Tufts suffers first loss of the season

Sophomore forward Brooke Fortin shoots across the field during the team's 2-0 loss to Amherst on Saturday Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The women’s soccer team suffered its first loss of the season this Saturday at the hands of Amherst, as a 0-0 stalemate at halftime turned into a two-goal second half deficit from which Tufts was unable to recover. With the loss, the Jumbos drop  to 4-1-1 on the season, and join Conn. College, Amherst and Williams with one loss apiece behind league leader Bowdoin, which is now the only undefeated team left in the conference.

With Amherst’s sole loss coming at the hands of Bowdoin, a team that Tufts has yet to play, there was no clear favorite in Saturday’s matchup. Both teams had shown strong play on both ends of the field, recording wins by large margins while conceding just three goals between them all season.

The game was a tale of two halves for the Jumbos, who took all of their shots in the first half, outshooting the Lord Jeffs 8-5 in the first 45 minutes of the game. The second-half saw a rapid change of momentum as the Lord Jeffs were able to put pressure on the Jumbos’ defense, maintaining possession in the Jumbos’ half of the field for most of the remaining time.

The game started with aggressive play on both sides, with the Lord Jeffs taking their first shot less than three minutes into the game and the Jumbos taking their first shot less than five minutes later. The Jumbos, however, were unable to convert on their early opportunities. The play of sophomore striker Jess Capone, freshman left wing Mariah Harvey-Brown and right wing sophomore Brooke Fortin created an opportunity in the 14th minute that drew Amherst goalie, junior Holly Burwick, out of goal, but Harvey-Brown’s shot at the open goal sailed wide of the right post.

“We came out exceptionally hard in the first half, and the weather wasn’t necessarily something we were used to playing in, so we weren’t entirely used to it,” junior forward Allie Weiller said. “Amherst started picking up on what we like to do out wide and up top. They came out with a fire in the second half, and we just weren’t able to match that. Amherst was able to get the ball into the back of the net, but we just weren’t able to capitalize on our [first half] opportunities.”

The Lord Jeffs started the second half with a fervor that the Jumbos were unable to match. As the temperature climbed above 80 degrees, the Lord Jeffs took eight shots in the second half while holding the Jumbos to zero.

Amherst’s first goal came at the 61st minute, off the foot of junior Megan Kim on an assist from classmate Rachael Abernethy. The ball bounced between players’ feet and Tufts’ sophomore goalie Eileen McGarry‘s fingertips several times before Kim slipped the ball past McGarry into the back of the net.

The Lord Jeffs scored again in the 83rd minute, squashing all hopes of a late comeback by the Jumbos. Amherst Freshman Hannah Guzzi found herself in a one-on-one matchup with McGarry, breaking away from the Tufts forwards after a pass from junior Jessy Hale.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game coming in [because] Tufts is doing really well this year,” Amherst coach Jen Hughes said. “They’re always athletic and composed and very strong, so we knew we had to do a couple of things. Tufts was ahead of us going into this game, so for us it’s a huge win.”

A worrying trend for the Jumbos was the lack of chemistry between the forwards, who were playing their first full game without senior forward Alex Farris, who was injured in last week’s game against Suffolk. Mid-way through the first half, Harvey-Brown took the ball up the field off a long pass from junior defender Nicole Campellone, but while under pressure by the Amherst defense was unable to find any of her teammates to help maintain possession of the ball on the Amherst half of the field. The trend continued in the second half, during which the forwards’ attempts to bring the ball close to the goal were turned away by the Lord Jeffs defense.

Despite the loss, senior co-captain Catherine Greer was back in the starting lineup after missing two-and-a-half games due to an MCL sprain, a timely return that saw her perform well on both sides of the field. Midfielder and co-captain senior Carla Kruyff sent a corner ball to the far post in the 30th minute, but Greer’s header was saved by Burwick. On defense, Greer and Campellone were forced to clear the ball off the line on many Amherst corner kick attempts, with the team recording eight corners to Tufts’ four.

For Amherst, the game was about avenging their 2-1 loss to Tufts last fall, while proving that they deserved to be at the top of the NESCAC.

“[Amherst’s 2-1 loss to Tufts last fall] was definitely something we touched on as a team,” Amherst senior tri-captain Meghan Mills said. “It was bitter, but it got us excited for the game. [This game] just reaffirmed how competitive the NESCAC really is — almost every team has had a loss. It was a big game for us obviously, since Tufts was undefeated, and it shows how this is going to be anyone’s year, really. We wanted to prove, by winning this game, that we deserve to be at the top of the NESCAC.”

For the Jumbos, this game was just another setback for them to overcome. With the season nearing the midway mark, the team is confident that it still has time to prove it is ready to contend with the best.

“We want to be a force to be reckoned with in the NESCAC, and [this game] really lights a fire,” Weiller said. “We really want to beat every team we can, and we’ll have a second chance to play Amherst and show them what we’ve got. It’s our first loss and we’re going to take this loss in our stride. We’ll find a way to fight for our next win so that we never have to feel that way again. We can’t get bogged down [by the loss], we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”

The Jumbos’ season continues tomorrow with an 8p.m. kickoff at Lesley University.