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Boyden and Tufts reunite, chasing titles alongside each other

The graduate attackman and his former program are in Philadelphia together eyeing separate titles

<p>Graduate attackman Jack Boyden during a home game earlier this season.</p>

Graduate attackman Jack Boyden during a home game earlier this season.

Virginia was traveling home from its NCAA Tournament quarterfinal win Sunday when a minor commotion emanated from somewhere on the bus. Most of the bus’s occupants likely were relaxed, basking in the glow of a stirring double-overtime triumph, perhaps tending a couple of bruises. Graduate attackman Jack Boyden could have also relaxed, but he directed his attention, for the moment, to something entirely different. A different lacrosse team was gunning, like Virginia, to return to championship weekend.

Tufts was playing. Boyden had played for Tufts for four years, collecting just about every conceivable Division III accolade before graduating and transferring this offseason. He is connected to the program in a way that has not wavered despite his departure. If his companions on Sunday’s bus ride did not already know that, they certainly found out.

“[I was] cheering maybe a little too loud for everyone around me,” Boyden said.

Graduate attackman Connor Shellenberger’s double-overtime game-winner slammed into the back of the net at approximately 5:39 p.m. Sunday. Tufts’ Division III semifinal started at 7:30 p.m. that same day. Boyden and Tufts Coach Casey D’Annolfo, in the narrow window between the games, exchanged texts.

“I texted him right after the game,” D’Annolfo said. “‘Hey, buddy. I love you. So excited for you. I know you’re not satisfied. I know you’ll be better. I can’t wait to see you in Philly.’ He responded back, ‘Take care of business and we’ll see you down there.’”

D’Annolfo and Tufts definitely took care of business. They suffocated Washington and Lee in the fourth quarter, winning 19-13 and orchestrating a return trip to the national title game in Philadelphia.

The Jumbos entered last year’s title game undefeated, chasing a perfect season and boasting a stacked attack led by Boyden. Then they lost to Salisbury, trailing the whole game. Sunday’s victory against Washington and Lee represented another step in the long journey toward the goal they barely missed last year.

“I’m really happy for them that they got back,” Boyden said. “It was pretty tough losing last year, and them having the opportunity to win it this year is really cool.”

The win placed Tufts in the Division III championship against RIT, slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. Virginia’s Division I semifinal against Maryland will be played Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Jumbos and the Cavaliers — and, more significantly, Boyden and his former teammates and coaches — will be in the same place at the same time.

“We’re in different hotels,” D’Annolfo said. “Which is probably good for him. Because our guys would have mobbed him if we saw him down there regularly.”

Boyden said he has no concrete plans yet to see his former teammates but that he certainly hopes something works out, citing how both teams must understandably focus primarily on winning their respective games. He said he texted a few of his Tufts teammates after the Tufts game Sunday.

The second a reporter, during Tuesday’s media availability, started unspooling a question about the reunion, D’Annolfo started smiling. So did Boyden when posed a similar question. The permanent mutual affection between Boyden and his old program is clear.

“Jack’s one of my all-time favorite guys,” D’Annolfo said.

The two communicate regularly, talking or texting about every other week, according to D’Annolfo. They check in about life and lacrosse. D’Annolfo also still communicates with Boyden’s parents and texted with them Sunday night after the two wins. D’Annolfo has known the family for almost 10 years.

Boyden and D’Annolfo’s conversations these days often turn, unsurprisingly, to the thing that first united them. They discuss the bones of the game, the little peculiarities that winners like them notice and absorb.

“I’ll watch a Virginia game and I’ll text him, ‘Hey, what did you guys do on offense there?’” D’Annolfo said. “‘What was your thinking behind that?’ We’ll go back and forth for 20 or 30 minutes, just talking X’s And O’s.”

D’Annolfo will get to watch a Virginia game up close Saturday. And if he wants to talk to Boyden afterward, he may not have to resort to texting. He may be able to see his former star in-person.

Tufts last season attended one of the Division I semifinals — the overtime battle between Duke and Penn State. This year’s Jumbos will presumably choose another Division I semifinal to attend. It’s pretty clear which one it will be.


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