MEDFORD – Junior goalie Molly Laliberty and the Tufts University defense shut down Wesleyan University on Saturday leading the Jumbos to their first NESCAC championship with a 14-3 win over the Cardinals at Bello Field.
Laliberty saved 13 of Wesleyan's 16 shots on goal, including nine out of 10 in the second half. She also collected three ground balls and caused a turnover. Tufts junior defender Madison Lehan finished with two caused turnovers. The three goals allowed are the third-fewest for a NESCAC final.
The Jumbos (6-0) receive the NESCAC's automatic qualifying berth into the NCAA Tournament. They were led offensively by Catherine Lawliss with four goals and an assist. Anna Clarke added three goals and Ananda Kao recorded two goals and an assist.
Wesleyan, which was playing in its first conference championship game, got goals by Laura Baine, Gil Horst and Emma Wilson. Indigo Pellegrini de Paur caused three turnovers, won four draws and scooped up four ground balls. The Cardinals fall to 3-3 and await a possible NCAA at-large berth.
Possession in the game was even as the visitors dominated draw controls. Wes won 12 out of the 18 draws including four from Horst. However, they couldn't convert on offense as Tufts often forced them late on the shot clock and Laliberty was there when they did get an attempt off.
The teams traded goals at the start with Kathryn Delaney for the Jumbos and Horst for Wesleyan scoring. Lawliss netted two out of three straight goals by the Jumbos for a 4-1 lead at 15:46 of the first half. Emma Wilson brought the Cardinals within two (4-2) at the 13-minute mark.
From there, Tufts' defense kept Wesleyan off the scoreboard for the next 40 minutes of action. The Jumbos scored nine times during that Cardinal drought, with Lawliss starting the Tufts run at 10:57 of the first period and also ending it at 4:13 of the second frame. Clarke and Kao also scored twice during that stretch for Tufts, which produced a 13-2 advantage.
Wesleyan's Baine broke up Tufts' second-half shutout with a free-position goal at 2:33 of the period.
Head coach Courtney Shute's Jumbos finished with a 29-20 edge in shots and 20-16 in ground balls. The Jumbos were excellent in free-position opportunities again at five for eight.
Clarke and Games also caused two turnovers for Tufts, while Games and Colette Smith won three ground balls apiece. Clarke had three draw control wins. Horst added two ground balls and two caused turnovers to her game for Wesleyan. Rylee White won three draws and caused a pair of Jumbo mistakes. Abby Wolk and Corin Grady split netminding duties for the Cardinals with each making four saves.
Seven of the 11 NESCAC women's lacrosse teams competed this spring and teams were split into East and West divisions. Tufts won the East, Wesleyan took the West and today's game between the teams determined the league champion.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is slated for Monday at 10:30 am ET.