February 10, 2016
John Uppgren has put together back-to-back seasons with over 120 points, helping Tufts win consecutive NCAA Division III men's championships. (Kevin Tucker)
John Uppgren has put together back-to-back seasons with over 120 points, helping Tufts win consecutive NCAA Division III men's championships. (Kevin Tucker)

Uppgren is Nike/LM D-III Men's Preseason Player of Year

by Matthew DeFranks | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

In John Uppgren’s wake, you can find a multitude of discarded items. There are defensemen reduced to fallen spectators. There are behind-the-back assists and over-the-shoulder shots, swims and spins. 

And there are goals. Oh, are there goals.

Uppgren scored 76 of them last year, paired with 53 more assists, for back-to-back national champion Tufts on his way to being named Preseason Division III Player of the Year. Uppgren has now topped the 120-point plateau in each of the past two seasons as he’s carved out an integral role in the Jumbos offense. 

“He does one thing a day that surprises us,” Tufts coach Mike Daly said. “It’s just constant with him. It’s just such a joy to be around as a coach. He’s just always looking to get better, always trying different things.”

It’s not just that Uppgren is scoring; it’s how he is doing it. The lefty’s creativity is nearly unmatched, his ability to work successfully in tight spaces a staple of his game. Any time he is around the crease, Uppgren seems to be in a position to score.

It seems excessive to rattle off the list of ways Uppgren can beat a team, but they vary from extra man offense (21 goals in the last two seasons) to the ride (12 caused turnovers in 2015). The blind shots and diving dodges seem almost impossible. 

“It’s really cool being around the freshmen and just hearing them with wide eyes and amazement at some of the things that he tries to do,” Daly said.

Uppgren credits his hockey background in Minnesota for his skills in tight spaces. He was used to a more confined work area than on a bigger lacrosse field. For Uppgren, lacrosse began as a respite from hockey. 

Uppgren’s father started a lacrosse program when John was in fourth grade as a sport to play in the spring and summer, when hockey wasn’t in season. But Uppgren’s passion developed for the game, as did his elite skills.

He continued to play hockey throughout high school, but stopped once he arrived at Tufts. His skills had already built a foundation. You can still find Uppgren at Tufts indoor facility testing out different maneuvers, a bunch of tennis balls his weapons and a box lacrosse net his target. 

Uppgren said he doesn’t have a favorite move from his bag of tricks, just a simple objective.

“Throwing the ball in the net,” Uppgren said. 

For Tufts, Uppgren marks another in a line of dynamic offensive players, including recent attackmen Cole Bailey and Chris Schoenhut. The Jumbos offense has been vital in both their national dominance and NESCAC ownership. Tufts has won six straight conference titles.

Uppgren is the beneficiary of an offensive machine that has churned out 17.6 goals per game across the last two seasons. But he’s also been a driving force behind it. 

“At the end of the day, I think it’s the perfect system for him to play in,” Daly said.

Now, it’s Uppgren’s turn to make sure the Tufts’ infrastructure remains intact once he leaves. That is Daly’s biggest expectation for his senior captain: passing along the same wisdom that a senior class once entrusted to him. 

“Being a great mentor to our younger players, so when his time comes and goes, the program is able to carry on,” Daly said. “I think that’s been a pretty big hallmark of our program.”

Uppgren is also a dean’s list student majoring quantitative economics that was selected in the sixth round of the MLL draft by the Boston Cannons. 

“It’s amazing what he’s accomplished and it’s a joy to be around,” Daly said.

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