In his final season in a Tufts University uniform, Jake Gillespie has gone on the offensive. With the rugged senior midfielder from Topsfield delivering a breakout season around the net, the two-time defending Division 3 national champions are making another deep run in the tournament. The Masconomet Regional graduate has piled up 75 points, punctuated by 55 goals, the second-highest total on the Jumbos (19-2). His previous high, 21, came last year. An economics major, he is the oldest of three midfield-playing siblings. Kathleen, a sophomore at Bentley, netted 15 goals for the Falcons this spring. Molly, a senior at Masconomet, is a University of Massachusetts Amherst recruit. Jake also played football and was on the swim team at Masco.
Q. Did the family grow up playing lacrosse together?
A. I specifically remember waiting for the bus for elementary school and throwing the ball around and playing in the backyard and shooting it around into a net. My dad would get home from work and join in. He didn’t pick up a stick until college and he made the team and played Division 3 lacrosse at Wittenberg in Ohio. He loved the sport and introduced me and my sisters to it early on.
Q. When did you start playing?
A. Third grade, when I was 10 or so. The story my dad tells is he thought he ruined the game for me the first time we went in the backyard and had a catch. I missed the ball and it hit me square in the forehead. I went running into the house calling for my Mom.
Q. That didn’t deter you?
A. I just remember loving it right away. I played other sports, soccer, basketball, swimming, but all my life lacrosse was my favorite.
Q. What is it you like most about the sport?
A. I play midfield, so I have to play offense and defense. There’s the higher scoring than a soccer game. It takes hand-eye coordination and skill with the stick, but then you’re also running and being athletic. I don’t know if I can point to exactly what it is, but it combines a lot of things. I like swimming, but it’s much more of an individualized sport, and I like that lacrosse is a little more team-oriented.
Q. And the best part of your game?
A. I’m a big kid, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, and I’ve always been a big kid and the physical part was a draw to the game, too. I’ve got good endurance and I’m able to run the field. When everyone else is getting tired, I feel I still have my wind and can run by guys.
Q. How does your game compare to that of your sisters?
A. It’s such a different game from men’s to women’s, but I think our games are similar in that we’re all midfielders and all-around players. They’re blessed with good wind and are able to run forever, too.
Q. Has your role changed this season?
A. As a sophomore and junior, my role was more defensive-oriented. This year I’ve transitioned into more of an offensive middie and I have more chances to go at the net.
Q. Best memory of the NCAA championship sophomore year?
A. It would probably be running on the field with all my teammates at the final buzzer. That feeling is unbeatable, the first one especially. It’s really special and something you’ve worked for your whole life and worked for with your teammates all through the offseason and regular season. It’s the greatest feeling ever to be able to share it with your teammate.
Q. And the best memory from last year’s title?
A. That was my increasing role with what I provided to the team. I had a little more of a role on the field. That was definitely cool. Plus, when you’re the defending champs, there’s a target on your back and you get everyone’s best game all year long. To be able to do it again was definitely a great accomplishment.
Q. What’s on your wish list for a place to visit?
A. I definitely want to go to Australia and New Zealand.
Q. Do you have a secret talent?
A. I guess that would go along with where I want to go. My Australian accent is pretty good. In high school, my friends and I worked on our accents from watching Australian TV shows with Chris Lilley – like “Angry Boys” and “Summer Heights High” – and we got pretty good at them. I’d like to go try it on the locals and see how good it really is.