Introduction of 1985 Women's Lacrosse Team, presented by Courtney Shute, Tufts Head Women's Lacrosse Coach
“Jumbo Pride”, over many years, has become the mantra of Tufts Athletics. We talk about it, we put it on t-shirts, and we display it wherever we can -- it’s written on a huge banner right up there. It represents a common bond that ties us all together as we celebrate our uniqueness as an athletics community here at Tufts.
But what are the origins of “Jumbo Pride”, and who was the first to use the phrase? It’s a bit of a mystery, and no one knows for sure where it came from.
But one thing we DO know for certain is that no one personified it…no one lived it...and no one promoted it more conspicuously…than the Jumbo women’s lacrosse teams of the 1980’s.
As the story goes, at around 2:00 am one spring night back in 1982, former Athletic Director and Tufts Hall of Famer Rocky Carzo was woken up by a phone call. On the other end of the line was the Tufts campus police. It seems the women’s lacrosse team had been caught on the roof of the old fieldhouse next to Ellis Oval, where they had painted in large white letters some motivational messages to support the team on the eve of their biggest game of the year – including the mantra “Jumbo Pride.”
The police, needless to say, weren’t exactly overjoyed about this apparent act of late-night vandalism. But Rocky Carzo, being the quick-witted and student-centered AD that he was, explained to the police that of course he had granted the lacrosse team permission to “decorate” the field house in this manner.
The police let the team go, and the “Jumbo Pride” of the women’s lacrosse team was on display quite prominently for their next-day opponents and everyone else to see.
That 1982 team, which was recruited and coached so well by Marisa Didio -- who we are so glad to have here with us tonight -- set the program on a path of sustained dominance in the years ahead. They went 11-2 overall, and yes, on the day after they painted that roof, the Jumbos beat Trinity 7-6 to win the program’s first-ever New England Championship.
On that 1982 team, and probably carrying the paint on the roof of that old field house, were the freshmen who would emerge as the senior leaders of the team that we are honoring tonight -- The 1985 Jumbo women’s lacrosse team!
What a remarkable team the 1985 women’s lax Jumbos were! Jumbo Pride was on full display that season as the Jumbos utterly dominated New England lacrosse. Under the guidance and leadership of Head Coach Nita Lamborghini, the Jumbos finished with an undefeated 13-0 record and easily won the ECAC New England Championship that spring. They outscored their opponents by more than 100 goals that season, 188-86, and averaged nearly 15 goals per game. The Jumbos, or the “JaxLax’ers” as they sometimes called themselves, crushed Williams and Amherst that year, 20-5 and 13-1 respectively, and they cruised to a 21-10 win over Plymouth State in the ECAC Championship game.
And just as impressive, the 1985 team created the momentum that would propel the Tufts women’s lacrosse program to five consecutive ECAC New England titles. Over those five years under Coach Lamborghini and then Coach Carol Rappoli, the Jumbos posted an astounding 61-2 record from 1985-89 and quickly established themselves as that era’s flagship program of Tufts Athletics.
Unfortunately, because the NESCAC did not permit its members to compete in NCAA tournaments at this time, neither the 1985 team nor the great teams that followed ever had the opportunity to compete for a national title. But there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that all of these teams would have matched up quite favorably to the nation’s best and challenged for the ultimate trophy year in and year out.
And regardless of what trophies sit in a trophy case somewhere, what truly defined the 1985 women’s lacrosse team was its family culture, its sense of sisterhood and togetherness, its palpable sense of Jumbo Pride that has bonded this incredible group of women so closely for more than three decades after their playing careers ended.
“It was all about spirit and the heart of the game and our friendships. We were all proud to be Jumbos, and we weren’t shy about it,” said Nancy Stern Winters, a junior on the 1985 team. “It meant a great deal to us, not just to win and to play well, but to play hard and to represent Tufts in the best way we possibly could. It was just one of those very synchronistic moments where all of us wanted the same thing.”
Tonight, 10 of the 16 members of the 1985 women’s lacrosse team, along with Head Coach Nita Lamborghini, Assistant Coach Betsy Dolan, Assistant Coach Nancy Bigelow, and their athletic trainer Janet Silva, are all here to celebrate that magical season and their lifelong bond with one another. We invite them all to the stage now as we so proudly induct the undefeated 1985 Jumbo women’s lacrosse team into the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame.