Softball, men’s lacrosse and women’s tennis earn NCAA bids
With the NESCAC playoffs complete, on Sunday and Monday the NCAA tournament fields for Div. III were announced. Three teams will represent Tufts and compete for national titles: Men’s lacrosse and softball earned automatic bids by winning their respective conference championships on Sunday, while women’s tennis was handed an at-large bid.
Here, the Daily breaks down the potential road to national glory for each of the three teams:
Softball gets tossed a screwball
After sealing up a NESCAC title Sunday on the back of yet another dominant performance from freshman Allyson Fournier, it appeared as though No. 9 Tufts (36-5) had earned a fairly easy path through their eight-team regional. And with two regionals being contested in the northeast – one in Amherst, Mass., the other in Willimantic, Conn. – and just one other team in New England ranked in the top 10 nationally, it seemed quite a realistic prospect as well.
But things did not break the Jumbos’ way when the brackets were announced earlier today, and now Tufts will have to travel to Connecticut as the No. 2 seed in a Regional that also includes Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), the nation’s second ranked team at 40-1. Meanwhile, the Amherst regional will include just two ranked teams, No. 11 SUNY Cortland and No. 25 Amherst, and the Lord Jeffs will get to stay at home and play in a much easier region as the No. 3 seed, despite not even making it to the NESCAC title game and losing the only game they played against the Jumbos this season. Though Amherst’s seed is lower, Tufts would likely be more than happy to trade places.
But such speculation is useless at best, so we will focus on the Willimantic Regional, where, assuming both ECSU and Tufts take care of business in their Thursday and Friday games, the winner’s bracket championship game on Saturday at 2 p.m. will likely decide the regional. The loser of that game will need to win another game on Sunday just to make the finals, at which point they would need to take two in a row from the other. ECSU and Tufts split their season series, with the Jumbos winning 4-2 on March 19 and ECSU evening up the series with a 4-0 win on April 15, during which senior Molly Rathbun tossed a perfect game. The Jumbos open up their NCAA quest Thursday against Salem State (33-12), the No. 7 seed.
Men’s lacrosse earns first-round bye
No. 4 Tufts earned one of just four first-round byes as the No. 2 seed on the north side of the bracket in this year’s NCAA tournament, and will begin play Saturday in the Round of 16. The Jumbos (16-2) all but sealed up the spot by winning the NESCAC title yesterday afternoon in double OT over the Bowdoin Polar Bears (13-5). They will be expected to advance to the National Semifinal against No. 2 SUNY Cortland (18-0), but will face no shortage of adversity along the way. They will host their first game against either ECSU (12-5) or No. 17 Trinity (10-6), one of three NESCAC squads to earn an at-large bid. The Bantams have dropped three of their last five, but handed the Jumbos one of just two losses this season with a 9-8 overtime victory on March 31.
If the Jumbos do manage to get past that game, they will be expected to see No. 7 RIT (14-2), a team which proved itself early this season with a one-goal loss to Cortland before running away with the Liberty Conference title rather easily.
On the far side of the bracket, Salisbury (19-0), which has matched up with Tufts in each of the past two National Championship games, is the No. 1 seed, while No. 5 Stevenson (15-4), a team that has already beaten Tufts this season, is the No. 3 seed.
The Jumbos play Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on Bello Field.
Women’s tennis proves winning isn’t everything
What happens when you finish your season with more losses than wins but don’t lose a single game to a team outside of the top 10? The No. 15 Jumbos (8-10) found out the answer to that today, as they were awarded not only an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but also a first-round bye. The Jumbos will travel to Williams over the weekend and take on the winner of Salem State (12-2) and Gwynedd-Mercy (15-2) on Saturday in the Round of 32. A victory there will likely lead to a Sunday matchup with No. 1 Williams (19-2), which was upset by No. 3 Amherst (15-3) in the NESCAC title match this weekend. The Jumbos have faced the Ephs twice this season, falling to them 8-1 both times. Lindsay Katz and Shelci Bowman won the team’s only match at No. 1 doubles on Sept. 17, while Bowman earned the only win on April 21 at No. 3 singles.
–by Ethan Sturm