Tufts entered its two-game weekend schedule with a must-win mentality against NESCAC opponents. In two away contests, Tufts fell just short against Conn. College, conceding a late-game goal to lose 1-0, and found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-0 loss to Trinity. With the pair of losses the Jumbos fall to 6-4-1 on the season and just 2-4-1 in the NESCAC, tying them with the Bantams for eighth place in the 11-team conference.
On Saturday, the Jumbos traveled to Hartford, Conn. to play the Conn. College Camels. Facing the harshest conditions of the season thus far with temperatures in the low 50s, Tufts was unable to score in front of Conn. College’s homecoming crowd. With the win, the Camels’ 5-1-0 conference record launches them into second place in the NESCAC, tied with the Williams Ephs.
Tufts junior Allie Weiller broke free in a one-on-one situation with the Conn. College keeper, sophomore Bryanna Montalvo, for Tufts’ best chance to break the scoreless stalemate in the 82nd minute, but Montalvo sprinted out off her line and dove to make a punch save. Conn. College forward Annie Higgins, a sophomore, scored off a corner kick with a header just a minute later. The team then held off Tufts’ attempts to take the game into overtime.
“Conn. College was another rainy game [and] it was their homecoming,” sophomore defender Alexa Pius said. “We came out a little bit slow but it was an even match; we both had our chances and it was one of those days that anything can happen. I really would have liked to send [the game] into overtime because I feel that given one more chance we could have put [the game] away, and have that game end in a win.”
The Camels held a slight advantage over the Jumbos in shots, notching 14 to the Jumbos’ 11, and were able to take advantage of opportunities under pressure, a problem that has plagued the Jumbos’ attack over the past two weeks.
Arguably the turning point of the season was the Sept. 23 game against Suffolk, when senior forward Alex Farris suffered a season-ending injury. The Jumbos have gone 2-4 since then after a 4-0-1 start to the season. The attack line, missing the leadership and experience of Farris, has scored just three goals since then and remained scoreless in all four losses. The team remains positive, relying in part on their sophomore defenders — Pius and Stefanie Brunswick — to initiate the attack.
“[The scoring chances] have been slipping by, but I don’t think it’s any indication of [how we play] moving forward,” Pius said.
The Jumbos had a chance at redemption on Sunday against Trinity, but a slow start put them in an early 2-0 hole from which they were unable to recover from.
“The loss on Saturday really pushed us, and motivated us,” Pius said. “Instead of waiting a whole week until Saturday, [we had] the opportunity to improve and prove ourselves within 24 hours. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result on Sunday. We’re headed into the later half of the season and every game is so crucial to our standings in the NESCAC.”
The Bantams scored two goals within a minute of each other. In the 27th minute, sophomore Laura Nee came down the right side of the field and played a ball into the box. The ball ended up on the foot of Karyn Barrett who netted her team-leading sixth goal of the season. Just a minute later, Nee scored herself, sending the ball sailing past a Tufts defender and sophomore goalkeeper Eileen McGarry.
“They held on to the ball better and we didn’t do as great of a job playing our possession game,” sophomore midfielder Robin Estus said. “We struggled in that half to keep the pressure on [Trinity] and get the ball back [and] we were turning the ball over a lot. Coach [Martha Whiting] was disappointed in the way we played, but also positive in terms of pushing on. We had two options — to give up or to keep fighting. In the second half we really stepped up — unfortunately it was too late.”
Trinity senior tri-captain Elisa Dolan scored an insurance goal early in the second half and held off any Tufts comeback attempts late in the game.
The Jumbos have just four games left in the regular season, three of which are against conference opponents. Despite its recent slump in the NESCAC of late, the team is confident that there is still time to change its fate before the postseason arrives.
“It’s the quality of the competition,” Pius said. “I don’t think our mentality has really changed, it’s a matter of need[ing] to capitialize on the chances we get. When we play quality competition, the chances are fewer. At the beginning of the season, we had the chances to get warmed up against teams that aren’t as highly ranked. We had like 20 opportunities and we were able to convert on a lot of them. When you play teams that are really evenly matched [and] both have talented players, it comes down to heart. We’re not intimidated at all by anybody. We are a talented team [and] we have the potential to win in any given situation. It’s really about who shows up that day.”