MEDFORD - The Tufts men's lacrosse team will play in the NCAA Championship Game for the third straight year and for the fifth time since 2010 following a 23-12 victory over St. Lawrence in the semi-finals on Sunday afternoon in front of more than 2,000 fans at Bello Field.
The Jumbos (20-2) will play Salisbury (22-1) in the NCAA final for the fourth time next Sunday (May 29) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Sea Gulls were 14-6 winners over Gettysburg in today's other semi-final. The championship game will start at 1 pm.
Senior goalie Alex Salazar was outstanding for the Jumbos today, finishing with 17 saves. He had seven in the first quarter, helping Tufts take a 5-3 lead despite being out-shot 13-7 in the first 15 minutes. The Jumbos led 11-6 at halftime and pulled away in the second half.
Five Jumbos had four or more points today, led by John Uppgren's four goals and three assists. Zach Richman netted five goals, Austin Carbone finished with three goals and two assists, Jake Gillespie scored four times, and Ben Andreycak tallied three goals with an assist.
Jeremy Vautour was outstanding for St. Lawrence with five goals. The Saints, who were making their first trip to the NCAA semi-finals since 1979, finished the year with an 18-3 record.
Senior Conor Helfrich won 22 of 27 face-offs for the Jumbos. After his first win, he went down and scored 13 seconds into the game. Vautour tied it quickly though before the Jumbos ran off three in a row to lead 4-1 on Richman's first at 6:03 of the period. The teams combined for three goals in the final 1:10 of the quarter, with a Tufts goal by Carbone sandwiched by two from Conor Healey that had the Saints within 5-3.
The Jumbos scored the first three goals of the third quarter including one and an assist by Uppgren for an 8-3 lead. Saint Lawrence had three of the next five, all by Vautour, to get within 10-6. Carbone added a goal with 34 seconds to go until halftime giving the hosts an 11-6 lead at the break.
Gillespie's goal 15 seconds into the third quarter was part of a 6-1 Tufts run during the first 11 minutes of the period. Richman scored twice during the stretch and a goal by Andreycak put Tufts up 17-7 at the 4:10 mark. Consecutive goals by Vautour and Andrew Jarrett (man-up) 44 seconds apart helped the Saints close to 17-9. However, the Jumbos scored twice in the final 1:37 of the third, including Garrett Clarke's goal with nine seconds on the clock that gave Tufts a 19-9 margin.
Tufts had the first four goals of the fourth quarter, including two with an assist by Uppgren, and led 23-9. The Saints closed the scoring with goals by Jarrett, Charlie Duprey, and Jamie DeNicola in the last 2:33 for the 23-12 final.
Healey finished with three goals and an assist for the Saints, while Jarrett tallied two goals with an assist. Caleb Kane recorded a game-high five caused turnovers and took four groundballs. Defenseman Steele White won five groundballs for St. Lawrence. Three Saints goalies played, with Ryan Fisher making four saves in 37:45 of action.
Saint Lawrence finished with a 47-38 advantage in shots, while Tufts won groundballs 41-31. Both teams were successful on man-up situations with St. Lawrence at two for five and Tufts at one for three. The fast-paced game included 47 turnovers, 28 by Tufts.
The Jumbos have now scored 86 goals in their four NCAA Tournament wins. The 2015 Tufts team holds the record for NCAA Tournament scoring with 89 goals.
Tufts is 2-1 against Salisbury in the NCAA final. The Jumbos won their first title in 2010 by a 9-6 score over the Gulls. Salisbury earned revenge in 2011 with a 19-7 final. Then Tufts won the match-up 12-9 for their 2014 title.
The Jumbos will be attempting to become the first team to win three straight NCAA titles since Salisbury from 2003-05.
Game Photos by Alonso Nichols / Tufts