In 2012, the Tufts women’s soccer team scored just 14 goals all season long. This year, the Jumbos have nearly equaled that total in just two games after a 6-0 thrashing of the Bates Bobcats on Saturday and a 4-0 routing of the MIT Engineers on Wednesday.
The No. 15 Engineers came into the matchup with four wins under their belts. In their last meeting with the Jumbos in 2013, the Engineers came away with a 2-1 victory. But Tufts was quick to show MIT that it was a new team, getting on the scoreboard just eight minutes into the game when sophomore forward Jess Capone converted on a through ball from senior Alex Farris on the left side of the box. The goal was the first conceded by MIT all season but was just the first of four conceded on the day by MIT goalie Lauren Ullmann.
“We scout [our opponents] when we can, obviously we know what’s going on [with] whoever we’re playing,” junior forward Allie Weiller said of the team’s pregame preparations. “But for our team, we try to take each game one at a time. Any day any team can win, [so] it’s really great to go in with confidence.”
Four different Jumbos scored against the Engineers, and freshman Mariah Harvey-Brown added two more assists, bringing her total to five on the year. The second goal came in the 23rd minute, off a corner kick from senior co-captain Carla Kruyff that found the head of fellow co-captain Catharine Greer, who rose above the defense to head the ball into the back of the net for her second goal of the season. Weiller’s goal in the 51st minute extended Tufts’ lead and sophomore Sarah Pykkonen’s goal in the waning minutes was the final nail in the coffin for MIT.
With an abridged roster of just 19 people (reduced to 18 this past Wednesday with junior center back Nicole Campellone sitting out due to injury), the game against MIT saw multiple players step up. This was especially true for Tufts’ defense, which had been spread thin following the loss of Campellone and due to the second half absence of Greer, who left the game with an injury.
Senior Victoria Stoj, typically a staple in the forward line, was inserted into the back line against MIT, a testament to her versatility. Capone, who played all 90 minutes of the game, was outstanding on both sides of the field. She not only opened up the scoring, but also added crucial contributions on defense, beating everyone down the field in the 79th minute to clear the ball and prevent an MIT goal. Two freshmen, Chandler Quinton and Margret Zahrah, played their first collegiate minutes during the game, substituting for co-captains Kruyff and Greer, respectively, just over 30 minutes into the first half.
“Catharine Greer, who is like our world, she hurt her knee 20 minutes in and she didn’t come back in, which was scary,” head coach Martha Whiting said. “We had a freshman play back there and it’s definitely challenging.”
With 28 players on their roster, MIT used 16 substitutions during the game to keep their players fresh. This strategy nearly paid off in the second half with Tufts running low on energy. With the Jumbos leading 3-0, the Engineers failed to capitalize on three opportunities to tie the score, one of which saw Tufts goalkeeper McGarry parry a hard, low shot from MIT senior tri-captain Ambika Krishnamachar in the 57th minute.
“I thought that our backs did a great job just considering the fact that [Stoj] and [Quinton] were playing out of position and at that point of the game, we didn’t have a lot of subs,” Whiting said. “But I really thought that they gutted it out.”
Just five minutes before McGarry’s save, a one-on-one matchup between McGarry and MIT’s Olivia Struckman drew arguably the sophomore goalkeeper’s most impressive save of the day. McGarry honed in on the approaching Struckman and stood her ground, waiting for Struckman to make her move before clearing the ball to the left of the post. McGarry, who did not play as a freshman behind four-year starter Kristen Roberts (LA ’14), has shown tremendous confidence over the last two games, earning her second shutout in as many starts.
“I think that [McGarry] is playing on instinct. At that position if you think too much and over-analyze you become tentative,” Whiting said. “Eileen is a very good, natural goalkeeper and just has [that] instinct.”
The win against MIT comes after a historic win on Saturday, in which Tufts opened the season with six goals against Bates, scoring the most goals in a conference game since the team’s 6-0 victory over Conn. College on Oct. 28, 2007. The Jumbos outshot the Bobcats 19-13 overall, and they had 12 shots on goal compared to the Bobcats’ four.
The Jumbos had five goal scorers in the game, with sophomore Brooke Fortin scoring twice. Joining her were seniors Nikki Blank, Weiller, Pykkonen and Greer. Harvey-Brown tied a Tufts record with three assists, the only three recorded throughout the game, in her collegiate debut.
The two convincing wins may well signify that Tufts will no longer be the underdogs in the NESCAC, following the team’s strong NESCAC tournament showing last season, where it defeated the third seed Bowdoin en route to its first semifinal berth since 2009.
With the pressure mounting, a phenomenon common to teams on the rise, Tufts has adopted a new keyword for the season: fun.
“Playing just for the fun of the game is one of our keywords this year, we just want to have fun when we’re out there,” Weiller said. “Just having that thought when we’re out there, just playing the game that we’ve always wanted to play, it makes everything so much better and so much easier.”