MEDFORD – The Tufts University women's lacrosse team will play in its first NCAA "Final Four" after the Jumbos earned an 11-6 victory over York College (Pa.) in a quarterfinal game at home on Bello Field Sunday afternoon.
Tufts (19-2) will play Salisbury in the national semifinals on Saturday in Ashland, Virginia. The Sea Gulls were 8-7 winners against Amherst College in the NCAA Quarterfinals today.
The Jumbos were led this afternoon by a tremendous defensive effort which included 11 saves by senior goalkeeper Audrey Evers (nine in the second half). Tufts held the Spartans scoreless for a more than 30-minute stretch in the middle of the game during which they scored six unanswered goals.
York, who saw its season end with a 17-6 record, was led offensively by three assists from freshman Celly Arthur. Junior midfielder Devin Hursey caused four turnovers and collected two ground balls.
The Spartans' only lead was at 2-1 when they converted on a man-up situation with a goal by freshman Chloe MacDonald assisted by Arthur 4:50 into the game. However, the Jumbos scored the next three goals including two by Smith for a 4-2 advantage with 16:50 on the first-half clock. Tufts' defense forced York into four shot-clock violations in the first half, with two coming during the three-goal run by the Jumbos.
MacDonald made a great individual effort to grab a high pass from Arthur and score at 15:43 to pull the Spartans within 4-3. Shortly after a Smith draw control win for Tufts, junior Emily Games scored for the Jumbos and it was 5-3. The Spartans had another shot-clock violation, but senior goalie Abby Smith picked off a Tufts pass to start the visitors going the other way. Junior Meghan Fox earned a free-position attempt and passed it to classmate Regan Cook who scored making it 5-4 at the 11:38 mark.
However, that would be the last Spartan goal until 11 minutes remained in regulation. York's Smith would make nice saves on Tufts junior Annie Sullivan and Colette Smith, and the Spartans nullified a yellow-card opportunity by Tufts keeping the game at 5-4 for the time being.
Evers saved a free-position shot by Arthur and then at the other end Games scored on her free-position attempt making it 6-4 with 4:51 remaining until halftime. Jumbo senior Cecily Freliech fired in a shot during a rush to the net with 1:18 on the clock and the Jumbos led 7-4 at the break.
Tufts extended its lead to 8-4 when Sullivan scored 43 seconds into the second half. A free-position pass from Games to freshman Kathryn Delaney at 23:28 gave Tufts a five-goal advantage (9-4). The Jumbos would push the lead to 11-4 on goals by freshman Kirsten Grazewski and sophomore Catherine Lawliss.
The Spartans showed some late life with back-to-back goals by senior Claudia DiVenti at 10:51 – which ended their scoring drought – and at 5:38 closing the margin to 11-6. However, they would get no closer as Evers made two saves in the closing minutes to finish off her fine performance.
York's Smith did her best in goal to keep the Spartans within striking distance, making a pair of free-position saves in the second half. She finished with five stops.
The Spartans earned a 30-26 advantage in shots, though Tufts won ground balls 20-12. York also had the edge in draw controls 11-8 with DiVenti taking five and senior Nicole Clauter getting four.
The Jumbos are in their sixth NCAA berth and second in a row and now have an 8-4 record in those games. They opened NCAA play this spring with an 18-0 win over Plymouth State last Sunday, just the fourth shutout in NCAA Tournament history dating back to 1985. They won in the third round yesterday against College of New Jersey 17-13.
Three NESCAC teams will be in Virginia for the "Final Four" as Middlebury and Wesleyan also advanced and will play each other in the other semifinal. The national championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 2 pm.
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