Tufts men’s lacrosse enters every season with the expectation of success, and the start to this one has been no different. In a four-day stretch that has seen the No. 2 Jumbos face two nationally ranked opponents, Tufts showed grit and poise, allowing them to continue their undefeated start to the 2023 season.
On Saturday, Tufts traveled west to No. 12 Amherst for a showdown with their NESCAC rivals. In a back-and-forth game that saw 44 total goals, the Jumbos came back to Medford with a 23–21 win to improve their record to 3–0 overall and 2–0 in the NESCAC.
It was Amherst who started the game strong, leading 9–6 after the first quarter and leading by as many as five goals in the second.
“Defensively we started off slow, giving up too many shots inside,” senior midfielder Joe Murtha said. “[We] weren't picking up the 50–50 ground balls, giving them too many opportunities.”
Midway through the second quarter, Tufts began to fight back. A goal from first-year LSM Ben Frisoli kickstarted a 4–0 run from the Jumbos to close out the first half, heading into the locker room trailing by only a goal.
The second half saw both teams exchange goals until early in the fourth quarter when a goal from senior attacker Tommy Swank to tie the game at 20 started the Jumbos’ game-winning stretch. Goals from senior midfielder Jack Boyden, senior attacker Kurt Bruun and sophomore defender George Panagopoulos ensured the Jumbos would return to Medford with a win.
Despite the slow start, Tufts picked up 18 more ground balls than Amherst and won eight more faceoffs.
“We have at least one or two drills that are dedicated for ground balls every practice,” Murtha said. “A lot of the times whenever you get more ground balls, you're gonna end up on top.”
While every team would like to coast through their regular season schedule, that is simply not the case for most. However, playing difficult games like this early in the season has its benefits, namely getting early experience playing against teams with the talent and hunger to compete in the NCAA Tournament come May.
“When you're playing a team that has the same talent as you, talent means nothing,” Murtha said. “It just puts us in those situations that we will be in at the end of May.”
Back at Bello Field on Tuesday, Tufts faced off against yet another nationally ranked opponent, this time No. 7 University of Lynchburg. Playing in less-than-desirable weather conditions, the Jumbos improved to 4–0 on the season with a convincing 19–4 win over the visiting Hornets.
The Jumbos’ defense stood sound throughout the first half, forcing 20 turnovers and allowing only two goals from Lynchburg to lead 9–2 at the break.
The second half was more of the same, as the Hornets only managed two more goals, unable to find a way to stop the Jumbos’ attack. Brunn had five goals while sophomore midfielder Charlie Tagliaferri added three of his own.
As a team, Tufts outshot Lynchburg 62–21 and forced 40 turnovers. The Jumbos also picked up 57 ground balls to the Hornets’ 25 and won 11 more faceoffs.
In what has become a pattern early on in the season, the Jumbos have seen contributions from players across all four class years. Whether it is a first-year or a senior captain, Tufts has the privilege of having one of the deepest rosters in all of Division III every season.
In the Amherst game, Frisoli and fellow first-years Ethan O’Neill, Victor Salcedo and Jack Regnery all had contributions logged on the box score, with numerous sophomores getting on the stat sheet as well.
The Lynchburg game saw multiple underclassmen also log contributions in the box score in addition to the established juniors and seniors.
“We have a lot of fresh guys, fresh legs on the bench to throw in there,” Murtha said. “It really makes a big difference going through the third quarter and fourth quarter stretch.”
Tufts men’s lacrosse has become synonymous with success, having won 11 NESCAC titles and three NCAA Division III Championships. The team enters each season with high expectations and while postseason goals are certainly in the players’ minds, Murtha says the team is focused on taking the season one day at a time.
“While we have our goals in the back of our minds, at the front of our minds, we have every opponent,” Murtha said. “We really have to take every single opponent seriously.”
With multiple NESCAC games left in the season as well as some tough non-conference matchups, this Tufts team is certainly not a finished product. Cutting down on mistakes and being disciplined will be key to seeing how far this year’s team goes in the postseason, but if they are able to, we could be seeing yet another successful season for the Tufts men’s lacrosse program.
“Everyone on the team sees the potential that we have,” Murtha said. “But we know we have to work to maximize that potential every day.”
While this coming week is spring break for most Tufts students, the Jumbos will stay busy and travel to New Jersey on Sunday for yet another ranked matchup, this time against No. 20 Stevens Institute of Technology.