There is a common saying in sports that getting to the top is hard, but staying there is harder. The Tufts men's lacrosse team moved up to No. 1 in all three major polls last week despite tight wins against Williams and Connecticut College, and followed that up with a 20–7 victory on April 12 against a Bates side that sits toward the bottom of the NESCAC. Then, on Saturday the squad left Middletown, Conn. with a 25–16 statement win against Wesleyan to defend its rank as the nation’s top Division III side.
The Jumbos wasted no time attacking the Cardinals. Within the first 12 minutes of the first quarter they put up nine consecutive goals — including two goals from first-year midfielder Jack Regnery and two goals from senior attacker Tommy Swank — and held the Cardinals to none.
After the Cardinals scored two of their own, the Jumbos entered the second quarter ahead 9–2. Despite this early advantage, the squad refused to take its foot off of the gas, dominating the second frame by a score of 10–3. This put the Jumbos up 19–5 at halftime, essentially burying any hope of victory the Cardinals had.
Coming off somewhat underwhelming performances by the Jumbos’ standards, surely this control right from the beginning of the game was related to an elevated level of hunger. First-year long-stick midfielder Ben Frisoli confirmed the team’s extra motivation for this game in particular.
“Absolutely Wesleyan is a very good team and we knew they can come out hot. We knew we had to come out firing right at the beginning or they could have gotten an early lead,” Frisoli wrote in a message to the Daily.
Whether due to familiarity with Wesleyan as a result of the early season scrimmage between the sides, the preparation and intense scouting of the Jumbos on Wesleyan, the mere grit and hunger of the squad to prove it deserved its top rank or some combination of the three, the Jumbos exhibited how strong of a team they can be on Saturday. Frisoli discussed what might have contributed to the squad’s utter command over Wesleyan.
“Our scout on them and watching film helped, but I think our effort and urgency in the first half was what did it. We were just relentless for that first 30 [minutes] of the game,” Frisoli wrote.
In the second half, after the game was already out of hand, perhaps the team’s relentlessness waned as Wesleyan fought to prevent the ugliest of score lines. The third quarter went back and forth as the Cardinals added 5 to the scoreline and the Jumbos added 4 to make it a 23–10 game heading into the fourth quarter. Finally, in the fourth quarter, the team put two goals away while Wesleyan scored six to end the game at 25–16.
This performance displayed the squad’s depth in magnificent fashion as 16 different players put their names on the score sheet. Swank recorded four goals, Regnery and senior midfielder Joe Murtha each recorded three goals and senior midfielder Jack Boyden and senior attacker Kurt Bruun each scored two goals.
A goal each was scored by Frisoli; senior midfielder Sam Sturim; junior attacker Kevin Christmas; sophomore midfielders Charlie Tagliaferri, Cam Delcristo, Sam Frisoli and Louis Timmins; sophomore attackers Max Ettinghausen, Joey Kraft and Callum Wood; and sophomore defender Joey Waldbaum. This tremendous depth is one aspect of the squad’s game that has allowed it to be so successful.
“Some of the best players in the country are guys on our bench. The competition in practice sometimes looks like two teams going at it,” Frisoli wrote. “We love pushing the pace which allows our defensive players to get in the transition game and score some goals as well.”
Having so many capable players not only benefits the squad by providing it with significant options on gameday but also by boosting competitiveness during practice so that every individual, and most importantly, the team as a whole can get better every single day. This daily improvement is a major tenet of the program as any player or coach constantly refuses to look past the next game approaching and instead finds ways to best prepare and get even better.
“We’re not looking into the postseason just yet. We have a full week to get our minds set on Hamilton,” Frisoli wrote. “We have a lot of time to focus on what we can improve on and learn how we can get better before that game.”
Although seeing blowout performances by the Jumbos makes you wonder just how far in the postseason this squad can go, they will refuse to look at anything except the present. It is a ‘one game at a time’ mentality, and that game, for now, is against Hamilton at 1 p.m. on Saturday for Senior Day — a game where the team will continue its fight to stay at the top.