May 18, 2014

Stampede: Tufts Routs Top-Ranked RIT

by Will Cleveland | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | May Madness Home

In-Game Blog Replay

 

A year ago in Tufts' 14-5 loss to RIT in the NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinals, senior midfielder Beau Wood was scoreless. A year later, the Jumbos came to suburban Rochester and dominated in every facet of the game en route to a 21-11 semifinal win over the top-ranked Tigers in front of a 2,318 fans at RIT Stadium on Sunday.

Wood finished with seven goals and one assist, junior attackman Cole Bailey added five goals and one assist, and senior goalie Patton Watkins recorded 20 saves for the Jumbos (20-2), who will face the winner of the Salisbury next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

"They just shot really well today. A lot of shots they put in, I thought were excellent shots," RIT coach Jake Coon said. "They were burying their shots. Beau Wood puts up seven today. Last year, he had zero against us, he had zero goals. That's a huge difference. If you give them a ton of possessions, they're going to bury their shots. We gave them some extra opportunities today."

Tufts coach Mike Daly said last year's disappointing quarterfinal loss was never far from the minds of his team.

"We know there's a certain amount of plays in a lacrosse game and we made more of them today than they made," said Daly. "Last year they ended our season and we remember that and remember what that felt like. A ton of respect for that team and what they're going through right now. We know how that feels."

In handing the Tigers (20-1) their first loss of the season and snapping their 30-game home winning streak, the Tufts defense was active in its slides, giving Watkins clean looks at the ball, and when the Tigers managed to find an opening, Watkins was quick to make a great save.

"They played hungry, they played tenacious, they played fast, they played their game," RIT junior midfielder Kyle Aquin said. "They forced us into doing some uncharacteristic things on both ends of the field, and I think they just played well all over the field. When you give those guys second-chance opportunities like we did today, they're going to bury them. They're very good as a whole. They work together very well. We needed to limit our mistakes and we didn't do that."

The game was tied at four at the end of the first quarter. It was then tied at 6-6 midway through the second quarter. The Jumbos responded with four straight goals to close out the first half, putting the Tigers in a halftime hole for only the second time this season. The first came in the season-opener where RIT was able to rally from an 8-3 deficit for an overtime win over Stevenson.

After halftime, the Tigers never got any closer than four goals.

In a matchup of the two of the three highest scoring teams in Division III, both coaches pointed to the play of Watkins as the difference.

"They played a great game, there's no question. And again, not that we played awful, the stats are pretty even, but I think their goalie coming up with all those saves gives them a lot more possessions and some momentum," said Coon. "I thought that was huge. Faceoffs were pretty even, ground balls were pretty even. It doesn't always go your way. You've got to be resilient and keep clawing away. They made plays."

Like any good teammate, Watkins was quick to credit his defense.

"I have to take my hat off for my defense. They kept them in front and forced them to take shots we knew they were going to take," Watkins said. "I was able to be prepared for it. I just can't say enough about the defense and the way they played today, sticking to the game plan, and just carrying it through from start to finish."

Junior Casey Jackson finished with three goals and two assists, and Aquin added three goals. Both will be back next season, as will sophomore long-stick midfielder Matt Hossack. He finished with an assist, five ground balls, and five caused turnovers.

"These guys are really upset. Certainly for our seniors, this is devastating, to come up a little short again and to end your career that way," Coon said. "I don't think anybody anticipated that in our group. We had all intentions to move on today."

"We are bitter right now. We are very upset that we lost, and we are very upset with the way we lost," Aquin added. "You've got to give credit to Tufts. They're a very, very good team, so we knew what we were getting into. They played very hungry today. I think once we reflect back on the season and the careers of the seniors, we're going to be very, very proud. But it's going to take some time."

RIT and Tufts have now met in each of the past four NCAA Tournaments. The Jumbos hold a 3-1 edge in those matchups. Daly said he is just excited to spend another week with his team.

"It's what we do all year long, we focus on us, and we'll be getting ourselves better," Daly said. "We'll be honored to play in that game next Sunday and represent our university and all of our friends and family. We are pretty blessed."


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