No Repeat for the Jumbos
The Tufts men’s lacrosse team hoped to win back-to-back NCAA championship titles, but fell short in the final against a strong Salisbury team, 19-7, on May 29 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
In a rematch of last year’s NCAA final, which Tufts won 9-6, this time it was Salisbury’s night. In addition to scoring the most goals against the Jumbos since March 2008, their 12-goal margin of victory is the largest in an NCAA Division III title game. It was Salisbury’s ninth national title.
“Salisbury kicked our tails today,” said Tufts coach Mike Daly. “Our hats are off to them. We weren’t taking the high road earlier in the week when we were talking about our respect for them. We have it. There’s not too much hindsight into how we prepared and how we played. We just got our butts kicked today and we’ll be back tomorrow.”
Salisbury junior Sam Bradman dominated the game with seven goals, setting a record for the most ever in the Division III final and earning the Most Outstanding Player of the game award. He added an assist to finish the game with eight points, while the Sea Gulls also received four goals and an assist from Tony Mendes.
For Tufts, D.J. Hessler, E11, finished with two goals and three assists for five points, breaking his own school record for points in a season. He finished with 95 points on 38 goals and 57 assists. Ryan Molloy, A11, tallied twice for the Jumbos, while Matt Witko, A11, scooped up a team-high four ground balls. Goalies Patton Watkins, A14, and Steven Foglietta, E12, combined for seven saves in the Tufts’ cage.
In an exact opposite of last year, when the Jumbos led Salisbury 6-1 at the end of one period, it was Salisbury who led by a 6-1 margin after 15 minutes of play on Sunday. They came out flying, taking a 3-0 lead just 4:15 into the game. Salisbury had advantages of 16-4 in shots and 13-5 in ground balls for the period.
Geordie Schafer, A12, broke the run, pulling Tufts within 3-1 at 9:50 of the first quarter off a Hessler assist. But the Sea Gulls finished the period with three goals to lead 6-1.
The most momentum that the Jumbos had in the game came early in the second, when Hessler and Kevin McCormick, E11, scored 43 seconds apart to make the score 6-3. However, the Sea Gulls answered by scoring the next three goals to lead 9-3 at halftime.
“Every time we got to those points where we could make it a two-goal game, they made the plays, they scored,” Daly said. “You can’t really break it down more than that.”
After Clarke put Salisbury up 10-3 early in the third, back-to-back goals by Hessler and Molloy kept Tufts in the game at 10-5 with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Sea Gulls again had a response, scoring the next five, including three in a row by Bradman, to lead 15-5 at 11:24 of the fourth.
Sean Kirwan, A12, scored his 66th goal of the season at 11:20 of the fourth. Four more Salisbury goals and a final goal by Molloy led to the 19-7 result.
“We had three basic things that helped us to success tonight, and the first was transition defense,” said Salisbury coach Jim Berkman, who has directed the Sea Gulls to all nine of their national titles. “We knew Tufts could score in transition, and we really limited that today. Secondly was covering the crease and not allowing the crease goals. We gave up a few today, but they didn’t get the number they usually do. And third was dodging and feeding, and I think our guys really executed those things today.”
Salisbury finished its season with a 21-1 record, while Tufts ended at 18-3.
Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.