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

No. 6 women's lacrosse stands alone as only undefeated team on campus

Senior forward Dakota Adamec charges towards the net during Tufts' 21–7 win over Conn. College on March 27.

The Tufts women’s lacrosse team (11–0) became the only undefeated team on campus this spring after the men's lacrosse team's recent loss. Its two most recent wins cemented its position as the top squad in the NESCAC  and the No. 6 team in the nation in Div. III. The Jumbos are the only undefeated team in the NESCAC as well as in the top-20 nationally ranked teams. On Saturday, Tufts triumphed over Wesleyan in a 17–10 thriller. It marked the first game of the season that Tufts was down at halftime, but the team came out strong after the half to remind its opponents who was boss.

On Sunday, the Jumbos matched their second highest ever goals scored in a game in a 24–10 victory over the Babson Beavers (7–4).

The team enjoyed its second balmy weekend at home, putting on a show for its fans at Bello Field. On Sunday, Babson and Tufts traded goals early in the game before Tufts pulled away with an astounding 17 goals in the first half.

"Wesleyan was a gritty, hustle game," junior defender Lily Baldwin said. "So coming out on Sunday morning was tough and I definitely felt slower. I think that getting past those first five minutes of the game let us get into our groove. Even though we weren’t as fast as we were against Wesleyan, it showed us that we can play two games in a weekend and win."

The 17 first-half goals from 11 different scorers included two man-down goals, where Tufts played shorthanded on the attack and still managed to beat the Babson defense. During one stretch towards the end of the half, the Jumbos managed four goals in 121 seconds, as the Beavers defense fell apart against the versatility of the Jumbo attack.

In the second half, the Jumbos went on to capitalize on two man-up opportunities among its seven goals. Sophomore attacker Catherine Lawliss clinched one of those chances, going on to be the game's leading scorer with five goals and one assist.

The game marked one of the only times this season that Tufts didn’t dominate the draw. The Beavers controlled 19 draws while Tufts controlled 16, and it was this edge that allowed the Beavers to clinch possessions that helped them score early in the game. In the end, Babson couldn’t contend with Tufts’ strength on the attack, nor the defensive pressure Tufts delivered. The lead established in the first half gave Tufts the chance to field its entire roster in the game, with many less-experienced players getting the opportunity to make their mark.

The day before, the Jumbos faced similar draw control issues against the Cardinals, with their opponents outdrawing them 20–9. Tufts cycled several players including Baldwin, senior attacker Dakota Adamec and first-year attacker Colette Smith through the draw position to contend with the strength of Wesleyan’s draw taker.

A tense first half marked the first time the Jumbos were ever down at halftime. The Cardinals edged them 7–5 thanks to a hat trick from powerhouse junior midfielder Abby Manning. After Tufts went up 2–0 early in the game thanks to two free-position goals, Wesleyan answered with five straight goals that forced Tufts to reorganize its defense. The team switched to its high-pressure defense, which is more tiring, but the switch paid off as the Jumbos put a cap on the Cardinals’ scoring before the half.

"We didn’t start out as urgently as we wanted to," Baldwin said. "We put a face guard on [senior midfielder Abigail Horst] because she had been scoring most of their goals, and we thought that cutting her off from the ball would keep them from scoring. But [Abby Manning] stepped up ... After the five goals, we went into our high-pressure defense because that forced us to communicate and be more urgent in zones ... That was a call that our defensive coach made that was one of the most important calls of the whole game."

Despite the deficit at halftime, Adamec was confident in the team's ability to win, and she went on to run circles around the Wesleyan defenders, scoring seven goals of her eight total in the game. She matched her own record of most goals scored by a single player in a game, which she achieved against Hamilton in March 2018. Adamec strategically identified gaps in the Wesleyan defense that occurred when defenders tried to hand off players to mark other attackers on cuts.

"I ran in circles around the crease two or three times to find the holes," Adamec said. "In a backer defense the defenders will hand cutters off to each other, and once they communicate that they’re handing it off, they immediately turn their heads away. That connection is where their biggest hole was, so the moment they both turned their heads the middle was wide open: I just had to time my cut right."

Once the Cardinals picked up on this technique, they started to heavily mark Adamec. In fact, Adamec overheard one of the Wesleyan players yelling in the defensive huddle that "Number 27 is not getting the ball again!" after she netted her fourth goal. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Adamec scored another four times.

The defenders’ focus on Adamec paved the way for other attackers to find the openings instead. Seven straight goals by the Jumbos closed out the game, with junior attackers Emily Games and Maddie Norman, senior midfielder Annie Sullivan and Smith all finding the net in the final 17–10 win.

The game was a test for Tufts players on both sides of the ball, as the defense continued to be tested throughout the game thanks to Wesleyan’s numerous possessions off the draw. In all, the defense forced 22 turnovers, and once the Jumbo offense started clicking, the team pulled away.

"Their defense got very tired because a high pressure defense is very hard to play," Adamec said. "In the last 10 minutes of the game, they were set, but they didn’t pressure out. I could hold the ball and not have to do anything with it because they were too tired to pressure me. At that point, we just worked the ball around to make them even more tired and find the holes."

Tufts’ dominant performance did not go unnoticed in the conference or national level. Games was named NESCAC Player of the Week on Monday after she tallied 13 points in three games. She was also named the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association National Player of the Week for Div. III, an accolade that Adamec received two weeks ago.

On Saturday, the Jumbos play again at home against the Amherst Mammoths (8–3, 4–3 NESCAC) who split a four-way tie for fourth place in the NESCAC. Last season Amherst tied for first place in the NESCAC and made a deep run to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, and the Mammoths will look to be the first team to crack the Jumbos' code. Tufts takes the draw against Amherst at 1 p.m. on Saturday on Bello Field.