After making an appearance in the national polls this week as the 20th ranked team in the country, the men’s lacrosse team traveled to Medford, Mass. this past weekend to take on the Tufts Jumbos. With the sweet taste of an upset victory still fresh in their mouths, the Cardinals aimed to knock off the No. 3 ranked Jumbos. Despite a valiant effort in which Wesleyan held the lead for the majority of the game, Tufts was able to edge out the Birds by a score of 13-12.
Tufts, the two-time defending Division III national champions, came into the game in first place in the NESCAC. Still, they were coming off a loss to Bates earlier in the week, their first conference loss of 2016. Despite a great effort between the pipes for Cardinal goaltender Ted Bergman ’17, who made 17 saves for the Red and Black, complete control in the faceoff circle enabled the home team to come out on top.
With the NESCAC tournament right around the corner, Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 talked about what the team is focusing on this week with a game against Connecticut College.
“We are focusing mainly on us,” he said. “We know that if we do our job that we can be the best team in the league and the country. We’re going to prepare for Conn like every other game, focus on us, and play our game.”
Standout Christian Barker ’19 echoed Ghesquiere’s remarks.
“We’ve developed confidence that we can play with any team in this division,” said Barker. “We know we can battle with any team, and knowing that will help us take our game to the next level.”
The Cardinal offense clicked on all cylinders for the majority of the first half, and toward the end of the fourth quarter. However, a 7-0 Jumbo run to begin the final quarter put the Redbirds in a hole they could not overcome. Star second-year players Harry Stanton and Ghesquiere scored nine of the twelve Cardinal goals, with Stanton contributing five and Ghesquiere throwing in four. Ghesquiere has been a force for the Wesleyan attack as of late; he has netted fourteen goals over the team’s last three games.
The Cardinal defense had a strong outing overall; they held the Jumbos scoreless on five opportunities with an extra man, but the game came down to the battle in the faceoff circle, where Wesleyan came out with the ball on only four out of 28 chances.
Ghesquiere, who has enjoyed a breakout second season for the Cardinals, talked about what he did during the offseason to ensure his role would increase.
“I knew that if I wanted to see more of the field this year that I was going to have to be a better athlete,” Ghesquiere said. “So I really focused on footwork and athletic-type movements on top of the intense lifting workouts we already have.”
Stanton commenced the game’s scoring when he took a pass from Barker and found the back of the net. Only 18 seconds later, Tufts’ Kyle Howard-Johnson beat Bergman to tie the game. Niall Devaney ’16 responded with a goal for the Red and Black, before the Jumbos’ Jake Gillespie would even the game up at two goals apiece. Ghesquiere scored two consecutive goals to start the second quarter, Stanton equaled him with two additional goals, and one more came from the stick of Carter Hawthorne ’19. These tallies paved the way for a 7-5 Cardinal lead at halftime.
In the second half, a low-scoring third quarter would give way to an exciting fourth. Ghesquiere and Stanton scored the lone Cardinal goals of the third quarter, both assisted by Quentin DellaFera ’16, while Garrett Clark would tally Tufts’ only score. Tufts opened the fourth quarter by scoring seven consecutive goals, largely dominating possession along the way. Wesleyan’s normally potent offense did not have much time to operate during the first ten minutes of the quarter. Now trailing 13-9, the Cardinals had to rally.
Ghesquiere narrowed the Jumbo lead with a tally at the 3:29 mark, followed by a score from Barker with only 2:30 to play. An unassisted goal by Stanton at the 1:22 mark cut the deficit to one goal, but a Cardinal penalty with 1:10 remaining halted the Redbirds’ momentum, and Tufts would escape with the 13-12 victory.
Following the game against Conn, a road matchup likely awaits the Red and Black in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. Barker spoke to what the team is doing to prepare the best it can for the coming week.
“We have incredible leaders and are one of the most skilled teams in the league so we are ready for any opponent,” Barker said. “One improvement I believe the entire team can attest to would be being able to focus for the entire game and finish when it matters most. If we are able to do that, we will find success.”
The team will do its best to win for its outgoing seniors, a class that includes key components of the team such as Devaney, DellaFera, Greg Pietroforte and Joey Amendola.
Ghesquiere also commented on the senior class’ impact on the team.
“They’ve meant a ton to me and the team,” he said. “They bring a hardworking mentality to practice every day that improves everyone around them. That focus and intensity they bring will for sure be missed next year.”
After a tough defeat, the team now turns its attention to the final regular season game on its schedule with a matchup against Conn College on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The team will then look to extend its season with a victory this weekend in the NESCAC tournament.
Barker, who is enjoying a fine first-year campaign for the Wesleyan offense, spoke to what this season has meant to him.
“This season has been really special to me,” he said. “On and off the field this team exemplifies a brotherhood that the older players and Coach [John] Raba have implemented from day one. Having said that, everyone is supportive of one another every time we suit up making it easier for myself and the other younger players to contribute where we are needed. This is why so many players want to come play for Coach Raba; the team’s atmosphere will undoubtedly remain with us for seasons to follow.”