MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's lacrosse team has made it to the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament semifinals for the 10th season in a row. They will be taking on Amherst College this Saturday at 3 p.m. at host Wesleyan University.
The Jumbos will be looking to return to the championship game for the eighth time in nine years. From 2010 to 2016, Tufts made it to the conference final every year and came away with a win each time. All-time in NESCAC Championship play, the Jumbos hold a 28-10 record with seven championships and two runner-up finishes. The 28 overall wins is the highest total by any team and the seven championships are tied with Middlebury for the most. Last season's final between Wesleyan and Middlebury was the first championship game since 2008 that didn't feature Tufts.
The Jumbos are 14-1 this season and finished 9-1 in conference play. The 9-1 mark in NESCAC games was tied for first in the conference along with Amherst and Wesleyan. All three teams were so even that the tie-breakers weren't able to separate them to figure out the top three seeds. So, a random action was used to assign the seeds and Tufts came out drawing the three seed, Amherst the two, and Wesleyan the top seed.
As the three seed, Tufts was matched up with sixth-seeded Middlebury in the quarterfinals. On the back of eight points from Danny Murphy and six from Ben Connelly, the Jumbos were able to dispatch the Panthers, 16-12, a score that sounds a lot closer than the game actually ever was.
This led to the matchup with Amherst this Saturday. As the highest remaining seed, Wesleyan will host both the semifinals and finals. Amherst is the only team to beat Tufts this season, defeating them 20-16 back on April 14. In that game, Amherst built up a large first-half lead that the Jumbos were never able to battle back from. The Mammoths opened the game with a 7-2 first quarter with three goals from junior Evan Wolf. Then in the second, Wolf added two more as he and the rest of Amherst outscored Tufts 8-3. The 15-5 halftime deficit was daunting for head coach Casey D'Annolfo's squad, but they never gave up.
Tufts opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run, bringing the score to 15-11, with two goals from both Frank Hattler and Nick Shanks and one apiece from Connelly and Andrew Seiter. Amherst would score once at the end of the quarter to go into the fourth and final frame up, 16-11. The Jumbos opened the fourth quarter similarly to how they did the third, scoring three straight goals to get within two at 16-14. But that's where the comeback fell short. With 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Mammoths went on a 4-0 run that lasted six minutes, including three goals from Matt Solberg to go up 20-14. Connelly and Matt Treiber would both get one back for Tufts, but the six-goal gap was too large to overcome as the comeback effort ended at 20-16.
This season, Amherst has been led by the talented duo of Wolf and sophomore Colin Minicus. Wolf has 53 goals and 31 assists for 84 points on the season and Minicus has 39 goals and 43 assists for 82 points. Sophomores Jon Coffey and Solberg have been strong as well, with 64 and 63 points respectively. Goaltending has been a bit of a team effort for the Mammoths as sophomore Chad Simons has started eight games and freshman Cameron Mitchell six. Simons has received more minutes and will most likely be the goalie the Jumbos will see. He has a 53.7% save percentage and has allowed an average of 11.4 goals per contest. The Mammoths are vying for their first-ever NESCAC title. They have played in two conference championship games and have an 8-16 overall record in conference tournaments.
Tufts will counter with a strong offensive pair of their own in Murphy and Connelly. Murphy leads the team with 78 points from 34 goals and 44 assists, while Connelly has the most goals on the team with 45 and has assisted on 17 to accumulate 62 points. Seiter has been successful as well as he is third on the team with 52 points from 40 goals and 12 assists. Treiber has 28 goals on the year, scoring 12 of those on man-up opportunities, the most on the team. Mason Pollack has done the bulk of the work in net for the Jumbos, accumulating an 11-1 record. His 55.1% save percentage is third in the conference and his 10.51 goals against is fourth. Connors Lansdale and Arend Broekmate are two of the better defensemen in the league.
On the other side of the bracket, one-seed Wesleyan will be taking on four-seed Williams. Wesleyan is 13-2 on the year as Williams sits at 9-7. The winner of this game will play the winner of Tufts and Amherst for the NESCAC Championship. The Jumbos beat both teams earlier in the year, 14-10 over Wesleyan and 11-8 against Williams.
The Cardinals and Ephs opened the season against each other in a game that Wesleyan won, 9-8. Williams led after one half, 4-3, but Wesleyan would pull away to go up 9-5 in the second half, before Williams scored three in a row, but couldn't tie it up before the end of regulation.
Wesleyan scores an average of 12.67 goals per game, but they have the strongest defense in all of NESCAC allowing only 8.63 scores per contest. Williams will have their work cut out for them as their leading scorer, Kevin Stump, has 56 points on the season, but everyone else on the team is at 41 or less. Wesleyan's Carter Hawthorne leads them with 65 points on the season. The Cardinals' goalie, Otto Bohan, leads the NESCAC with a 7.67 goals against average and is second in save percentage at 56.5%.
All-time in the NESCAC tournament, Wesleyan is 21-14 with two championships and Williams is 6-10 with one tournament crown.
Both games will be played at Wesleyan, with Wesleyan vs. Williams first at noon and Tufts vs. Amherst to follow at 3 p.m. The winners will face off in the final on Sunday at noon.
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern