While the majority of the student body enjoys restful spring breaks in tropical locales, the No. 2 men’s lacrosse team is bunkered up in a hotel off Interstate 695 in Owings Mills, Maryland. Tonight at 7 p.m., the Jumbos will face off with No. 10 Stevenson University in the teams’ second annual spring break meeting.
Tufts goes into the contest, its second of three this break, on the heels of two dominating NESCAC victories and a 14-12 defeat of formerly No. 4 Stevens Institute on Saturday. In the process, sophomore Beau Wood has racked up 10 goals and five assists for a team-leading 15 points, and was named the conference’s Player of the Week.
Wood has stepped up his production to fill the shoes of senior attackman Sean Kirwan, who is out with a sprained ankle, and graduated attackmen D.J. Hessler and Ryan Molloy. The sophomore is currently tied for the lead in points with Amherst’s Evan Redwood, and he and teammate Kevin McCormick, a senior midfielder, also top the NESCAC in goals per game, averaging 3.33 a piece.
This season, head coach Mike Daly has started Wood on attack alongside junior Geoff Sheasby and freshman Cole Bailey, who have complimented his play from the crease and behind the cage. Bailey, meanwhile, has launched an impressive freshman campaign in which he has both anchored the Jumbos from behind and demonstrated his speed and dodging capabilities, becoming the conference’s leader in assists. In Saturday’s contest against Stevens, the rookie had five helpers as part of a six-point performance.
The Jumbos lead the NESCAC by a substantial margin with a sensational 15-goals per game average. To put things in perspective, Amherst, which leads the conference standings, follows a distant second with a 12.25 goal average. Tuft also has the highest assists per game average, and leads the team in groundballs with 35 a game.
In the Jumbos’ first three games, they have outscored opponents 45 to 29, and sophomore keeper Patton Watkins has stood tall between the pipes to make 40 saves, including 21 in last week’s contest with Conn. College alone.
Meanwhile, senior midfielder Nick Rhoads has been more than dominant at X, helping his team to a .585 face-off percentage and countless key possessions, an improvement even upon the .532 percentage he posted in his junior campaign.
On Saturday, Rhoads had another strong day at X, winning 17 of 29 face-offs as the Jumbos put together a convincing defeat of Stevens, despite winning by just two goals and trailing in several statistical categories. In the end, Tufts got better looks and the Jumbos patiently waited for the right shot, converting on nearly 40 percent of them.
The Jumbos were hurt by penalties and their otherwise solid defense did little to kill Stevens’ EMO opportunities, on which the Ducks converted a perfect five for five, but Tufts was able to make up for costly play on the other end with continued excellence from Bailey and Wood, who had six and five points, respectively.
The Jumbos led the Ducks by as much as four twice, and trailed once, but never lost the lead again after going up 6-5 partway through the second quarter, dominating play off the face-off and firing several top shelf snipes at Stevens goalkeeper Eric Yando, forcing the Ducks to pull him early in the final quarter in favor of Matthew Deiner.
Last season, the Tufts-Stevenson matchup pitted the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country against one another. This season, Stevenson has already faltered, proving weaker than it was a year ago, and the Jumbos will look to break open the chink in the Mustangs’ armor, but Tufts must keep in mind that Stevenson is still a top ten team and a force to be reckoned with, and head coach Paul Cantabene’s squad can never be taken lightly.
The 2011 contest, a riveting 14-13 Tufts victory amidst torrential downpours and ominous thunderstorms, was rated Lax.com’s game of the year; it will be interesting to see if this evening’s matchup can live up to the hype.
You can watch the game live at 7 p.m. here: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/stevenson.portal#