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

No. 5 Tufts slips to Middlebury 16–9 away over the weekend

The women's lacrosse team is pictured on March 22.

In a tough battle on Saturday, Tufts women’s lacrosse fell 16–9 to No. 1 Middlebury. While both teams fought hard through each period, the Panthers ran the score up early and continued to lead for the rest of the game. Attacker Jane Earley threw three goals back for Middlebury in the first period alone, leaving the score at 6–2 at the end of the quarter, even with back-to-back responses by junior midfielders Madeline Delaney and Emma Joyce.

Both defenses combated this surge of attack and left only three goals scored in the second period: two from the Panthers and a second Jumbo score from Joyce.

Again Tufts nailed back-to-back goals in the third quarter, this time from sophomore midfielders Ella Lesperance and Caroline Conaghan. However, following this the Panthers locked the field down and ran the score up to 12–5 as the teams rolled into the final period.

“We knew this was a big game. Middlebury has always been one of our biggest competitions [and] we had been prepping for weeks,” Conaghan said.

While the Jumbos hit back early on to slash the Panthers’ advantage to just five, and scored four goals of their own, unfortunately they could not come any closer to a lead.

Although Tufts did not emerge with the win, senior goalie Courtney Kaufman secured 13 saves in the game. This made Kaufman the defensive leader, as Middlebury goalie Annie Enrietto only marked five saves for the game.

Conaghan, who picked up two goals in the Middlebury game, shared how the team felt walking into this game.

“I think we felt pretty pumped up. … We were honestly really excited for the game,” Conaghan said.

She also spoke about how the team’s energy morphed once they hit the field.

“The general vibe of the game was pretty chaotic. We didn’t start as fast as we wanted to and weren’t capitalizing on offensive plays, which then led Middlebury to run up the score in the first period and they never really let off after,” Conaghan said.

She continued to explain how Tufts’ strategies evolved as the game continued and tensions died down.

“I think we tried to calm down the offense a little bit … initially to let their defense and their zone dictate our offense,” Conaghan said. “After a couple of timeouts and the first period, we got a little bit more comfortable with the ball [and] started running through our plays a bit more.”

Conaghan said while the Jumbos tightened up to play it a little safer defensively, she felt that more risks could have been taken to run up the score.

“A big way our offense capitalized … was through 8-meters and I had, I think four or five 8-meters and I capitalized on two of them,” Conaghan said. “I think I definitely could have improved on my shooting percentage on those 8-meters. On offense in general, [we] did have a lot of turnovers that led to goals against, so I think calming down the offense was something [we] can work on.”

On a similar note, Conaghan also pointed out some key lessons learned from Middlebury that Tufts can carry with them as they move into the next leg of the season.

“Our biggest lesson in this game would be valuing possession,” Conaghan said. “Focusing on the fundamentals, passing and catching and finishing on our shots [and] as long as we lock those down, our offense will then become less chaotic and that will help us to succeed in the rest of the season.”

As the team wraps nonconference play before diving into the NESCAC season, Conaghan hopes to return to the Tufts lacrosse she knows and loves.

“I’m looking forward to our attack starting to click more and capitalizing on everything we’ve been working on and kind of having our team play a full game of Tufts lacrosse that we know we can play but [we] haven’t reached that yet,” Conaghan said.

After the Middlebury matchup, the team stood 6–2 overall and 3–1 in conference play. They improved to 7–2 overall on Wednesday with a 17–11 win against Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Next, Tufts takes on Connecticut College at home on Saturday at 12 p.m. as they prepare for the final weeks of the season.