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FINAL FOUR BOUND! Ghesquiere Scores Game-Winner in Closing Seconds as Men’s Lacrosse Defeats Tufts in Thriller, 12-11

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

MEDFORD, Mass. – Taylor Ghesquiere '18 scored five goals including the game-winner with just 20 seconds remaining to send the No. 9 Wesleyan University men's lacrosse team to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season as the Cardinals defeated No. 2 Tufts on the road, 12-11.

Ghesquiere, with a defender all over him, fired one into the back of the net with the shot clock expiring as the Cardinals improve to 17-3 on the year and advance to the Final Four for a rematch of last year's semifinal matchup against No. 1 RIT on Sunday, May 20 with a game time to be determined. The Jumbos, who won the previous two matchups against Wesleyan this season, including a victory in the conference championship game, end their season with an 18-2 record. The loss also snaps Tufts' 21-game home winning streak in the NCAA Tournament.

Wesleyan was led offensively by Ghesquiere and NESCAC Rookie of the Year, Ronan Jacoby, as the two combined for nine of the team's 12 goals. The Cardinals defense was excellent once again as they held a prolific Tufts offense to nearly six goals below its average (16.95), with Andres Rodriguez '18 and goalie Otto Bohan '20 leading the way.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Wesleyan got on the board first when Ghesquiere fired one from roughly 10 yards out into the bottom right corner at the 11:34 mark. However, the Jumbos responded a minute later as they capitalized on a Cardinal turnover near the visitor's goal and Nick Shanks sent one into the back of the net.
  • After four minutes of scoreless action, Jacoby scored back-to-back goals just over a minute apart to put Wesleyan on top, 3-1, with 5:31 to play in the first.
  • Tufts responded with a run of its own two minutes later. Garrett Samuelson cut the deficit to one with a bounce shot and Shanks fired one from the right side with just 21 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 3-3 entering the second quarter.
  • The Cardinals came out hot to start the second and opened with a 3-0 run. Jacoby put Wesleyan back on top, receiving a pass from Cole Turpin '18 and firing one from roughly 15 yards out into the top corner. Less than two minutes later, Turpin found the back of the net from the same spot. At the 7:33 mark, Ryan Flippin '18 closed out the run as Carter Hawthorne '19, who was behind the goal, found the senior alone towards the left side as he scored his first of the season.
  • The teams exchanged goals to keep it a three-score game, but with only :25 on the clock, Shanks tallied his third of the half to cut the deficit to 7-5 at the break.
  • Just over three minutes into the third quarter, Wesleyan capitalized on a Tufts turnover and with a 3-on-1 break, Christian Barker '19 found Jacoby for the score.
  • Wesleyan took advantage of a two man-up opportunity, but Tufts responded with back-to-back goals from Ben Connelly (2:50) and Shanks (1:58) to get within one, 9-8, entering the fourth.
  • The momentum remained in the Jumbos' favor as they scored two goals in the first two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter with Danny Murphy putting the home team ahead 10-9 at the 13:38 mark.
  • Wesleyan snapped the 4-0 Tufts run at the 11:07 mark. With the Jumbos down a man during a two-minute locked in penalty, the Cardinals took advantage as Ghesquiere and Harry Stanton '18 scored goals a minute apart to regain the lead, 11-10, with 10:07 remaining.
  • Shortly after, Bohan made an incredible save during a man-down situation as he robbed Treiber of an easy goal right near the crease.
  • The first five minutes of the fourth quarter featured four goals, but the game went scoreless over the next eight until Murphy connected with Connelly at the 1:44 mark to tie the game at 11-11.
  • Wesleyan won the ensuing faceoff and kept possession until the shot clock nearly ran out, with Ghesquiere sending in the game-winner with 20 seconds to play in regulation. Zach Zavalick '20 won the faceoff again and ran out the clock.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: 

  • Hawthorne, the program's all-time leader in assists, added three more Wednesday to bring his career total to 129. Stanton had a team-high 10 ground balls and also caused two turnovers alongside Rodriguez. In net, Bohan made nine saves and is now 15-2 on the year.
  • Tufts was led offensively by Shanks (4g), Connelly (3g), Murphy (2g, 1a), Treiber (1g, 2a) and Frank Hattler (2a). Faceoff specialist Henry Hollen was 14-of-26 with a game-high 14 ground balls and goalie Mason Pollack was impressive in net despite the loss as he finished with 15 saves.
  • Wesleyan held a 35-26 edge in ground balls and was an impressive 3-4 on man-up opportunities while holding Tufts scoreless on three tries. The Cardinals also outshot the Jumbos, 44-41.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: 

  • Today's game was the third meeting between Wesleyan and Tufts this season as the Jumbos came up short of sweeping the Cardinals. The two NESCAC rivals met three times last year as well, as Wesleyan won all three games including a NCAA Third Round matchup.
  • With the win, the Cardinals now hold a 29-28 edge in the all-time series.
  • Wesleyan is making its fourth NCAA Semifinal appearance in its sixth postseason tournament. It's also the second time in program history that the Cardinals went to the Final Four in back-to-back years, joining the 2006 and 2007 teams.