Wild Ride

Jumbos win second straight NESCAC men’s lacrosse title in overtime and head to NCAAs

Tufts men's lacrosse

In a heart-stopping finish, the Tufts University men’s lacrosse team won its second straight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title with a 13–12 overtime victory against Middlebury at Bello Field on May 8. Just the day before, in the semifinal, the Jumbos scored the winning goal in dramatic fashion with just 0.4 seconds left in regulation play against Bowdoin.

In the NESCAC championship game, with Tufts trailing 12–11 in the final moments of regulation play, senior co-captain Matt Witko scored with nine seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. Both teams had possessions in the overtime period before Jumbo senior co-captain Alec Bialosky fought for a ground ball and put Tufts on offense.

Ryan Molloy, A11, made a quick pass to attacker Sean Kirwan, A12, in front of the cage, and Kirwan scored with 1:55 remaining in overtime, giving the Jumbos the win over Middlebury College—and the title.

Middlebury had trailed 10–6 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied to take leads of 11–10 and 12–11. The teams traded the lead for the entire first half. Tufts got out 2–0, with Molloy scoring and assisting. Middlebury netted the next two, and the next six goals signaled lead changes.

Kirwan netted four goals, giving him 57 on the season to break the Tufts record of 53 held by current assistant coach Clem McNally from 2009. Freshman goalie Patton Watkins, A14, made 22 saves, giving him a NESCAC tournament record 54 saves overall.

Seventh-ranked Tufts (15–2), seeded first in NESCAC, earns the league’s automatic NCAA berth and will begin defense of its 2010 national title next week. Middlebury (12–4) is expected to gain an at-large berth.

Watch the final minutes of regulation and overtime as Tufts beats Middlebury to win the NESCAC championship. Video: Arlin Ladue, E11

Dramatic Weekend

If the NESCAC championship game was tense, the semifinal the day before against Bowdoin, which had defeated Tufts a little more than a week earlier, was a true nail-biter.

With 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and Bowdoin with possession of the ball in a 10–10 game, Polar Bear goalie Jake McCampbell launched a pass toward the Tufts goal. Watkins intercepted it and flung the ball back toward the Bowdoin end. Attacker D.J. Hessler, E11, caught it and passed to Molloy, who faked quickly and plugged it in the goal—with less than half a second on the clock—sending the Jumbos to the NESCAC final.

Bowdoin had rallied from a 10–5 deficit early in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 10–10. In the first half, the visitors out-shot Tufts 25–17 and won all six face-offs, but Watkins made 12 saves and the Jumbos led 3–1. After combining for four goals in the first 30 minutes, the teams would score a total of 17 goals in the second half. The Jumbos were ahead 7–2 at 5:59 of the third quarter after Hessler scored back-to-back goals early in the period.

Bowdoin then scored three straight goals in a little more than a minute-and-a-half to pull to a 7–5 lead at 4:10 of the third quarter. But the Jumbos got the next three to take the 10–5 advantage before the wild finish.

Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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