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Tuesday, May 1, 2007


MEDFORD -- With its first victory over Middlebury College in 40 years on Saturday, the Tufts University men�s lacrosse team clinched its first-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular-season title.
The Jumbos celebrate their first-ever NESCAC regular-season title following Saturday's 7-6 overtime victory against Middlebury, the program's first win against the Panthers in 40 years

The Jumbos will host the semi-final and championship games of the 2007 conference tournament this weekend at Bello Field in Medford. Tufts gets Middlebury again in the first semi-final on Saturday (May 5) at noon. Wesleyan University and Williams College will play in the other semi at 3:00. Saturday�s winners will meet in the championship game on Sunday (May 6) at noon.

Head coach Mike Daly�s Jumbos finished the NESCAC season with an 8-1 record and are currently 12-2 overall with a #7 ranking in the United State Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. Wesleyan also finished 8-1 in NESCAC, but Tufts defeated the Cardinals 9-6 back on March 24 in their first conference game of the season.

In their last conference game on Saturday, Tufts got the monkey off its back against Middlebury. The Panthers had won 29 straight games against the Jumbos dating back to 1969. The last Tufts victory was by an 8-5 score during the 1967 season. Among the setbacks dealt to Tufts by Middlebury include a 12-11, triple-overtime game in last year�s NESCAC tournament semi-finals and a 15-10 final in the 2004 NESCAC Championship game.

When Middlebury�s Mike Stone scored while lying on the turf to tie Saturday�s game at 6-6 with 47 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, it seemed as if their nemesis would get the better of them again this year. However, after Tufts was awarded the overtime face-off on a Middlebury infraction, Jumbo junior Chase Bibby (Marblehead, MA/St. John�s Prep) fired home a shot 1:45 into the first overtime period for the victory, one of the biggest in Tufts lacrosse history.

Tightly-contested wins were the norm for the Jumbos this year. The team started the year without much fanfare, but caught the attention of the lacrosse world one week in late March. They traveled to Roanoke for a March 20 game and beat the Maroons, 13-12, on a man-up goal by senior Chris Connelly (Wilton, CT/Wilton) with 1:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. Four days later, their win at Wesleyan would eventually make the difference in winning the NESCAC regular-season title. As the season moved into April, the Jumbos made a habit out of winning close games during the competitive conference schedule.

"This team does not have many stars," head coach Mike Daly said. "We do have a great group of guys who work hard and love lacrosse. So many guys have stepped up for us this year and at different times.

"They have been a joy to be around. Going all the way back to the fall when our seniors run and organize everything, it became clear that this group was special," Daly continued. "The seniors are proactive with everything, they are great communicators, and they have just been great mentors to the entire team. That leadership and closeness has allowed us to deal with injuries, conflict, and adversity in such a positive way."

The Jumbos are currently fifth in NESCAC with 9.43 goals a game, while defensively they are fourth with 7.86 goals allowed per game. They feature NESCAC�s leading goal-scorer in sophomore Clem McNally (Farhills, NJ) with 34. Senior tri-captain Mark Warner (Wading River, NY/Shoreham Wading River) is one of the league�s best all-around on attack, and is currently tied for third in the NESCAC scoring race with 44 points. Connelly has 30 points, including 19 goals.

Two-time NESCAC Player of the Week Matt Harrigan (Darnestown, MD/Landon) is the backbone on defense in goal. He is second in NESCAC with 12.57 saves per game, and is also in the top five for the league with a 7.86 goals against average and .613 save percentage. He has a veteran group of defenders in front of him led by starters Wiley Dornseif (Littleton, CO/Phillips Exter), Alex Bezdek (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) and Tucker Merrigan (Greenfield, MA/Loomis-Chaffee). The rest of the team, numbering 44 in all, has come together as a whole during this special season.

The NESCAC champion will gain an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championship. The other three teams this weekend will be aiming for Pool C berths into the tournament. Tufts is attempting to qualify for its first NCAA Tournament.

NESCAC's Tournament Preview