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Monday, May 24, 2010


Tufts celebrates its NCAA semi-final win at Cortland State University on Sunday (Photo courtesy of Bob McDevitt)

MEDFORD -- This coming Sunday (May 30) in Baltimore, the 2010 Tufts University men's lacrosse team will do something that no men's team in the long history of Jumbo sports has ever accomplished. Coach Mike Daly's squad will play in an NCAA Championship Game, facing Salisbury University at M & T Bank Stadium - Home of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens - beginning at noon.

The Jumbos punched their ticket to Baltimore with a come-from-behind 10-9 victory at Cortland State University on Sunday afternoon in the NCAA semi-finals. Tufts was considered an underdog by most in the game, and they had their backs against the wall down 7-3 early in the third quarter. Like they have done on numerous occasions this spring, the team responded with a six-goal run that propelled them to a 9-7 lead five minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Red Dragons scored the next two goals to tie the game at 9-9, but Tufts sophomore Kevin McCormick (Laytonsville, MD) scored the game-winning goal with three minutes remaining. With the clock ticking down under 10 seconds, Jumbo sophomore goalie Steven Foglietta (Oceanside, NY) stuffed Cortland senior Brandon Misiszek's last-second shot and Tufts had defeated the defending national champion Red Dragons. Cortland, which has played in the last four NCAA Division III Championship Games, had their 16-game winning streak come to a close.

"We've been coming from behind all season," sophomore attackman Sean Kirwan (Boonton Township, NJ) said to Inside Lacrosse after the game. "This is nothing new to us. We knew coming into halftime that we were in the perfect spot. (Cortland) is not used to a team storming back like that, and we are used coming back from huge deficits. We've come back from four, six - tremendous deficits at any point of the game."

Foglietta stopped 16 shots for Tufts in the semi-final, including eight in the first period. Kirwan and McCormick both scored three goals, while junior D.J. Hessler (Monkton, MD) finished with a goal and two assists. Junior midfielder Matt Witko (Chappaqua, NY) added two goals. Senior tri-captain and defenseman Eytan Saperstein (Hewlett, NY) led the defense with five ground balls, while junior long-stick midfielder Alec Bialosky (Moreland Hills, OH) recorded four ground balls to go with a goal and an assist. Sophomore Nick Rhoads (McLean, VA) won 13 of 23 face-offs and collected a game-high 12 ground balls. The Jumbos won the overall ground ball battle 46-30.

Tufts celebrates its first-ever NESCAC Championship at Bello Field on May 9 (Photo by Robert Augart/Massachusetts Event Photography)

"Our defense is all about just staying composed, staying calm," Foglietta said to Inside Lacrosse. "No matter how many goals they score, we keep playing our game. We don't change up anything. On the fly, we stick to our guns. And we just keep pushing forward."

Tufts (19-1), ranked sixth in the final United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll of the year, defeated New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rival Middlebury 11-9 in the NCAA Quarterfinals on May 19. The Jumbos outscored the Panthers 7-2 overall during the final 34:16 of play, including a 4-0 run early in the fourth quarter, to overtake their visitors at home on Bello Field. During the decisive stretch, Hessler scored two goals with an assist for Tufts, while junior Ryan Molloy (Setauket, NY) added a goal and two assists. That helped the Jumbos come back from a 7-4 advantage that the Panthers held with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter. The quarterfinal contest was the fourth NCAA men's lacrosse game played at Bello.

The Jumbos received a first-round bye in the 2010 NCAA Championship and hosted Endicott in a second-round game on May 15 at Bello. Kirwan scored seven goals, one shy of the NCAA Championship record for a game, leading Tufts to the rout.

This is the second straight NCAA berth and the third overall for Tufts. The Jumbos have a 4-2 record in the NCAA Championship. In their first NCAA game on May 9, 2007, Tufts built an 8-1 lead and then narrowly survived an Endicott comeback to move on in the NCAA Tournament with a 9-8 victory at Bello Field. Current senior Jamie Atkins (Concord, MA) scored a goal as a freshman in that game. The Jumbos lost 12-7 at Gettysburg in the 2007 second round. Last season in the second round, spurred by a 4-0 third period, Western New England College defeated Tufts 12-9. Hessler added three assists to the Tufts attack. Saperstein and Evan Crosby (Yarmouthport, MA) played well with six ground balls apiece. Rhoads won nine of 17 face-offs.

The Jumbos, who hadn't been as far as the NCAA Quarterfinals prior to this season, will be the new kid on the block Sunday against eight-time NCAA champion Salisbury University. The Sea Gulls defeated the Stevenson Mustangs 14-13 in overtime on Sunday to advance to the NCAA Championship Game. The Mustangs won the face-off in the overtime period and quickly made their way down the field. However, excellent defense by Salisbury long-stick midfielder Connor Burgasser led to a turnover and subsequent ground ball pick-up. Burgasser dished the ball to senior defender Will Poletis, who sprinted down the field. Salisbury called a time-out and set up the game-winning play. The ball went to sophomore midfielder Sam Bradman, who waited for senior attackman Mike Winter to position himself in front of the Mustang net before executing a perfect pass that led to the game-winning goal. The Sea Gulls have made 32 NCAA Tournament appearances.

The Jumbos get it together in a pre-game huddle prior to the first NESCAC home game against Williams (Photo by SportsPix)

The long road to the NCAA Championship Game for Tufts began with an 18-8 win at Amherst on March 13. They finished March at 6-0, with a pair of one-goal NESCAC wins over Colby and Williams sandwiched around a 15-10 comeback win against Skidmore in a game played at Hofstra University. The Jumbos ran their record to 10-0, both the best start and the longest winning streak in the program's 80-year history. That ended at Connecticut College on April 17, an 8-6 defeat that remains the only loss of the season for the Jumbos. They finished the regular season with three straight wins, including 14-13 in overtime at home against Bowdoin in the regular-season finale when McCormick scored the winner 33 seconds into the extra session.

Tufts placed second in NESCAC for the regular-season with an 8-1 mark. They set a new program record for overall victories with 14 with a 13-9 victory against Williams in the first round of the NESCAC Championship. When top seed Connecticut College lost in the first round of NESCAC's, Tufts hosted the semi-finals and championship game at Bello Field. Kirwan scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 1:24 of the fourth quarter as Tufts advanced to the NESCAC Championship final with an exciting 11-10 win over Wesleyan in the semis. The Jumbos scored six unanswered goals, including two each by Hessler and Witko, to battle back from a four-goal deficit and defeat Middlebury College 13-12 in the conference championship game at Bello Field on May 9.

The NESCAC honored Tufts Jumbos three times during the season with Player of the Week honors. Hessler was selected on March 22, Foglietta received a share of the award on April 12, and Saperstein was named on May 10 after the Jumbos won the league title. Hessler was named New England Player of the Year, while Witko and Saperstein joined him on the All-New England First Team when the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) announced its post-season honors.  Tufts finished the year as the #1 ranked team in the NEILA poll. Hessler was also chosen as NESCAC Player of the Year, with Witko, Saperstein, and Bialosky also making the First Team. The four First Team selections for Tufts were twice as many as any other NESCAC team.

Nine seniors on the Tufts team, who missed their graduation on Sunday to compete in the NCAA semi-final game at Cortland State, participated in an early Commencement ceremony with Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow on Friday morning. The 2010 graduates were Atkins, Darius Bittle-Dockery (New Haven, CT), Crosby, Patrick Devine (Braintree, MA), tri-captain Doug DiSesa (Wynnewood, PA), tri-captain Mike Droesch (Setauket, NY), Zach Groen (New Haven, CT), Matthew Hacker (Cambridge, MA) and Saperstein.

Hessler's 14 points on six goals and eight assists, and Kirwan's 12 goals are the most in the 2010 NCAA Tournament so far, while Molloy's nine assists are second-most. Foglietta has an excellent .606 save percentage in the '10 NCAA's. The historic 2010 Tufts season comes to a dramatic conclusion one way or the other in Baltimore next Sunday.

"This is a real tribute to all of the assistant coaches in and out of the years and a tribute to all of the players before these guys who set such an unbelievable standard, an unbelievable foundation for us," said Daly, in his 12th year steering the program. "These guys have really taken advantage of it, and that's the best you can do with any opportunity you've got."

The Official Website of the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships

2010 NCAA Div. III Men's Lacrosse Championship bracket