MEDFORD – For the seventh time in the last 13 seasons, Tufts University's Bello Field will be where the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Lacrose champion is determined as Tufts hosts the conference semifinals and final on Saturday and Sunday.
Middlebury College (8-8), the #7 seed in the tournament who upset two-seed Wesleyan University in the quarterfinals last Saturday 11-7, will be top-seed Tufts' semifinal opponent on Saturday in a noon start. Three-seed Williams (14-2) and four-seed Amherst (14-2) renew their ancient rivalry in Saturday's other semifinal at 3 pm. The semifinal winners will play for the conference championship on Sunday at noon.
Head coach Casey D'Annolfo's Jumbos (15-1) earned the #1 seed in NESCAC with a 9-1 record this spring and then won their quarterfinal game against Trinity 17-8 at Bello on Saturday. They are into the conference semifinals for the 11th straight year and for the 14th time in the 18-year history of the event. This weekend the Jumbos will be defending the eighth conference championship they won last season in a 12-9 final over Wesleyan. Tufts won seven conference titles in a row from 2010-16. The Jumbos' 32 wins in conference tournament play since 2001 is the most in the league.
Middlebury owned the conference tournament for the first seven years (2001-07), winning the title each time. Williams broke the run in 2008 for their lone conference crown. Amherst will be seeking its first league title this weekend.
The top three scoring teams in the league will be in action this weekend with the Mammoths leading NESCAC at 19 goals per game, Tufts second at 17.63 and Williams third (14.94). Defensively, the Eph's 10.00 goals against average is second in NESCAC, Amherst is third at 10.13 and the Jumbos are fourth (11.00). Middlebury ranks seventh in both categories with 13.19 goals per game and a 12.13 GAA.
Among the players who will be at Bello this weekend are the top four goal-scorers in NESCAC with Amherst' Evan Wolf (62), Tufts' Max Waldbaum (54), Williams' Cory Lund (50) and Middlebury's Tyler Forbes (47). For the goalies, Amherst's Chad Simons has the league's second-best save percentage of .588, Tufts' Mason Pollack is fourth in NESCAC at .560 and Middlebury's Tyler Bass ranks fifth in the league (.554). Williams' Harry Gahagan has a .542 mark.
Back on April 20, senior Danny Murphy scored seven goals with two assists to lead the Jumbos to a 23-14 win over Middlebury in their regular-season match up. Tufts has won 15 games in a row over the Panthers dating back to 2010. The Jumbos won nail-biters against both Williams and Amherst this spring with identical 15-14 scores in each game.
Sunday's champion will receive the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.