By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In Division I, the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament concludes every year on Memorial Day. Four teams convene in a city for the sport’s Championship Weekend, with two moving on to Monday’s championship game after winning their Saturday semifinals.

Also held at the host site, on that Sunday, is the Division III final. Last year that game drew a crowd of 15,525 to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where Salisbury defeated Tufts for the NCAA title.

“It was awesome to play at the Linc,” recalled Jack Boyden, who was the Division III player of the year as a Tufts attackman in 2023.

Tufts will be back at the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium Sunday for another Division III championship game, this time against Rochester Institute of Technology. Boyden will be in Philly this weekend, too, but he’s a Cavalier now, not a Jumbo.

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, sixth-seeded Virginia (12-5) meets seventh-seeded Maryland (10-5) in the second NCAA semifinal at Lincoln Financial Field. No. 5 seed Denver faces top-seeded Notre Dame at noon.

Like Tufts, UVA is in Philadelphia for the second straight season. In last year’s NCAA semifinals, in front of a crowd of 32,107, Virginia lost in overtime to Notre Dame, which defeated Duke for the title two days later.

Tufts players left the Linc before the UVA-Notre Dame game started, but they watched the first semifinal, another overtime thriller, “so we got a bit of a taste of the environment,” Boyden said, “and it was really cool.”

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Boyden, who’s from Toronto, entered the transfer portal in the fall of 2022, knowing he’d have eligibility remaining when he graduated from Tufts the following spring. The possibility of testing himself at the highest level of college lacrosse intrigued him, but he had multiple options.

“I was thinking about maybe taking a job, maybe going back to Tufts, or maybe exploring something else,” Boyden said. “It wasn’t until pretty late last year that I decided I wanted to make the jump, because I was definitely torn between making the jump and staying at Tufts another year.”

For him to leave Tufts, “it had to be the right fit,” Boyden said. “I didn’t want to just play Division I for the sake of playing.”

Virginia met all of his criteria. Sean Kirwan, then the Wahoos’ offensive coordinator, is a former Tufts standout, so “there was a a bit of familiarity there,” Boyden said, “and obviously the pedigree that UVA has definitely got me interested.”

In June, Kirwan left UVA to become head coach at Dartmouth, but Boyden didn’t waver.

“Obviously, when I was going through the whole process, the possibility of playing for him was pretty exciting,” Boyden said, “but by the time he took that job, everything that UVA had to offer was appealing.”

An attackman for much of his career at Tufts, where totaled 310 points in three-plus seasons, Boyden has primarily played in the midfield at UVA. He’s fourth on the team in points—with 37, on 20 goals and 17 assists—and he scored a season-high three goals last weekend in Virginia’s overtime win over third-seeded Johns Hopkins at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.

As part of an offense that features such talents as Connor Shellenberger, Payton Cormier, McCabe Millon and Griffin Schutz, Boyden said he focuses on “capitalizing on opportunities. Sometimes I might have looks off the ball, sometimes I might not. It’s kind of just the way the ball flows. And this past weekend I just happened to be in a position to take a few more shots than I usually do, and I’m just happy that some of them were able to fall.”

Boyden, who earned a master’s degree from UVA’s School of Education and Human Development this month, said his experience in Charlottesville has been “everything I could have imagined and even more,” he said. “The guys here have been awesome. It was such a seamless transition.”

On the field, the transition from D-III to D-I “was easy in some ways and difficult in some ways,” Boyden said. “I think in terms of the weekly structure and the time commitment, it was pretty similar, just in different ways. We couldn’t practice as much as a team in the fall at Tufts, but our guys were so bought in, we did captains’ practices and stuff. In terms of how much time we spent per week on lacrosse, it was roughly similar.

“From a skill standpoint, there are some really good players in Division III. But I think the things that stood out the most were the size and the speed [of D-I players]. The athleticism was definitely a big jump, and the depth, too. We definitely had some really good players at Tufts, but here, from the top to the bottom of the roster, everyone’s really, really good.”

Jack Boyden

This will be UVA’s second meeting with Maryland this season. The Hoos traveled to College Park and defeated the Terps 14-10 on March 16.

Boyden contributed a goal and an assist as Virginia beat its former ACC foe for the first time since the 2021 NCAA championship game. He’d heard from teammates like Shellenberger and Cormier about the Cavaliers’ longstanding rivalry with the Terps, and “I feel like I got a taste of that too, playing at Maryland,” Boyden said.

“That was a great crowd and really cool atmosphere to play in, and you could tell, just from the first whistle, kind of the rivalry that exists. So I’ve definitely gotten a taste and I’m looking forward for another one this weekend.”

Boyden is one of two Canadians on the Virginia roster. Growing up, he and Cormier played against each other in box lacrosse and together on a couple of occasions with Team Ontario.

Like Cormier, Boyden played hockey as a boy, and the skills they developed on the ice have helped both in lacrosse.

Boyden totaled 157 points at Tufts last year, a single-season record in a program that has won three NCAA titles in Division III and been national runner-up three other times. His 88 assists in 2023 also were a single-season program record.

“Jack has the flair for the dramatic,” UVA head coach Lars Tiffany said before the season. “The artistic creativity with both his passing and shooting makes him both dangerous and unpredictable.”

The Hoos are seeking the program’s eighth NCAA championship. They advanced to Philly in dramatic fashion, erasing a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter and then ousting Hopkins 11-10 on a Shellenberger goal in the second overtime.

During the regular season, Virginia had scored the game’s final seven goals in a 13-10 win over Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., so Boyden and his teammates didn’t lose hope when they fell behind against Hopkins.

Still, he acknowledged, doing “it on that stage”—the NCAA quarterfinals—“just kind of further emphasized how much we believe in each other and how willing we are to go kind of to that final whistle,” Boyden said. “I don’t think anyone in that huddle going into the fourth quarter thought that this was a game that we were going to lose. We all had that belief, and I think it really paid dividends at the end there.”

Boyden, who minored in finance at Tufts, has another year of eligibility left, and the Hoos would love to have him back in 2024-25. Entering the work force would be another option for Boyden, who said he hasn’t decided which path he’ll follow when this season ends. Boyden was a third-round pick in the most recent National Lacrosse League draft.

“Definitely a lot to think about,” he said. “I’m pretty focused on this weekend, though.”

He’s delighted that the Jumbos are back in the Division III championship game. “I’m ecstatic for them,” Boyden said.

He’s equally excited about playing in a nationally televised game Saturday (ESPN2)—and, Boyden hopes, another one Monday—in front of tens of thousands of fans at an NFL stadium.

When he decided to leave Tufts, Boyden said, “I had a pretty short list of places that I wanted to go, because I knew I wanted to play at a program like [Virginia] that has the opportunity to play on this stage. So it was definitely a big kind of box that I wanted to check. All the off-the-field stuff and the team in general has been awesome, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But the fact that we do get to play on this stage is definitely important to me.”

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