Blink too fast or move a step too slow and the Tufts men’s lacrosse team probably has scored a goal on you. With an up-tempo offense predicated on speed and skill, the Jumbos have piled up goals at a historic pace this spring, setting the NCAA Division 3 record for a season with 456.
Top-ranked Tufts (22-0) hopes its powerful offense has one more masterful performance left as it prepares to play second-ranked Salisbury (Md.) in the Division 3 national title game Sunday at 4 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
“A large part of that is how fast we play,” said senior midfielder Joe Murtha. “Our transition game is different than how a lot of teams play and that’s why we score so many goals. When we get stops, we like to get the ball up and out and create uneven opportunities.”
The offense is paced by senior attack Jack Boyden, who leads all NCAA divisions with 154 points. He’s joined up front by Tommy Swank (72 goals) and Kurt Bruun (103 points).
But the Jumbos believe they are far from a one-dimensional team.
“Obviously the offense is firing on all cylinders, but we’re also allowing under 10 goals per game,” said coach Casey D’Annolfo. “Our faceoff guy [Mason Kohn] is the best in the country. We’re able to control possession and our defense and midfield is out of this world.”
Tufts is playing in its sixth national title game and first since 2016, when it fell to Salisbury, 14-13, in Philadelphia. After losing in the semifinals to RIT the last two seasons, the Jumbos exacted revenge last Sunday, earning a 15-11 win over the Tigers in Medford to punch their ticket to the title game.
“Just because we knocked off RIT doesn’t mean we’re satisfied,” said Murtha. “That win felt really sweet, but we can’t get complacent now. We didn’t come this far to get this far.”
D’Annolfo, a 2006 Tufts graduate who took over the program in 2017, said winning the national championship has always been the goal of this team. The only undefeated team left in NCAA lacrosse, Tufts has outscored foes by an average of 10.7 goals per game. Only six of its contests have been decided by five goals or fewer.
So what will happen if the title game is close down the stretch?
“I think our guys have done a good job all year focusing on ourselves and not our opponent,” said D’Annolfo. “We push each other in practice every day. I think our key is not losing focus and staying committed to what we’re doing by controlling the tempo and pace.”
Tufts prepped for the large dimensions of Lincoln Financial Field by practicing Thursday at Gillette Stadium. They arrived in Philadelphia Thursday night and practiced Friday at Lincoln.
D’Annolfo expects Jumbo fans will be out in full force in Philadelphia, adding another layer of excitement to the weekend.
A win Sunday would mean everything for the program he is building.
“This is my second recruiting class, and I pitched to them that if you come to Tufts, you’ll have the opportunity to compete for a national championship,” said D’Annolfo. “It bolsters that argument that this is what we sell and this what we deliver.”