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Tufts Men’s Lacrosse Are NCAA Champions

No. 8 Jumbos earn their fourth NCAA title with 18-14 win over No. 2 RIT

Junior Charlie Tagliaferri tallied six points on three goals and three assists, helping lead the No. 8 Tufts University men’s lacrosse team to the fourth NCAA championship in program history with an 18-14 win over No. 2 RIT in a thriller at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on May 26. 

The title was the first for the program since the 2015 season, while head coach Casey D’Annolfo, A06, earned his first as the head coach of the Jumbos. Tufts also earned NCAA crowns in 2010, 2014, and 2015. 

Tufts had suffered a few pitfalls throughout the season, including falling to RIT back in March. But the team, combining experience, youth, grit, and skill, avenged that early season loss with a strong game from start to finish. 

“If you would have asked us, ‘Is this the senior class that going to do this?’ I don’t know if we would have felt 100% sure about it,” said D’Annolfo, who as a Tufts alum celebrated the program’s first title in 2010 as a member of the crowd, then took over as head coach in 2017. “Just over the course of the last month, they really bought in to the best version of ourselves.”

The Jumbos wasted no time, getting on the board just 18 seconds into the game as Tagliaferri scored off a feed from Jack Regnery to give Tufts the lead. The two teams would exchange goals over the first five minutes, but Tagliaferri started a three-goal run to give the Jumbos a 5-2 lead after a Cam Delcristo goal off a face-off win. 

The face-off domination by the Jumbos was responsible for helping them grow the lead up to 8-3 after a Garrett Kelly tally. Tufts won 11-of-14 face-offs in the first quarter, while posting a 22-8 edge in ground balls in the opening stanza. 

Tufts continued to lead for much of the first half, but RIT rallied to tie the game at 9-9 with 8:19 left in the period on a man-up goal from Ethan Harkins. Kelly scored seconds later, on an unassisted strike, giving the Jumbos a 10-9 lead going to the break. The Jumbos held a 25-20 edge in shots at the half, while also winning 14 of the game’s 21 face-offs. 

A Strong Second Half

Chase Beyer got the second half going for the Jumbos with an assisted score through a screen, but RIT rallied back with goals from Luke Pilcher and Jack Erickson to tie the game 4:22 into the third quarter. Kevin Christmas posted his eighth of the season on a nice shot off an alley dodge to put Tufts back on top at 12-11, and Regnery upped the lead to 13-11 after his 76th of the season. 

Tufts players celebrate their victory at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photo: Michael Last

The Tigers wouldn’t relent though, as the 2021 and 2022 national champions netted two goals before the end of the third quarter to send the game to the final period deadlocked at 13. From that point though, Tufts defensive unit would lock in while senior goalkeeper Conner Garzone came alive. 

After Regnery put Tufts up 14-13 with 11:05 to go, Garzone made a huge save on Pilcher and seconds later Sam Frisoli scored from Max Ettinghausen to give the Jumbos a 15-13 edge. After another defensive stop, Kelly scored his fourth of the day and 40th of the year to give Tufts a 16-13 lead. 

RIT came back with a goal from Pilcher at the 4:59 mark of the fourth quarter, but the possible dagger came on a 10-second stretch as Beyer scored at the shot clock after a pass through the goal mouth to up the Jumbos’ lead to 17-14. On the next face-off, Victor Salcedo netted his fourth of the season 10 seconds later for the exclamation point. 

Garzone posted another save with two minutes to go, and the Jumbos were able to run out the clock to secure the victory and the huge brown and blue celebration.

Everyone Pitches in for the Win 

Tufts posted a 55-40 edge in shots for the game, while holding a 30-25 lead in shots on goal. Tufts posted a strong 23-for-25 edge in clears, and topped the ground ball total, 49-34. The final face-off count was 22-14 in favor of the Jumbos. 

Tagliaferri was named as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA championships after his six-point output, while Kelly finished with four goals, two assists, two grounders and two caused turnovers. Regnery added three goals on 13 shots, and Brooks Hauser set up three goals to go with two ground balls. Ettinghausen and Beyer each finished with two goals, an assist, and two grounders. 

 Junior Joey Waldbaum chalked up five ground balls and two caused turnovers for the game, and Salcedo finished 11-for-17 at the “X” with nine loose balls. Parker Merril was also strong, going 11-of-19 with seven ground balls. Long-stick midfielders Ben Frisoli and Michael Ayers each added three ground balls as well in the win. Garzone made 11 stops between the pipes to get the victory, including six in the second half. 

John Mozrall recorded five points on a goal and four assists, while Pilcher led the Tigers (21-3) with three goals and 13 shots. Alex Zboroski made 12 stops in net for the Tigers. 

“I’m just so grateful for the alums that supported me,” said D’Annolfo. “They’ve been super positive, super supportive. It just means everything in the world just to be able to have their support and get another national championship.”