Déjà Vu All Over Again

Men’s lacrosse advances to NCAA championship with another win in semifinals at RIT

Tufts men's lacrosse team celebrates goal

For the second straight year and for the fourth time in program history, the Tufts men’s lacrosse team will play in the NCAA championship game after beating a previously undefeated RIT. The Jumbos prevailed over the RIT Tigers 19-12 in the semifinals on May 17.

Tufts (20-2) will face Lynchburg (21-2) in the NCAA final next Sunday, May 24, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The opening faceoff is at 4 p.m. Head coach Mike Daly’s Jumbos are the defending national champions. They won the NCAA title in 2010 and returned to the final in 2011.

Down 3-0 early and 5-2 at the end of one quarter, Tufts outscored RIT 17-7 the rest of the way, including 5-2 in the second quarter, 7-3 in the third quarter and 5-2 in the fourth quarter. With the game tied 7-7 at halftime, Tufts had a 12-5 advantage in the second half.

This marks the third time that Tufts has defeated the RIT Tigers on their own turf in the NCAA semifinals. The Jumbos did it last year, 21-11, and in 2011 by a 16-12 score. Tufts is now 4-1 overall against RIT in the NCAAs.

This is also the second straight season that the Tigers entered the NCAA semifinal against Tufts with a 20-0 record. The Jumbos again gave RIT its only loss of the season and are the lone team to win at RIT in 36 games during the past three seasons.

The Jumbos received 17 goals from three players, as junior Kyle Howard-Johnson netted six, junior John Uppgren had five and sophomore Zach Richman also added five. Tufts won 20 of 33 faceoffs, including 16 by junior Conor Helfrich. The Jumbos won eight out of 10 draws in the third when they opened up a four-goal lead. Junior goalie Alex Salazar made 18 saves in the Tufts net.

Hard-Fought Game

Kyle Aquin scored just 31 seconds into the game for RIT and also had an assist as the Tigers ran out to a 3-0 lead with 6:11 remaining in the first. Howard-Johnson and Uppgren got Tufts started with goals, but two more by RIT, including Allister Warren’s with seven seconds on the clock, put the hosts ahead 5-2 after one.

The most important stretch of the game for the Jumbos came in the middle of the second quarter, when they scored five unanswered goals in less than four minutes to take a 7-5 lead. Uppgren had two of the goals, while senior co-captain Cole Bailey had a goal with two assists. Helfrich had three faceoff wins during the run, including two that led to quick Tufts goals. Tufts outshot RIT 21-12 in the second stanza.

The Tigers, however, had an answer as Aquin scored at 2:07 and then Matt Hossack won a face-off and scored seven seconds later, tying the score 7-7 at halftime.

Richman gave Tufts the lead with the first goal of the second half, but Warren and Steven Ricci scored for a 9-8 Tigers lead as the game took on an epic back-and-forth pace. However, the Jumbos were able to gain an edge, and take a lead they would not relinquish during the final eight minutes of the third.

Uppgren, Richman and Howard-Johnson strung together a trio of scores for an 11-9 advantage. After Hossack interrupted the run to make it 11-10, Tufts senior Peter Gill’s tally and a pair by Howard-Johnson—both in the final minute and the second with three ticks left on the clock—put Tufts ahead by four, 14-10, heading into the fourth.

Uppgren’s fifth of the game was the only goal of the first six minutes in the fourth quarter, giving Tufts a 15-10 margin. RIT would net two of the next three, including Cory Ashmore’s at 5:28 that had the Tigers alive, down 16-12. However, the Jumbos wrapped it up with goals by Howard-Johnson, Richman and Clarke for the 19-12 final.

Tufts defenseman Blake Wood caused two turnovers, and RIT finished with 15 overall. Sophomore defenseman Tyler Olney continued to emerge with five groundballs. Junior midfielder Jake Gillespie picked up six along with an assist. Tufts won the groundball battle 47-40, though RIT finished with a slim 53-51 total in shots.

Lynchburg will be playing in its first NCAA championship game after a miracle comeback win in the semifinals. The Hornets trailed Gettysburg 9-2 midway through the third quarter before finishing with nine straight goals to win 11-9.

In the last U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association national poll (May 4), Lynchburg was ranked number four and Tufts was number five in Division III.

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

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