Lacrosse Falls to Tufts in NCAA Semifinals

SALEM, VA. – The TCNJ lacrosse team’s stirring postseason run came to an end on Saturday as the Lions ran into a red-hot goalkeeper and fell by a count of 18-7 to Tufts in the NCAA semifinals at Donald J. Kerr Stadium in Salem.

TCNJ, which upset top-ranked and 2021 national champion Salisbury to reach championship weekend, got on the board first but was unable to get anything going against All-American netminder Molly Laliberty as the Jumbos returned to the national title game for the second year in a row. Tufts (19-3) will take on Middlebury – an 18-5 winner over Gettysburg in the first semifinal of the afternoon – in a rematch of the NESCAC final at 3:30 pm Sunday.

Jennifer LaRocca put a bow on her record-breaking season – and a tremendous career – with four goals and two assists, running her historic point total to 140 for the year.

Ally Tobler scored two fourth-quarter goals to tie the single-season program record of 86, and Anna Devlin netted the other tally for the Lions.
Sabrina Phillips racked up eight draw controls and Julia Charest made nine saves for TCNJ, with Natalie Berry and Jillian Westerby joining Phillips with two caused turnovers.

Making their first NCAA semifinal trip since 2018, the Lions were eliminated by Tufts for the third consecutive postseason. But despite the final score, this was no mismatch.

LaRocca put the Lions on the board first with a tough-angle shot less than two minutes into the game, and TCNJ kept the high-powered Jumbos off the scoreboard for nearly 10 minutes to start.

Margie Carden, however, took over in the first half. She tied the game at the 5:13 mark of the first and then giving Tufts the lead for good just 37 seconds later. After a goal by Kathryn Delaney, the rookie Carden capped her first-period hat-trick with 1:04 on the clock to stretch the Jumbos’ lead to 4-1.

LaRocca pulled back a big goal with 21 seconds remaining, depositing a free-position shot into the back of the cage to make it 4-2 heading into the second.

Tufts seized control from there, outscoring the Lions 6-0 in the second period as part of a run of 11 unanswered goals that ended with a 15-2 advantage late in the third.

The Lions attempted to turn the tide late. Anna Devlin netted a free-position shot in the closing seconds of the third, and TCNJ scored the first three goals of the fourth quarter. Tobler potted back-to-back markers on feeds from LaRocca before the senior scored her third to trim the margin to 15-6 with 8:37 remaining. Tufts then scored twice before the LaRocca found the back of the cage for the last time in her career with 4:52 to go.

On the surface, the game was played evenly, if not with a slight bend to TCNJ. The Lions were only outshot by a slim 35-33 margin, controlled more draws (14-13), and committed five fewer turnovers (8 to the Jumbos’ 13).

But Laliberty, a two-time first All-American team, saved her best for the biggest stage. She racked up 16 saves for the day, including 11 in the first half – and many were of a high degree of difficulty. At one point in the third quarter she had made 13 saves with only two goals allowed. Laliberty had some help from the woodwork as well – Tobler hit a crossbar and a post, and Wayden Ay also rang the pipe on an eight-meter shot.

In addition to her third-quarter goal, Devlin had four draw controls to run her program-record final tally to 128. Phillips finished right behind with 124, and Westerby had one to give her 82 for the year.

The Lions finished the year 18-3 overall, with their 11th consecutive NJAC title and another trip to the national semifinals.

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