Men's Lacrosse | Top−15 win over Middlebury puts Jumbos back on track
Attack puts in five early to launch team to five−goal victory
Published: Monday, April 26, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 26, 2010 06:04
The men's lacrosse team has fully recovered from its first loss of the season last week at Conn. College.
On Saturday, the national No. 8 Jumbos improved their record to 12−1 overall and 7−1 in the NESCAC with a 10−5 win over the No. 15 Middlebury Panthers. The victory tied the program's mark for most regular−season wins, with one more game remaining against Bowdoin on Friday.
After Tufts jumped out to a dominating 5−0 lead, the Panthers staged a three−goal run that bridged the half to come within two at 6−4 at the beginning of the third period. The Jumbos were put briefly on their heels, but the defense refused to let the comeback rattle them and locked down to allow only one more goal for the remainder of the game. The attack also responded to the threat by putting in four more to secure the win. Sophomore Sean Kirwan netted his fourth of the game, and junior long−stick midfielder Alec Bialosky scored twice. Junior Ryan Molloy topped off the Jumbos' scoring with 8:11 left to play, as the defense continued to stifle the Panthers and lead Tufts to its five−goal win.
"We know we have to play 60 minutes," Molloy said in reaction to the Panthers' surge. "We know they're going to have their runs and we're going to have ours. We just have to limit their runs and make sure that we have more. And that's exactly what we did on Saturday."
For the first time in the last six games, the Jumbos established a lead coming out of the first quarter. The team has struggled with slow starts all season, but on Saturday, the Jumbos came out firing, scoring two in the first two−and−a−half minutes. Kirwan scored twice during the run, as Molloy and junior D.J. Hessler added goals of their own. Sophomore Kevin McCormick then opened the second quarter on an unassisted tally before the Panthers could even get on the board. Middlebury junior attackman David Hild traded goals with Kirwan to make it 6−1 before the Panthers' attempt at a mid−game comeback began.
The 10 goals scored was below the team's NESCAC−leading 12.91 goals−per−game average, but an impressive performance from the Jumbos' defensive unit and sophomore goalkeeper Steven Foglietta made the uncharacteristically low−scoring game a comfortable win. Foglietta finished the game with 13 saves as the defense held the Middlebury attack to only 18 shots on goal. The defense also earned a 32−25 advantage in ground balls, though the Panthers won 12 of the 19 face−offs.
"We had really good goal play, which helped us to put together big runs and answer all their goals," Bialosky said. "That was a big part of it. Also, when we communicate well with our slides, it's a lot easier with everyone on the same page. We were able to do that well on Saturday."
The Jumbos now have all week to prepare for the Bowdoin game on Friday. In its last game before the playoffs, Tufts will look to go out on a high note with a victory over the NESCAC's No. 3 team and avenge the loss it suffered at Bowdoin's hands almost exactly one year ago. The 8−5 (5−3 NESCAC) Polar Bears sit under Tufts in the rankings and are unseeded nationally, but they have forced No. 6 Conn. College into overtime this season, the squad that dealt Tufts its lone loss of the year. The Jumbos will have to keep up the stalwart defense and conference−leading scoring to surpass their all−time regular season win mark and enter the NESCAC quarterfinals with positive momentum.
"We're going to want to jump out just like we did in this game," Molloy said. "An early deficit is really hard to come back from, and next game, if we come out with the same sense of urgency against Bowdoin, we'll be OK."
"Everyone's just really excited about it," Bialosky added. "It's the last home game, and you don't have to tell everyone to get up for it because we're all up. There's a chance for the one seed in the NESCAC tournament, so there's definitely a lot on the line. We're really pumped and we need to win it."
With the second seed in the NESCAC Tournament all wrapped up, the Jumbos have a shot to take over No. 1 slot, but only if Conn. College loses and Tufts takes down Bowdoin. The Jumbos have no midweek games before the match against the Polar Bears, so focusing on the regular season finale should be a top priority.
"They're the only team that can hurt us right now," Molloy said. "And it's definitely in the back of our minds that they beat us in the last game of the [regular] season last year. It's a night game under the lights, and it's going to be fun."