The field hockey team began the day upset about its latest snub in the NFHCA coaches’ poll and nearly ended it victim to a major upset.
Despite outshooting unranked Babson 30-4, nationally ranked No. 3 Tufts barely hung on for a narrow 2-1 victory yesterday afternoon at Bello Field, improving to 2-0 on the season. The Jumbos peppered Beavers sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Pashos with 15 shots in the second half, but not one found the back of the cage as the team was forced to try to make two first-period goals stand.
“It’s a confidence booster to start off 2-0, but we know that [yesterday] was not a good game for us,” junior forward Tamara Brown said. “We must have outshot them a million to a little, and we should have had a lot more than two goals. We just looked kind of lethargic out there.”
“We had a lot of opportunities, but we just weren’t converting on them,” senior co-captain Margi Scholtes added. “We had shots hitting the post, shots going a tad wide and hitting feet in the circle — our touch just wasn’t the greatest.”
The win came hours after the team was, once again, denied in its bid for the No. 1 spot in the Div. III national rankings. Despite losses by No. 1 Bowdoin and No. 3 Ursinus and a Tufts 3-1 victory at then-No. 7 Middlebury over the weekend, the Jumbos actually slipped from second to third in the most recent coaches’ poll. Leapfrogging Tufts were Messiah and Salisbury, neither of which was ranked in the top three of the previous poll. Yesterday was the latest disappointment for a squad that peaked at No. 2 last year despite posting the only undefeated regular season in the nation.
“We’re used to it from last year, being frustrated every week,” Brown said. “But it’s been kind of an ongoing thing with our team that coaches’ polls don’t mean anything. In a way it’s almost better not to be up top because we can fly under the radar a bit.”
Tufts appeared to take firm control of yesterday’s contest with a strong first half, in which it outshot Babson 15-1 and notched goals by Brown and senior co-captain Amanda Russo. But the Jumbos couldn’t capitalize on nine penalty corners and a plethora of other chances to put the game away in the final 35 minutes, as a sprawling Pashos made seven second-half saves. Spanning two victories this season, Tufts has outshot its opponents 47-10 but outscored them by just a 5-2 margin.
“I think we’re doing a great job of being aggressive and getting in there, but we’re just not sometimes making the right decisions,” coach Tina McDavitt said. “It was obvious that the goalie on the other team was going down every time, so the obvious answer is to lift it, and we weren’t doing that. We need to do a better job of figuring out what the other team is doing and making adjustments.”
“The forwards were having trouble lifting the ball, myself included,” Russo added. “There was a lot of pressure from the defense, so you had to take an extra second to get low to get the lift on the ball, and that was one we were definitely having trouble doing. I think that’s definitely one reason we weren’t as successful as we should have been in the circle.”
The Beavers cut the deficit to one with 29:41 left to play on a tally off a penalty corner by freshman forward Kelly Walsh. But with Tufts putting almost constant pressure on its defense, Babson registered just two shots on goal the entire game.
The Jumbos will have the rest of the week off before returning to Bello Field on Saturday for a critical early-season NESCAC showdown against No. 16 Amherst. The Lord Jeffs entered the national polls yesterday following their stunning 2-0 victory over two-time defending national champion Bowdoin last Saturday. Buoyed by the strong play of reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year Emily Vitale in net, Amherst has won its first two games by a combined score of 10-0.
“Amherst is always a good team, and I feel like we’ve always battled with them,” McDavitt said. “Last year we played really well in our game against them, and the [4-0] score was indicative of that. We’ve kind of gone back and forth with them almost every year, so I’m expecting a really good game. They always have a great team. I think they’re returning some of their key players, so it should be a real battle on Saturday.”