The sweet smell of revenge emanated over Kraft field yesterday afternoon as the women’s soccer team handily defeated the Keene State Owls 3-0 in non-conference action.
The win comes nearly 11 months after the Jumbos came out on the short end of a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the Owls in the regional semifinals of the 2002 NCAA tournament.
“It feels unbelievable,” coach Martha Whiting said. “It just feels really good to win, especially because we’ve been waiting 11 months for this one. People are starting to get healthy again, so we have more girls coming off the bench. Today was a total team effort.”
The win keeps the Jumbos undefeated in non-conference play, upping their record to 8-4 overall and keeping them at 3-4 in the NESCAC heading into this weekend’s bout with the Middlebury Panthers.
From the opening whistle, the Jumbos controlled the tempo, beat Keene to every loose ball, and won the majority of the 50-50 balls in the air. They came out firing on junior goalie Michelle Mason, and it was only a matter of time before they scored.
“Today was amazing,” senior co-captain Abby Herzberg said. “We really wanted the shutout because it’s been too long since we lost to them. We played together, moved together, and just did everything on the field as a team. When we play the way we played today, the sky is the limit.”
That time soon came, with 33:12 left to play in the first. Tufts executed its corner kick once again to perfection. Junior Becky Greenstein took a short corner to classmate and leading scorer Jen Baldwin, who took it up the sideline. She drew a defender and sent the ball back to Greenstein, who sent a cross to senior Jessica Trombly, who was looming with her back to the net.
Trombly rolled the ball under her foot through her defender’s legs to freshman Jenny Muller, who was waiting uncovered on the goal line. Muller ripped a shot into the back of the net that Mason could do nothing to stop to give Tufts a 1-0 lead on the first goal of her collegiate career.
“It’s kind of a relief, because I scored a lot in high school, but I have more of a playmaking role on this team,” Muller said. “It was good to finally score and help out the team.
The Jumbos continued to control every aspect of the game, and seemed to get all the shooting opportunities they wanted on Mason. The defense pushed the Keene State attackers back and was able to easily clear any and all attempts the Owls made in the Tufts zone.
With nine minutes left, the Jumbos were inches away from making it 2-0 when sophomore speedster Sarah Callaghan took the ball down the endline and sent a low cross to freshman Sage Graham who deflected the shot barely an inch above the crossbar and out of bounds.
Tufts’ incessant pressure continued until the final buzzer of the first half, and the 1-0 score was not indicative of the way the two teams matched up.
Tufts came out in the second half with much of the same fire, poised to maintain the shutout and run up the score.
With 36:14 left in the left in the second, Muller struck again. She gained control of the ball on a poor clear by the Owls and knifed through the defense, faking passes to Baldwin and Callaghan. With only the goalie to beat, she sent a perfect chip shot through the air into the side of the net. Mason stood there, stunned that the ball didn’t sail wide, as Muller and the rest of the squad celebrated.
“It was great,” Whiting said. “We’ve all seen potential for her to score goals, and for it to happen today, it was very special.”
Despite a 2-0 lead, the Jumbos weren’t about to stop the onslaught of the slow, tired Owls. With 23:38 left in regulation, Greenstein and junior Sarah Gelb added one more. Greenstein hustled to the ball and sent a perfect cross to Gelb, who was waiting wide open in front of the net. Gelb dribbled past Mason and tapped the ball into the net to put the icing on the cake for Tufts.
With 13:40 left in the game, Tufts almost made it 4-0. Trombly sprinted past everybody and sent a holy cross to Baldwin, who drilled it into the back of the net but the goal was taken away as the ref called Baldwin offside.
Over the next 1:40, Trombly and the Jumbos had three golden opportunities to add to their lead, but Mason and the defense sent all back.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Jumbos had picked up their most decisive victory of the season, 3-0.
The Jumbos look to get back on track in the NESCAC this Saturday at home against the fifth place Middlebury Panthers.