May 30, 2010

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Tufts earned its first national title in a team sport Sunday, getting three goals from Jamie Atkins and four assists from D.J. Hessler in a 9-6 victory against Salisbury in the men's NCAA Division III lacrosse championship.

Goalie Steven Foglietta made 13 saves for Tufts (20-1), which began playing lacrosse in 1930. The Jumbos took a 7-1 lead midway through the second quarter then staved off a brief rally by Salisbury (21-2).

"Besides our alumni and our fans I don't think anyone thought we could win this one," Hessler said of being an underdog to the eight-time national champions. "It's great to show we can come out and compete on this stage. We are putting our program on the map. People have got to respect us now."

Hessler scored a goal and assisted on two others as Tufts closed the first quarter on a 5-0 run to a take 6-1 lead. It was the most goals Salisbury allowed in a quarter this season.

Tufts' senior-laden defense, anchored by captain and second team All-American Eytan Saperstein, held Salisbury scoreless for 20 minutes, 44 seconds in the first half and 23:59 in the second. The Sea Gulls had not gone longer than 15 minutes without a goal all season.

Tufts' midfielders Alec Bialosky and Sam Gardner combined to limit Sam Bradman, Salisbury's leading scorer and the Division III Midfielder of the Year, to one assist.

"We got a little selfish and weren't passing the ball the way we normally do," Bradman said. "Their defense played an outstanding game and just shut us down."

Attackman Jake DeLillo had a goal and an assist in a 4-0 run that got Salisbury within 7-5 at the 11:57 mark of the third quarter. Goalie Johnny Rodriguez kept the Sea Gulls in the game with 11 saves.

Tufts went 19 1/2 minutes without a goal until attackman Sean Kirwan scooped up a loose ball just outside the crease and scored to increase the lead to 8-5. Hessler then found Atkins on the crease for another quick goal to make it 9-5 at the 10:48 mark of the fourth period.

"I was able to lose my man and get open inside and D.J. has great vision so he was able to find me," said Atkins, who scored twice off assists from Hessler.

Midfielder Will Poletis netted his second goal to end Salisbury's second lengthy scoring drought and make it 9-6 with 2:58 remaining in the game.

"Our defense and goalie gave us every opportunity to get back in the game. We just didn't get the job done on offense today," Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman said.

Hessler, who finished with five points, was named the game's Most Outstanding Player. The junior out of St. Paul's School in Baltimore compiled 91 points to break his own single-season school scoring record.