MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University men's lacrosse team lost to Wesleyan (Conn.), 12-11, in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon at Bello Field. The loss snaps the Jumbos' streak of 21 straight wins at home in the NCAA tournament.
Tufts (18-2) was led by four goals from Nick Shanks. Ben Connelly contributed three goals and Danny Murphy recorded two as well as an assist. Matt Treiber scored once and assisted twice. Garrett Samuelson scored one goal and Frank Hattler assisted on two. Jack Donohue and Cam Irwin caused two turnovers each and Henry Hollen picked up 14 ground balls while going 14-for-26 on the face off. In goal, Mason Pollack made 15 saves.
For the Cardinals (17-3), Taylor Ghesquiere had a huge day with five goals, including the game winner. Ronan Jacoby contributed four goals of his own, whle Cole Turpin, Harry Stanton, and Ryan Flippin each scored one. Turpin also had one assist. Carter Hawthorne assisted on three goals and Christian Barker on one other. Andres Rodriguez was huge on defense for the Cardinals, picking up four ground balls and causing two turnovers, though it felt like more. In goal, Otto Bohan made nine saves including a few big ones down the stretch to keep the Jumbos from pulling ahead.
This one came down to the very end with both teams having legitimate chances to claim the win. The second half started with the Cardinals up, 7-5. They would score the first goal of the half about four minutes in when Jacoby found the back of the net. Down by three, it was clear the Jumbos had to make something happen and a couple big saves by Pollack helped them do just that.
With eight minutes left in the third quarter, Pollack held the ball just outside his crease after a Wesleyan turnover. Stanton snuck up behind him and forced a turnover, quickly picked up the ground ball, took a few steps towards the seemingly empty goal, and fired a shot. At the last second, a sprinting Pollack was able to recover just in time to have the shot bounce off his side and away from danger. No less than a minute later, Treiber scored on the other end to bring the Jumbos within two.
Ghesquiere would get one back for the Cardinals to go back up by three, but then once again, Pollack would come up big in a dire situation. Off a faceoff won by Tufts, the Cardinals forced a turnover that Stanton would pick up, fast break, and quickly get a shot off that Pollack was able to stop. On the very next possession, Connelly would beat Bohan for his first of the game. That goal, as well as Hollen's ability to win multiple face offs in a row, sparked a 4-0 run for the Jumbos that extended from the end of the third and into the fourth.
The final quarter started with Wesleyan ahead, 9-8. Just one minute in Hattler hit Connelly with a pass and he scored again to tie it up. Then less than a minute later, from behind the net Treiber found Murphy who got a quick shot off from a tough angle to the goalies right. Somehow it squeezed by Bohan to give the Jumbos their first lead of the game, 10-9.
With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Tufts was called for a two minute locked in penalty that swung the momentum back in favor of Wesleyan. The Cardinals were able to score two goals off the man advantage, one by Ghesquiere and one by Stanton, to take the lead back.
With less than two minutes left, Tufts got the ball back and went on one last offensive possession. Then, on a play that they have been executing all year, Murphy found Connelly who stepped down and fired a shot home to tie the game back up at 11.
The contest seemed destined for overtime when Wesleyan had the ball on their next possession and the shot clock had been turned on with under a minute to play, but then Ghesquiere struck again. With twenty seconds left in the game, and one second on the shot clock, he somehow got a desperation shot off over a defender as he was driving to the goalie's left. It found the back of the net to give the Cardinals the win.
Shots were pretty even on the day, with Wesleyan taking 44 to Tufts' 41, as were turnovers as both teams finished with 17. The Cardinals picked up 35 ground balls to the Jumbos' 27 and, one of the deciding factors, were 3-of-4 on man up opportunities to Tufts' 0-for-3.
The first half was tightly contested as well. The Cardinals took a 3-1 lead in the first quarter before Tufts tied it up at 3 at the end of the frame. Wesleyan would score three straight to start the second to build a 6-3 lead, but Murphy and Shanks both found the back of the net in the final minutes of the half to go into the break down, 7-5.
Head coach Casey D'Annolfo's squad will finish the year 18-2 and with their eighth NCAA quarterfinal appearance in nine seasons. Wesleyan moves on to the semifinal for the second year in a row and will face the winner of York and RIT on Sunday.
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communciations Intern