By Matt Noonan
MEDFORD, MA – Coming off a conference setback to Middlebury College, Tufts University’s women’s lacrosse team rebounded with a 13-4 victory against Wheaton College on Thursday afternoon at Bello Field.
Kerry Eaton and Caroline Ross paced the Jumbos with four goals, respectively, while Eliza Halmo registered two strikes.
“We talked about making a statement at the beginning of the game,” said Tufts coach Carol Rappolli, whose team improves to 6-4 on the season.
“The first 10 minutes are really important and making sure the shots that we took were going to move the goalkeeper, and we added a little tweak to our motion offense and the kids responded and did exactly what we asked them to do.”
Tufts jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, but Wheaton trimmed the deficit with two tallies – one from Allie Bush and one from Leila Mills, which were both set up by Charlotte De Santis.
The Jumbos, who led 8-2 at the break, padded their lead with five more goals in the second to seal the win and earn their fourth victory at home.
“I think it’s still a great opportunity for us (to play Tufts), but I was disappointed with our first 10 minutes of the game and you can’t get down 7-0 against a nationally ranked team and think you can stay in the game,” explained Wheaton coach Emily Kiablick.
“This is a hurdle that we have to get over and so we can’t get over it unless we keep playing, so that’s what we’ll do.”
Wheaton Plans To Improve: Kiablick admitted there were some positives from her team’s fifth setback of the season, but she also eyed some areas the Lyons needs to improve prior to their conference tilt against Mount Holyoke on Saturday.
“We absolutely will build off this,” said Kiablick. “We’ve done a really good job all season of looking at parts (of our team’s game) and focusing on what aspects we really need to improve and for us it was really the opening 10 minutes and we were just playing a little scared coming out of the back and on attack, so that’s what we’ll talk about and that’s what we’ll focus on tomorrow.”
Prior to today’s game, Wheaton defeated Wellesley on Tuesday, 17-4, and according to their coach, there were a lot of positives from that game she plans to build on, too.
“There were some positive things to build off the Wellesley game, so we won’t get bogged down by this, but we’ll just talk about it, address it and move on.”
Tufts Returns To NESCAC Play On Saturday: With their final non-conference game in the books, the Jumbos will return to conference play on Saturday when they welcome Amherst College to Medford for a 12 p.m. face-off.
Tufts, who is 2-4 in a very competitive conference, plans to build off their 15-8 loss to Middlebury last Sunday against the Lord Jeffs, who’re 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the conference.
“I thought that the first half against Middlebury was terrific,” said Rappolli. “We could have been a little bit closer then we were, but you’ve got a young team against a very experienced team and we’re down 8-5 at the half, and then their experience came through and we were a little bit sloppier with the ball in the second half, but I would like to play that team again because I think that we can beat that team in a NESCAC tournament situation, I really do.
“If our kids played like they did on Saturday (against Williams College) and really the first half on Sunday – that was a good weekend for us even though we were just 1-1.”
The Jumbos lost to Amherst last season, 12-4, but beat them the prior year, 14-13.
Leila Mills Continues To Fuel Wheaton’s Attack: Mills, who ranks first on her team in goals (24), netted only one of two shots this afternoon, but despite a quiet day, the junior attack has been an important asset to Wheaton’s success this season.
“Leila was probably the best player coming out of Maine her senior year, so we knew she had it in her, but she’s certainly not the type to force a situation, she’s just going to wait until the opportunity is there and that’s what makes her so strong,” said Kiablick.
“She’s catching more and shooting better, and all the freshmen that she’s playing with love passing to her because they know it’s an assist on the (stat sheet) because she’s going to take a smart shot”
Mills’ best game of the season occurred two days ago against Wellesley as she netted five strikes. She’s recorded at least two or more goals in 11 contests this season, and is on part to match her goal total from last year of 28.