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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

No. 2 men’s lacrosse continues hot start to season, defeats Middlebury 19–15

Senior attacker Kurt Bruun is pictured in the Tufts game against Middlebury on April 1.

No. 2 Tufts men’s lacrosse took down yet another ranked opponent in No. 7 Middlebury on Saturday. With both teams coming into this highly anticipated matchup with perfect records, it was the Jumbos who continued their perfect start to the season, improving to 9–0 with a 19–15 win over the visiting Panthers.

For most of the game, Tufts controlled nearly everything. The Jumbos scored the first six goals of the game and, while the Panthers were able to score a pair of goals, it did nothing to stop Tufts’ momentum. Goals from senior attacker Tommy Swank, senior attacker Kurt Bruun and senior midfielder Jack Boyden gave the Jumbos an 11–4 lead at halftime.

Building early momentum is important for any game. Against a team like Middlebury, taking the Panthers out of their comfort zone is key.

“Middlebury likes to play zone defense so whenever you can get a team out of their comfort zone and make them play us man to man, it’s always gonna help us a lot,” sophomore midfielder Charlie Tagliaferri said.

Middlebury attempted to mount a comeback in the second half, coming out of the locker room ultra aggressive, but Tufts held strong led by three huge saves from junior goalie Conner Garzone. Four of the next five goals were scored by Middlebury, including two man-up goals to cut Tufts’ lead to six goals with under four minutes to play. A faceoff win and goal from senior faceoff specialist Mason Kohn gave Tufts a 19–12 lead. Three late goals from Middlebury were not enough as Tufts held on to get the win.

Despite the late push from Middlebury, Tufts stuck together and trusted each other to grind out the win.

“We brought it together and said, ‘You know what, let’s lock it in, focus on what we’re doing, don't focus on what they’re doing,’” Tagliaferri said. “Trust one another, trust our sticks.”

The Jumbos were led by another dominant performance from Boyden, who logged 11 points on four goals and seven assists, including his 100th career assist. Garzone had another huge game in goal, logging 19 saves in the win.

Despite turning the ball over one more time than Middlebury, Tufts picked up more ground balls and won more faceoffs, continuing to dominate the little things in each game that are crucial to winning.

For a team that likes to play at a fast tempo, having fresh legs and depth is always important for a long season. Tufts’ rosters have always included players from first-years to seniors who are trusted to go onto the field and contribute right away. For Tagliaferri, a sophomore who has been a trusted player since his freshman year, the coaching staff has played a huge role in getting guys up to speed, enabling any player on the team to contribute at any given moment.

“I gotta give credit to [the coaching staff] being able to trust the younger guys who are coming in, coaching them up and getting them to learn offense, defense, everything,” Tagliaferri said.

While many of the younger players are already meaningful contributors to the team on the field, senior leadership is still key. Learning from upperclassmen is one of the most important things underclassmen can do in their early years. On the field, underclassmen know the attention the seniors draw opens up opportunities for them.

“Anything I can learn from those guys, I’m gonna try and learn it,” Tagliaferri said. “We know we always have those guys to carry the ball, hold the ball, and they’re the ones getting all the attention so it’s gonna be a little easier for us at times.”

With the remainder of the Jumbos’ schedule consisting of NESCAC games, a tough early schedule consisting of six ranked opponents only benefits Tufts as they enter a critical part of their season. Tough opponents early on allow a team to find its identity and make changes to ensure success in the latter stages of the season.

“You’re able to learn a little more about yourselves, of what you need to work on, what you’re doing well and what you can continue to improve,” Tagliaferri said. 

Tufts begins its stretch of NESCAC games on Wednesday. Tufts will host Williams for a 7 p.m. start on Bello Field.