Men's Lacrosse | Jumbos get last laugh against Lord Jeffs
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 07:04
For the No. 5 men’s lacrosse team, the scoreboard at the end of Saturday’s NESCAC quarterfinal game against unranked Amherst didn’t tell half the story.
The Jumbos rode a late surge to a 14-10 victory, advancing to this weekend’s semifinal against playoff fourth-seed Conn. College. But throughout the game, costly penalties allowed the Lord Jeffs to keep the Jumbos in their sights. Amherst tied the game three times and pulled within one in the final quarter before Tufts staged a late 4-1 run to come away with the win.
“Going into the game we knew that this could have very well been our last game this season, and I think that our motivation came 100 percent from that and thinking about our seniors,” sophomore attackman Beau Wood said. “I don’t think we really thought too much about the last [Amherst] game. I’m sure they had the same thought, and the combination of their talent and that motivation made it a tough game.”
Freshman Cole Bailey led the Jumbos in scoring for the second straight game with a five-point effort, furthering his bid for a Rookie of the Year nod. Meanwhile, Wood and senior co-captains Sean Kirwan and Kevin McCormick each tallied hat tricks amid their four-point performances.
Senior midfielder Nick Rhoads had a sensational day at the faceoff X, securing 18 of 24 draws, including five of six in the final quarter, an effort that proved to be the deciding factor as the Jumbos pulled away.
“Rhoads and the entire faceoff crew have been incredible all season,” Wood said. “When Amherst went on their runs, they responded by dominating in between the lines on ground balls. That helped give us more possessions and gave our defense a break.”
Goalie Patton Watkins also had one of his best games of the season, making 12 saves on the afternoon, including several where the sophomore split and lunged across the crease to make a series of nerve-racking, athletic stops.
“Patton and the entire defense played great and has been our anchor all year,” Wood added. “We play so uptempo on offense that it usually means we play a lot of defense. We have a lot of faith in those guys and they’ve been huge all season.”
Early on, the Jumbos led 5-0, and it appeared that they might run away with a victory even larger than their 15-5 defeat of the Lord Jeffs two weeks earlier. Bailey and Wood connected for a goal at the 11:36 mark, and McCormick and senior midfielder Geordie Shafer combined for three more goals to push Tufts’ lead to four at the end of the first quarter.
A minute into the second stanza, Bailey dished out his first of three assists, finding Kirwan on the crease to extend the margin to five goals. On the next possession, however, junior Mark Findaro drew a one-minute penalty for slashing and the Lord Jeffs capitalized. Senior attackman Evan Redwood notched his first and only goal of the day on the man advantage, opening the door for Amherst, which came knocking with a vengeance.
In the next seven minutes, sophomore Devin Acton, last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year, tacked on four straight Amherst goals to tie the game at 5-5 with three minutes remaining in the half.
“We know that every team is going to go on big runs,” Wood said. “We don’t worry too much when another team goes on a run against us, and we don’t become complacent when we go on big runs.”
From there, McCormick took things into his own hands. The midfielder stopped the bleeding and silenced the Lord Jeffs with a dangerous strike, besting keeper Sam Jakimo as time expired in the opening half.
In the second half, both teams came out ready to fight. Senior midfielder Alex Fox opened the third quarter with an Amherst goal to equalize, but Tufts reestablished its lead on the following possession. In transition, junior midfielder Sam Diss found Wood at the top of the key, and Wood finished with a flawless shot to make it 7-6.
It took Rhoads just six seconds to double the Jumbos’ lead. The senior, who has been sensational on faceoffs this season, picked up the ball on the run and blazed past Amherst’s entire defensive unit, finding the back of the net for an 8-5 advantage. Acton scored twice more to tie the game for the third time, but Wood and McCormick settled the Jumbos’ nerves with two goals to end the quarter with Tufts clinging to a 10-8 lead.