Though the Tufts women’s soccer team began its NESCAC slate with losses to both Middlebury and Amherst, it knew that, while losing the games, it played tough against two of the best teams in the region — if not the country. The Jumbos remained confident that they could bounce back from the two losses and regain the form that has made them a perennial contender for the NESCAC crown.
After Wednesday night’s 3-0 drubbing of Conn. College, the team’s fourth straight NESCAC victory, the conference throne may be closer than ever before for Tufts.
“It was really important for us not to get down after the early losses,” junior midfielder Geneva DeGregorio said. “From the beginning of the season, we’ve tried to take one game at a time and not look back.”
The Jumbos got off to a quick start against the Camels, with senior co-captain Whitney Hardy finishing a cross from senior forward Ali Maxwell just four minutes into the game.
“Conn. College came out really hard and was hoping to have a chance,” sophomore defender Cleo Hirsh said. “They haven’t had much success in the NESCAC this season, and they were probably hoping to get out and get a win. So right away that one goal affected them a lot, because they realized that today wasn’t going to be their day.”
Just over 10 minutes later, Hardy would strike again. After a miscue by Conn. College goalie Jenna Ross in the Camels’ box, senior co-captain Cara Cadigan fed Hardy, who scored her fifth goal of the season.
“Whitney’s been doing a really good job of crashing the goals and putting herself in the right place at the right time,” DeGregorio said.
The Jumbos, however, would not be satisfied with sitting on a 2-0 lead and kept pressuring the Camels. Tufts outshot Conn. College 12-5 in the first half, and with a little over 27 minutes on the clock, junior defender Sarah Nolet would add to the lead. Off a corner kick from sophomore midfielder Lauren O’Connor, the 6-foot-tall Nolet, the team’s best aerial threat, headed the ball past Ross to make the score 3-0.
“We attacked from all points on the field: from the defense all the way forward,” said Hirsch. “We were connecting well with our teammates, we had high energy on the ball, and we were being creative and taking chances.”
The second half featured no goals, though Conn. College put up more of an offense than it did in the first half. The Camels outshot the Jumbos 6-5 in the second 45 minutes, but senior goalie Kate Minnehan was up to the task, making four saves in the last half to preserve the score.
The shutout was the fourth straight for Tufts in NESCAC play. The team has not allowed a goal to a conference opponent since the 52nd minute of the Sept. 19 match against Amherst — a span of over 400 minutes. On Wednesday, the defense once again was superb, disrupting Conn. College’s flow of attack and preventing the Camels from getting any real chances on net.
“We’ve been keeping our shape really well,” Hirsch said. “If someone goes in to make a tackle and isn’t successful, there’s always someone backing them up. There’s just a lot of support all over the defensive line, so there are no holes.”
The victory also marked Tufts’ tenth consecutive win over Conn. College, five of which have been shutouts.
Though Tufts knows it played well against the Camels, who are still winless in NESCAC competition at 0-6, it will have to continue to improve in anticipation of Saturday’s match-up with Trinity College. The Jumbos will try to build on their conference winning record and continue their shutout streak on Saturday against a team that defeated them 2-1 last year. The Bantams come into the game with a 3-3-2 record (2-3-1 in NESCAC) and are two spots below Tufts in the conference standings.
A win for Trinity would go a long way toward securing a first-round home game in the conference tournament, while a win for Tufts would move the Jumbos closer to the only teams that have scored on them in conference play: Middlebury and Amherst.
“Trinity is always a strong opponent, but we’re looking forward to redeeming ourselves for last year’s loss,” DeGregorio said.