After five games undefeated, Jumbos drop two of three

Junior forward Brooke Fortin fights for the ball against her opponent. Fortin recorded one assist against Colby on Saturday, Sept. 12. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

After starting the season with a 4-1 record, the Jumbos have dropped two of their last three games, bringing their season record to 5-2-1. The Jumbos suffered their first loss of the season on Homecoming against Amherst. They bounced back a couple of days later with a 2-1 victory on the road against Lesley before finding themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 loss to Middlebury.

Against Middlebury on Saturday, Tufts conceded a goal from senior midfielder Claire Nishioka in the 77th minute off a cross from teammate junior Hannah Robinson.

“[The goal was scored off a cross from the outside,” Tufts sophomore Alexa Pius said. “There was a scramble in the box and [the ball] popped out. We initially defended it well, but there was a [Middlebury] player waiting just outside the 18 and she had a great shot. It was a tough shot to defend.”

Tufts had difficulties with the attack, taking just three shots compared to Middlebury’s 15.

“It was raining and the conditions were tough, but it was a matter of playing a solid 45 minutes in the second half,” Pius said. “We got a little disconnected through the midfield, [so] we had some trouble building our play and playing our style. On a day like today, [the ball] was bouncing [and] it was skipping in the pouring rain. We had our chances, [but] we didn’t get it done.”

The reverse was true earlier in the week against Lesley, where Tufts took an easy 2-0 lead on two goals from freshman Mariah Harvey-Brown before allowing a goal in the 77th minute for a final score of 2-1. With the win, the Jumbos halted the Lynx’s unbeaten home streak at 23.

The Jumbos built up a lead early on with a goal from Harvey-Brown in the 14th minute. She scored on a deflected ball after sophomore Robin Estus’ initial shot on goal was blocked by Lesley keeper, junior Jackie Berard.

Harvey-Brown scored what proved to be the game winner in the 67th minute on a one-timer off a pass inside the box from sophomore Jess Capone. The Lynx later cut the lead to one score on a goal by Alexis Giusti, and threatened to take the game into overtime with the Jumbos playing a man down after senior co-captain Catharine Greer was sent off the field with a red card.

“We had a little bit of a tougher time on the turf, and getting used to that,” sophomore defender Stefanie Brunswick said. “[But] after 15 minutes, I think we changed our game to fit how we need to play on the turf. It wasn’t necessarily pretty soccer, but we supported each other and just went after [the win].”

Tufts now holds a season record of 5-2-1, but with both losses of the season coming at the hands of NESCAC opponents the team has now fallen to the sixth position in the conference, with Bowdoin and Amherst tied for first (with five wins apiece) and Conn. College, Williams and Bates tied for third (with three wins each). The Tufts attack has been stellar this season, the Jumbos being the only team since 1980 to score more than 20 goals over the first five games of the season, but their inconsistent performance against other NESCAC schools has been troubling.

The three games that Tufts has not won (two losses and a tie) have all been against NESCAC opponents. Middlebury had come into the matchup against Tufts having won just one NESCAC game, a narrow 1-0 victory over Colby, a team Tufts beat 3-1. Against Wesleyan, Tufts was unable to pull ahead, eventually settling for a tie against a team sitting firmly at the bottom of the NESCAC, having lost all of its conference matchups besides the tie against Tufts.

But the Jumbos have played just half of their conference games, and still have both the time and the talent to push ahead in the NESCAC.

Tufts dismantled Bates 6-0 in its season opener, a team that is now ranked ahead of it in the NESCAC. The team is still a long way from its chance to beat conference-leading Bowdoin, which will play Tufts in the final game of the regular season. The true test for the Jumbos will come on Oct. 11 and 12, when the team plays two back-to-back away games against conference opponents Conn. College and Trinity.

“This weekend we have two more NESCAC games against Conn. College and Trinity,” Brunswick said. “We’re all looking forward to these upcoming games, creating another momentum shift and getting back on that win streak.”

In the meantime, the team will take on Endicott at home on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.