Cardinals with back-to-back goals, 55 seconds apart. He buried a shot from the edge of the left attacking side following an outstanding fake to get the defender out of the shooting lane with 4:23 left, and then launched a bullet on the move toward his right, evening the game at 4-4 with 3:28 on the clock.
Each team struck one more time in the first half, as Stanton scored top shelf, and then Seiter responded with 16 seconds left in the half, finding the back of the net off a great cut down the middle of the lane.
Pollack (13-1) earned the win in net, stopping 16-of-25 shots, and Bohan (12-2) suffered the loss, finishing with nine saves. Sophomore Jack Donohue tallied a game-high eight ground balls for Tufts, and senior Andres Rodriguez led Wesleyan with seven. The Jumbos led the overall category, 35-34.
The Cardinals held a decisive advantage in shots, 46-32, and led the shots-on-goal category, 25-21. Wesleyan went 15-for-25 at the faceoff dot, with sophomore Zach Zavalick going 13-for-21. The hosts were charged with 14 turnovers, and the visitors made 13.
With the automatic NCAA berth by virtue of winning NESCAC, the Jumbos will make their 11th appearance in the national tournament starting this week. The full NCAA field will be released tonight at 9:30 p.m.
Portions of recap courtesy of Wesleyan University