Men's Lacrosse | Victory over Trinity gives Tufts best start in team history
Jumbos excise demons in low−paced, defensive game
Published: Monday, April 12, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 12, 2010 06:04
After grinding out a 9−5 win over Trinity this Saturday, the men's lacrosse team has reached uncharted ground. While last year a road loss to the Bantams ended Tufts' eight−game winning steak to start the season, this season the Jumbos were able to beat their conference rivals and, as a result, have reached a nine−game winning streak for the first time in team history — or at least as far back as 1946, when the athletics department began archiving games.
Trinity, a team notorious for playing very methodically on offense, was able to control possession for much of the game, and held a 2−1 lead midway through the second quarter. But as the game progressed, the Jumbo attack grew stronger and stronger, and in the second half Tufts outscored the Bantams 6−3. Junior Matt Witko led the team with three goals, while classmate D.J. Hessler added a goal and three assists. Sophomore goalie Steven Foglietta was steady in net, allowing only five goals on 16 shot attempts.
Although the Jumbos are happy to keep their undefeated season alive, the 9−5 win was their lowest goal total of the season, and the game as a whole was marked by turnovers and sloppy play on both sides, as both teams failed on clear attempts 11 times.
"I think that it was a great conference win, but we haven't played our best lacrosse yet this season," senior tri−captain Doug DiSesa said. "We want to be playing our best in late April and May.
"Offensively we struggled at times taking care of the ball," he continued. "But on defense we did a great job of playing together as a unit. Trinity has some great players and scored some goals, but we did a solid job with our rotations and of playing ‘inside−out' defense."
Tufts held a 3−2 lead at the half, which the Jumbos stretched to 6−3 by the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, Tufts put the Bantams away with two goals from senior tri−captain Mike Droesch and disciplined goaltending from Foglietta.
While Trinity — whose method of slow play has also kept NESCAC opponents Williams, Colby and Wesleyan under 10 goals in games this season — successfully executed its game plan, sophomore Nick Rhoads won 12 of 16 face−offs for the Jumbos, giving the team chances to score in transition, which is its comfort zone.
"Nick Rhoads did a great job on face−offs, which allowed us to get the ball, and in the second half we started finishing those opportunities," Witko said. "We started slowly, but we were confident the whole time that we'd be able to come back and take the game."
Senior tri−captain Eytan Saperstein led a smothering Jumbos defensive unit, keeping the Bantams at bay all game long. Saperstein picked up 10 ground balls on the day, while the team as a whole finished the game in front of Trinity 40−34 in the category. Tufts' goaltending was also key: Despite the Bantams holding a 34−33 edge in shots on the day, Foglietta was able to build on his dominant performance in three quarters on Tuesday against Bates and once again get the job done.
"The fact is that we were on defense for the majority of the game," Saperstein said. "Trinity likes to slow the game down, and the turnovers and failure to clear did not help us either ... [but] I think we [as a defense] didn't try to do too much and played our game. Our goalie also played really well, and made a bunch of huge saves."
With Saturday's victory, the Jumbos preserved their pristine record, but the team's leaders have bigger goals in mind.
"It means a lot [to win nine straight], but no one really had on their goal sheet at the beginning of the season ‘go 9−0,'" Saperstein said. "Our goal is really to win one game at a time and to be playing deep into the playoffs."
"While that's great that our team is winning, it's not really what we set out to do," DiSesa added. "We want to ultimately win our first NESCAC title and our first national title."
Tufts will attempt to keep its undefeated season alive this Tuesday night at Western New England College against the team that beat them in the second round of last year's NCAA Div. III Tournament.
"We need [on Tuesday] to play a very fast−paced style, make good decisions and cash in on our opportunities," Witko said. "The most important thing is that we come out firing straight from the start."
"This game definitely has our attention and all of our focus," DiSesa added. "They're a great team, a solid program, so it will be fun … With that taste of last year's defeat in our mouth, we want to get out there and take care of business."