Men's D3 Notebook: Late Start Hasn't Slowed Down Tufts
The weather in New England doesn't always allow for an early start to the lacrosse season, which meant several top teams had already played multiple games before defending national champion Tufts even took the field for the first time on March 5. But now that the Jumbos are in full swing for another title defense, Tufts coach Michael Daly has gotten a good look at where his team stands.
The Jumbos are 3-0 with three road victories against tough teams in Stevens, Keene State and Middlebury. And while it may have raised a few eyebrows that Tufts needed to come from behind late to escape with a 14-13 victory against Stevens in the opener, at this point Daly is simply fine with being undefeated.
"We had three road wins versus three nationally ranked teams, so I am proud of our team to get us to this point," Daly said. "We clearly have a lot of work to do and will need to improve for sure, but it is fairly common to be inconsistent at this point. It is frustrating to make repetitive mistakes, but the guys are working hard at correcting them."
Saturday's 12-10 victory at Middlebury also made the Jumbos 1-0 in the NESCAC with an opportunity to take it to 2-0 this Saturday in the home opener versus Colby.
It's been a balanced effort from the upperclassmen so far this season with five Tufts players in double figures in points. Junior Austin Carbone and senior Kyle Howard-Johnson lead the team in points with 13 each. Carbone has seven goals and six assists while Howard-Johnson has eight goals and five assists, but some others have also stood out to Daly.
"Tyler Olney and Jon Sax have definitely stood out in leadership roles," he said. "While Connor Bilby has had a great impact as a senior."
Bilby has scored six goals and dished out six assists thus far, while Olney and Sax have locked down opponents on defense.
But while everyone at Tufts is feeling OK about remaining unbeaten, they also know improvement is necessary if the top-ranked Jumbos are going to bring home yet another national championship.
"All phases are too inconsistent right now and we need to button that up," Daly said. "We love playing the schedule we do for that reason- button it up or you get beat. It's that simple. Every team on our schedule can beat us, so we have to limit the self inflicted mistakes. Our effort and our toughness has been outstanding so far. We need to sustain that and start making the plays we are capable of more consistently."
Salisbury is off to a 7-0 start, but may have some tough challenges from CAC opponents to come. (John Strohsacker)
Salisbury was nearly universally expected to be among the top contenders both nationally and in the Capital Athletic Conference, and the Sea Gulls haven't disappointed. Salisbury is off to a 7-0 start with wins against Lynchburg, Gettysburg and Ohio Wesleyan, to name a few.
The hot starts of some of the other CAC teams may have come as more of a surprise and it's setting up for what should be an intense April schedule in the conference. Frostburg State and York (Pa.) have each surged up the national polls with Frostburg State off to a very impressive 8-0 start. At the same time York has won its first five games, including huge wins against Roanoke and Gettysburg.
One could also throw Christopher Newport into the mix, with the Captains rebounding from a season-opening loss to Washington and Lee to win four straight.
Salisbury and Frostburg State have each played one conference game, but the league race should really heat up in the next few weeks when those four teams begin playing each other.
Frostburg State has back-to-back games against Christopher Newport and York on March 26 and April 2 before traveling to Salisbury on April 9. Salisbury gets all three in a row, starting with a trip to Christopher Newport on April 6, then the game versus the Bobcats before traveling up to York on April 13 for its conference finale. York and the Captains then meet three days later to wrap up the regular season.
GOOD IN GOAL
Southern Maine has played just two games this season, picking up wins against Maine Maritime and Husson. And while that's not the stiffest competition around, the Huskies have to be quite happy with the way two sophomore goalies have played so far, allowing just a total of nine goals in the two victories.
John Bossi has gotten the start in each game and saved 60 percent of the shots he's faced, allowing an average of 5.8 goals a contest. Zach Bessette hasn't gotten as much playing time, seeing 37 minute of action so far, but he's been nearly impenetrable in the cage.
Bessette saved 83.3 percent of the shots he faced and allowed just one goal to pick up the win against Husson.
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