ASHTON, Va. – The Tufts University women's lacrosse team's historic 2019 season came to a close on Saturday as the Jumbos lost to Salisbury University 14-11 in the NCAA "Final Four" at Randolph-Macon College.
Tufts, who set a school record for victories, finished the year at 19-3. Head coach Courtney Shute's team was playing in the Final Four for the first time. Salisbury (20-3) advances to play Middlebury College in the national championship game on Sunday at 2 pm. Middlebury defeated Wesleyan 16-8 in today's other semifinal.
Junior Lily Baldwin won the opening draw control for Tufts and then junior Annie Sullivan was fouled on a drive to the net. She converted the free-position shot just 36 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Jumbo advantage.
Salisbury would retaliate by getting the next three though, building a lead they would hold for the rest of the game. Senior Gabby Mongno put a shot over Tufts senior goalie Audrey Evers assisted by sophomore Alexis Strobel at 28:34 to start the Salisbury run. Strobel then had a second straight assist on a goal by junior Gianna Demato at 27:42 giving the Sea Gulls the lead. Evers then made a kick save on Mongno, but senior Lindsey Wagner got the ground ball and passed to senior Courtney Fegan for a 3-1 Sea Gulls advantage at 25:16.
Tufts stopped the Salisbury momentum when freshman Kathryn Delaney got a free-position opportunity and scored at 19:49 to pull the brown and blue within 3-2. That started a back-and-forth stretch covering the next 14 minutes. Salisbury junior goalie Skye Graham made a save on Delaney right in front of the net holding the lead for the Sea Gulls, then Demato underscored the Graham save at the other end by coming from behind the net to score at 17:12 for a 4-2 Gulls lead. Games answered right back with a move freeing herself for an open shot to score pulling the Jumbos to 4-3 at 16:57.
Fegan tallied a free-position goal for a 5-3 Salisbury lead at 15:49. However, after Graham made a save on Tufts sophomore Catherine Lawliss' free-position shot, the Gulls got a yellow card. The Jumbos used that to their advantage as Games scored on a free-position shot closing the gap to 5-4 at the 12:36 mark. The Sea Gulls were whistled for another yellow card just 25 seconds later, but this time Graham came up with a key save on Lawliss keeping Salisbury ahead. Then three minutes later Salisbury's Wagner scored off another assist from Strobel at 8:54 for a 6-4 margin. Another Salisbury yellow card at 7:47 led to another free-position goal by Games and Tufts was within 6-5 on its second goal during a Salisbury yellow card.
The Sea Gulls seemed to manage to stay a step ahead of the Jumbos though. Tufts took a pair of yellow cards next and Sea Gull sophomore Emma Skoglund scored man-up from junior Taylor Poole giving Salisbury a two-goal lead (7-5). That would start a key stretch during which the Sea Gulls scored six of the next eight goals. Salisbury scored the first back-to-back goals since the sixth minute of play with a Lydia McNulty quick-stick shot from Wagner for an 8-5 advantage at 3:14.
The Jumbos were able to cut it to a two-goal game (8-6) before halftime as sophomore Kirsten Grazewski dashed across the middle and took a pass from Games and then turned and fired one into the cage at 2:32. Tufts senior Dakota Adamec then opened the second-half scoring by taking a long pass from Games behind the net and fired a high shot making it 8-7 at 28:44. For Games it was the fifth Jumbo goal in a row in which she contributed to the scoring.
However, again Salisbury had a response as Mongo scored with another assist to Strobel and it was 9-7 three minutes into the second half. Strobel then scored one of her own at 25:57 and the Sea Gulls were up 10-7.
Tufts made a goalie change, inserting freshman Molly Laliberty. It gave the Jumbos some momentum as within the first few minutes of the change Laliberty caused a turnover, made a key save and helped Tufts forced the Sea Gulls into a shot clock violation. However, Tufts wasn't able to turn it into offense at the other end of the field.
After more than 10 minutes without a goal, it was Salisbury who got the next one as Skoglund scored off a pass from Mongno making it 11-7 at 14:35 of the second half. Skoglund got the next one too from McNulty and suddenly it was a five-goal Salisbury lead (12-7).
The teams traded the next two goals as senior Cecily Freliech made a run to the goal and scored for Tufts at 9:50 and Salisbury's Poore had a free-position goal at 8:10 allowing the Gulls to retain their five-goal margin (13-8).
Tufts had one last hope to come back when the Gulls were carded for the fourth time, making it un-releasable. Freshman Colette Smith scored a quick goal for Tufts, curling around the net and shooting to close the gap to 13-9 at 5:50. However, the Jumbos would not capitalize again on the man-up situation.
When Skoglund scored from Strobel again at 3:52 the Gulls were up by five again (14-9) with just 3:52 left. Tufts got a free-position score from Smith at 3:10, but then didn't get another one until Adamec scored on a free-position attempt with just 34 seconds on the clock as time ran out on the Jumbos.
Strobel finished with five assists and six points to lead the Sea Gulls. Skogland's four goals led Salisbury, while Fegan scored twice while taking five draw controls. Graham finished with six saves and caused a pair of turnovers.
Games led Tufts offensively with three goals and two assists for five points. Norman had a game-high seven draw controls while Adamec scored twice, won three DC's and had three ground balls. Freshman Madison Lehan caused two turnovers while both Evers and Laliberty made two saves in net.
Tufts finished with a slight 26-23 edge in shots, though Salisbury won the ground ball battle 26-13. Tufts had a large 19-8 advantage in draw controls. Six of Tufts' goals came on free-position shots.
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