The university’s decision to suspend 27 Tufts players for using sexist and racist comments during a women’s volleyball game may have cost the Jumbos a pair of losses to New England Small College Athletic Conference opponents. But coach Mike Daly said he stood behind the penalty.
“No regrets whatsoever,” he said Monday morning prior to Tufts practicing at Stevenson’s Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the No. 2 Mustangs. “We’ve got great kids, we’ve got a great university, and we’ve got a great lacrosse program. At all three junctures, we hold each of them to the highest possible standards and we’ve done nothing but move forward, and that’s what we’re continuing to do. We’re not spending a lot of time in the rearview mirror. That would be a big mistake. We’ve learned, we’ve grown, and we continue to learn and we continue to grow and we continue to move forward.”
The Jumbos, the 2010 national champion, followed up the 10-9 loss to Hamilton on March 2 and the 16-15 setback to Connecticut College three days later with an 18-14 upset of then-No. 4 Stevens Tech this past Saturday. The victory helped move Tufts (1-2) from No. 11 to No. 9 in the most recent United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll and lightened the mood around the team.
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“It certainly was an important win, but this year is still about improving and getting better and that’s what we’re focused on,” Daly said. “Certainly, it felt great and it felt good to be in the win column against a team that we respect and a team that we really think is one of the top teams in the country. But we’ve got another big test tomorrow. So not a lot of time to enjoy it, to be honest with you.”
The Jumbos have won the last three conference tournaments, which has earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They still have eight more contests against conference foes, but the early losses could tarnish the team’s resume for an at-large bid.
But that’s of little concern to Daly right now.
“At the beginning of the year, it wasn’t about lacrosse,” he said. “It was about taking our job very seriously, and our job is education, our job is mentoring, and our job is all of those things. It was never about what it would mean for our season. We still went into those games competing and expecting to win with the guys we had available, and it’s no different than injuries or other circumstances or anything. We don’t make excuses, and we don’t allow others to make them for us. In the scheme of it, that’s going to sort itself out and there’s going to be a lot of ebbs and flows and movements.”