Thursday, May 1, 2003

MEN'S LACROSSE INTO NESCAC SEMI-FINALS AGAINST WESLEYAN

MEDFORD The 2003 Tufts University Men's Lacrosse season is quickly becoming one of many firsts for Head Coach Mike Daly's Jumbos. You could start back on April 2 at Bowdoin when Tufts won for the first time in Brunswick, Me., in a long time. So long ago that the team's record books are not accurate enough to verify the information. That kick started a month during which the team achieved more than it has in many years at Tufts.

The last week in particular has been filled with milestones. On Sunday (Apr. 27) the team played Bowdoin in the first home playoff game at Tufts since 1995. Their 14-13 win over the Polar Bears was their first in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) playoffs, and therefore sent the team to its first conference semi-final. On Tuesday (Apr. 29), the Jumbos appeared in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association national top 20, at #20, for the first time in a long while. Then April ended on Wednesday (Apr. 30) with a 16-6 victory over MIT that gave the team its 11th victory, setting a new school record.

This is a big change for a program that won three games total in 1997-98. The team has been rebuilding since then, with key moments along the way, but this spring has been the team's most rewarding. They finished their NESCAC schedule 6-3 and earned the second seed in the tournament, behind only three-time defending national champion Middlebury College.

The next "first" would be a berth into the NESCAC championship game, but a tough semi-final game against Wesleyan University on Saturday (May 3) at 3 pm stands in the way. Middlebury is hosting the conference final four and will play Amherst at noon in the other semi-final. The championship game is on Sunday (May 4) at noon.

The Tufts program knows very well that any NESCAC game is a difficult challenge. Their playoff quarterfinal against #7 seed Bowdoin was back-and-forth until Jumbo sophomore Bryan Griffin (West Islip, NY/West Islip) won it by scoring with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Jumbos beat Wesleyan, 11-7, on April 23 to secure home field advantage in the playoffs, but they know taking Saturday's rematch will be easier said than done.

Griffin has emerged as a strong candidate for conference Player of the Year. In a critical, hectic stretch of five games in nine days last week (Apr. 19-27), he scored 12 goals with nine assists for 21 points. Named NESCAC Player of the Week on Monday (Apr. 28), he leads the league with 3.93 points per game. Sophomore David Taylor (Burke, VA/Landon) scored 27 goals with 20 assists for 47 points and is an equal option for the Jumbos. Chris Kollar (Middle Island, NY/Longwood) has produced a strong senior season with 13 goals and 14 assists.

The Tufts midfield has flexed its depth. Senior tri-captain Alex Kerwin (Bethesda, MD/Walt Whitman) is a skilled veteran with 14 goals. Sophomore Devin Clarke (Ridgewood, NJ/Ridgewood) has emerged as a prime-time player this spring with 17 goals and 11 assists. Freshman Mike O'Brien (Concord, MA/Middlesex) seems to get better with every game and has scored 11 goals. Junior Matt Malatesta (Winchester, MA/Winchester) is also all-star potential as the team's face-off man and a 13-goal scorer. Junior Drew Innis (Weston, CT/Kent) has shown play-making skills, and Michael Hughes (Branford, CT/Branford) is another good-looking freshman.

The Jumbos also go deep on defense. Senior tri-captains Mike Morley (Endicott, NY/Union-Endicott) and Dave Richman-Raphael (Baltimore, MD/Friends of Baltimore), along with juniors Jesse Miller (Falmouth, MA/Falmouth) and Charles Savicki (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury), have all started games this season. Sophomore goalkeeper Luke Chicco (Merrick, NY/Calhoun) has been a pleasant surprise, coming out of a three-man competition to win the starting job and post all-league statistics. His 64.2 save percentage is second in NESCAC, while his 8.43 goals against average is fourth.

Senior Dan Kramer (Los Angeles, CA/Windward), freshman Rory Doucette (Calhoun, NY/Calhoun), senior Doug Gould (Great Neck, NY/Great Neck North), sophomore Jordan Guynn (Dresher, PA/Germantown Academy) and junior Tom Mulcahy (Ossining, NY/Ossining) have all been regulars at midfield. Casey D'Annolfo (West Hartford, CT/Phillips Exeter) and Billy Granger (East Setauket, NY/Ward Melville) are first-year attacks who have combined for 12 goals. On defense, junior Marco Cedrone (Falmouth, ME/Bridgton Academy), senior Josh Matthews (New York, NY/Horace Mann) and freshman David Harty (Sudbury, MA/Lincoln-Sudbury) are every-day backups.

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