Men’s Lacrosse Falls Short in NCAA Final
In a game featuring tremendous runs by both teams and a dramatic finish, the Tufts men’s lacrosse team fell short of winning its third straight national championship with a 14-13 loss to Salisbury University in the NCAA Division III final May 29 at Lincoln Financial Field.
After Tufts took an early 3-1 lead, Salisbury went on an 11-1 run that gave them a 12-4 advantage early in the third quarter. But Tufts responded, scoring seven straight goals to pull within 12-11 early in the fourth.
The Jumbos were not able to score the equalizer. Sea Gulls junior goalie Colin Reymann, named the game’s Most Outstanding Player, saved a shot by Tufts senior John Uppgren as time expired in the fourth quarter to give Salisbury the one-goal victory.
“It was a pretty good heavyweight fight, and they had one more punch than we had,” said Tufts head coach Mike Daly.
Tufts (20-3) played in its fifth NCAA final since 2010. The Jumbos were led by Uppgren’s four goals and one assist. Jake Gillespie added two scores with an assist, while Zach Richman and Austin Carbone both scored twice.
This was the fourth meeting between the teams in the NCAA final. On Sunday, Salisbury evened the record at 2-2, including a 19-7 win in 2011. The Jumbos defeated the Sea Gulls for national titles in 2010 (9-6) and 2014 (12-9).
The Jumbos got started on the right foot. Senior Chris Sawyer scored his first goal of the season. Then Uppgren scored and assisted a goal, and Tufts led 3-1 with 5:53 on the first-quarter clock.
Salisbury (23-1) would twice score goals in the final second of a quarter during its 11-1 run. The stretch began with a goal by Garrett Reynolds at 2:17 of the first. Thomas Cirillo scored with one second remaining in the opening period to give the Sea Gulls a 4-3 advantage.
Salisbury out-scored the Jumbos 5-1 in the second period to lead 9-4 at halftime after Nathan Blondino scored with one second remaining until the break.
Tufts’ Austin Carbone tallied the first goal of the second quarter, tying the game 4-4 at 12:27. It was Tufts’ 90th goal of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, breaking their own record of 89 for most goals by a team in one tournament set last season.
However, Salisbury ran off eight in a row from there to lead 12-4 with 9:12 remaining in the third. The Jumbos endured a scoreless stretch of more than 20 minutes until Gillespie ended it at 7:11 of the third. Tufts would total seven consecutive goals in the next nine minutes of action. The run featured two goals by Uppgren and the first career goal by long-stick Tucker Mathers. Uppgren’s second goal made it a 12-11 game at 13:09 of the fourth.
“Just get the next one,” Uppgren said when asked what the team was thinking when they were down 12-4. “Win the next face-off, get the next ground ball, score the next goal. There are no 12-point goals. We just needed one. And that was our mentality the whole second half. We just needed to get the next one. And giving Salisbury credit, they had one more than us at the end. So that’s all that matters.”
The teams traded goals during an exciting final 12 minutes. The Jumbos twice got within a goal again, as Uppgren scored with 10:25 on the clock, making it 13-12, and Zach Richman had the game’s last goal at 3:04. Cirillo scored the game’s lone man-up tally at 11:38 of the fourth.
Jumbo senior Conor Helfrich, 20 for 27 on face-offs in the game, including 15 of 16 in the second half, won the draw with three minutes left in regulation. However, the Jumbos turned the ball over twice in the next 30 seconds, and Salisbury cleared.
The Sea Gulls went into a stall and the shot clock was started with 1:18 left in regulation. They called time-out and then intentionally turned the ball over by launching it high into the air deep into Tufts territory. The Jumbos took possession and called time-out with 34 seconds remaining, but were thwarted by Reymann’s last-second save.
“This team has as much heart, as much guts as any team we’ve ever had,” Daly said at the post-game press conference. “That’s why it hurts so bad, sending those seniors out this way. They don’t deserve that. And we as coaches have to eat that loss, and the players did everything we asked of them. Wish we could have given them a better send-off.”
Richman’s eight groundballs led Tufts, while Uppgren had six and Gillespie four. Alex Salazar stopped eight shots in goal.
Tufts finished with a 50-31 advantage in shots and a 48-35 count in groundballs. The Jumbos turned the ball over 16 times, while Salisbury had 14.
Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.