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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Women's lacrosse posts unprecedented 7–0 start to the season

The women's lacrosse team in a game against Endicott on March 24 at Bello Field.

The Jumbos made a historic start to the season after four wins in the last week to go 7–0 and reach the top of the NESCAC standings. The seven-straight-win mark is their best start to a season since 1989, when Tufts went 13–0 en route to an ECAC championship, a conference the team used to be in. With their flying start, the Jumbos move to seventh in the nation, their best rank so far this season. In its string of victories, Tufts overcame The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), the 2017 NCAA tournament runner-ups, 8–7, in its toughest match so far this spring. The team also beat out NESCAC foes Colby, by a score of 15–8, and Trinity, with a 12–6 victory. Tufts also overcame a non-conference opponent in the Endicott Gulls, 17–5.

In their second home game of the season, the Jumbos held the Gulls to their lowest number of scored goals this season in a comfortable win. The Gulls gained an early 2–1 advantage, but six straight unassisted goals spurred the Jumbos to a 7–3 lead going into halftime.

First-years consolidated the win in the second half for the Jumbos: Attacker Mae Briody came off the bench and registered two goals and two assists, while classmate and fellow attacker Colette Smith, a goal-scoring powerhouse for the Jumbos, netted three goals of her own after being contained by the Gulls defense for the entire first half. Smith remains the Jumbos’ leading point scorer with 23 goals and seven assists on the season.

Sophomore midfielder Catherine Lawliss netted a game-high four goals, closely followed by hat tricks from Smith and junior attacker Emily Games. On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Audrey Evers saved 10 out of 15 shots, compared to Endicott’s senior goalkeeper Bella Rino’s save rate of only 7 out of 24. Tufts closed out the game with seven unanswered goals to cement the final score at 17–5.

A day earlier, the Jumbos emerged dominant after a slow start to beat their conference rivals, the Trinity Bantams, 12–6. A tense first half ended with a 3–2 score to Tufts’ advantage. Both defenses held strong, with the Jumbos taking 12 shots, and the Bantams managing 11.

"On the attacking end it was a lot more pressure than I had anticipated," Smith said. "They pressured us out very far, which made us sit back. The defense played very well and came up with great plays to hold them back. At times the defense even ran out [Trinity’s] shot clock, so the problems were mainly on the attack because we weren’t expecting such a high-pressure defense. Once we calmed down we played a lot better."

In the second half, Tufts offense began to click with a three-goal run in under 90 seconds. Senior midfielder Annie Sullivan led the charge with three goals in the game, all of which were scored from free positions. Seven of the Jumbos’ 12 goals were scored off free positions, likely a result of Trinity's high defensive press which limited the Jumbos’ ability to execute drives. Instead, the attacking unit found a different route to goal that paid off for a 12–6 win.

Meanwhile, the defensive unit was tested by long offensive possessions by the Bantams but did a good job of preventing the team from completing their shots.

"I think we could have done a better job of getting more ground balls in the eight," senior defender Hedy Veith said. "Sometimes we wouldn’t come up with the ball and Trinity would get another shot off and reset the shot clock, so it led to us having very long defensive sets which was very tiring. That makes us realize how much harder we need to work during clears to get the ball back to our attack and letting them do their job too."

On March 20, the Jumbos travelled to Ewing N.J. to face the TCNJ Lions in their toughest match of the season thus far. The historically strong Lions have had a rough start to the season, with the loss moving them to 4–3. Until facing the Jumbos, however, the Lions had been undefeated at home.

"TCNJ is always a great team every year," Smith said. "They’re very aggressive on defense and their goalie is a returning All-American. I’d say that was the toughest game so far this season, and it was the game that left us all the most tired. It was a tough win but it was great to beat them on their turf."

Four different scorers provided Tufts with a 4–2 advantage in the first half-hour. It was thanks to this lead that the Jumbos came away with the eventual win, as the Lions, in a tenacious comeback, came within one goal by the end of the match. TCNJ’s advantage in draw controls in the second half of the game proved vital to their almost-completed comeback.

The contest was 60 minutes of physicality: The Jumbos endured 24 fouls against them, while committing only 12. The TCNJ fouls culminated in 15 free-position opportunities for the Jumbos to score, but they only completed six. Luckily, their early advantage sealed the narrow 8–7 win.

"We spent a lot of time playing defense over break, and I think that everyone did a great job," Vieth said. "In practices leading up to these games we really focused on strong one-versus-one defense and good communication, and those really translated in the games. Particularly with the TCNJ game we focused on staying patient and not getting too hectic because it was a very physical game."

At the beginning of spring break, on March 16, Tufts handed Colby its first loss of the season in a comfortable 15–8 win at home. Tufts went into the second half with a 10–4 advantage, and as a result were able to ride out a 15-minute scoring drought comfortably. In response to the Mules’ three-goal run, the Jumbos went on one of their own to end the game.

"Lacrosse is a game of runs, and there are always going to be those moments of pressure, but I think compared to years past, this season we’ve done a much better job of just trying to stay calm and keep things under control and accept that we’re going to make some mistakes," Vieth said. "We’ve tried to stay really positive and default back to our fundamentals."

Senior attacker Dakota Adamec, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year, was named NESCAC Player of the Week on Monday thanks to the nine points that she contributed over the last week. The highlight of Adamec's week came against TCNJ, where she was responsible for three of the teams eight goals.

After the taxing stretch of four games in nine days, the Jumbos look forward to an entire week between games to recover. The team faces NESCAC rival Conn. College (1–4), who sit at the bottom of the standings, on Bello Field on Saturday at 1 p.m.