Tufts men’s lacrosse wins national championship - The Tufts Daily (2024)

Tufts men’s lacrosse traveled to Philadelphia to play the Rochester Institute of Technology in the Division III National Championship on May 26. After a crushing defeat at the hands of Salisbury University in last year’s final following an undefeated season, the Jumbos returned this year with the hope of claiming a fourth title in program history. The two programs have historically been equals, with Tufts entering the matchup with a 3–4 all-time record against RIT, including a loss to the Tigers in March. This exciting rematch took place at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. After a successful season despite a loss in the NESCAC tournament to Hamilton College, the Jumbos regained their form in the national tournament and earned their spot in the finals. Their current form, combined with their valuable experience from last year, meant the Jumbos were ready for the championship.

“You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make them, and there were a bunch of mistakes we made in [the championship] game last year,” Tufts senior goalkeeper Conner Garzone said. “It wasn't pretty at all times during the season. We had some bad games. We had some good games.”

With something to prove, the Jumbos came out ready and firing when junior midfielder Charlie Tagliaferrinetted the game’sfirst goal just 18 seconds into the first quarter off a feed from sophom*ore midfielder Jack Regnery. After a series of back-and-forth goals, Tagliaferri scored his third of the game to put the Jumbos up 3–2, kickstarting a three-goal run that saw the Jumbos go up 5–2. Goals from junior attack Max Ettinghausen, junior midfielder Cam Delcristo, Regnery and sophom*ore attack Garrett Kellygave Tufts an 8–5lead going into the second quarter. Despite an early goal from Kelly, RIT was able to tie the game up with seven minutes left in the half after three straight goals. A late goal saw the Jumbos go into the break up a goal, but the momentum Tufts had from their hot start was gone.

“Fortunately, we’ve seen RIT every year since 2021, so we are pretty familiar with each other. … When we go on a run, we know that they are capable of coming back. When they go on a run, we know what we have to do to try to counter punch that. Earlier in the year, they went on a run after we did and we weren’t able to counter punch,” coach Casey D’Annolfo said in response to the second-quarter push by RIT. “For our guys, it’s just keeping that mental toughness, which is what they did. … I think having that little cushion early on was good for our guys. It settled us down a little bit and allowed us to play with fewer nerves out there.”

D’Annolfo’s belief in his team’s mental toughness was not an empty one. Despite another strong third quarter push by RIT, goals from first-year attack Chase Beyer, senior attack Kevin Christmas and Regnery sent the title game to the fourth quarter tied at 13 goals apiece.

In the fourth quarter, the mental toughness, experience and maturity of the Jumbos were clear on both ends of the field. On the offensive end, goals from Regnery, junior midfielder Sam Frisoli, Kelly, Beyer and sophom*ore midfielder Victor Salcedosaw the Jumbos end the game with 18 goals. On the defensive end, the Jumbos held RIT to just one goal. When the final horn blew, the scoreboard showed a score of 18–14. For the fourth time in program history and the first time since 2015, the Tufts men’s lacrosse team were national champions!

“When it ended it was a pretty surreal feeling, especially seeing all of the work pay off and just trusting the process even with the bumps we had in our season,” Ettinghausen wrote in a message to the Daily. “We are champs now, and no one can take that away from us, which is pretty special.”

In the end, an exceptional performance by Tagliaferri meant he was named as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championships. Kelly tallied four goals, two assists, two grounders and two caused turnovers. Regnery scored three goals, and Ettinghausen and Beyer each finished with two goals, an assist and two grounders. The Jumbos won 22 of 36 faceoffs, allowing them to maintain possession for extended periods of time.

Finally, on the defensive side, the Jumbos were relentless, causing 18 turnovers and claiming 49 ground ballsto the Tigers’ 34. Notable performances in the back came from junior defenders Joey Waldbaum and Michael Ayers and sophom*ore long-stick midfielder Ben Frisoli. Between the pipes, Garzone made 11 saves, including a massive stop late in the fourth quarter that led to a Tufts goal at the other end of the field.

“If you would have asked us, ‘Is this the senior class that’s going to do this?’ I don’t know if we would have felt 100% sure about it. Super small group. They have a lot of different roles in the program and we are a pretty young team,” D'Annolfo said. “Just over the course of the last month, they really bought in and made us the best version of ourselves.”

Tufts men’s lacrosse finishes its incredible season with an even more impressive national championship. These results are a credit to the coaching staff that led this elite team and to the seniors who set the standard for what it means to be a Jumbo.

Photos courtesy Tufts Athletics.

Tufts men’s lacrosse wins national championship - The Tufts Daily (2024)

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