Just five minutes into the game against Williams on Saturday, Tufts found itself in a familiar position: playing catch-up to a NESCAC opponent. The Jumbos’ hopes of salvaging their season were put off for another game, as the team dropped its fifth consecutive conference matchup, taking its season record to 6-5-1, and 2-5-1 in the NESCAC.
The lone goal of the day was scored by Williams sophomore left wing Kristi Kirsche, who converted off a well-hit cross to the six from midfielder junior Mai Mitsuyama and sent the ball into the right corner of the net. The Ephs battled to put the game out of reach and controlled the pace of the game, while keeping the pressure on the Jumbos’ half of the field. Williams ended the first half with nine shots compared to Tufts’ five.
“We have a lot of respect for Tufts as a program,” Williams senior tri-captain goalkeeper Hannah Van Wetter said. “They’ve been really, really good, so I think we knew they’d be playing with everything thrown at us, because their season is on the line. [At] the end of the day, the record doesn’t really matter — you have to take care of these games, and the NESCAC is such a competitive league. We had a ton of respect coming into the game for Tufts. That’s why we tried to find that goal early.”
In the 22nd minute, Ephs sophomore Audrey Thomas sent a great ball to the foot of a wide open forward Crystal Lewin, but her shot bounced off the crossbar and her second attempt off the rebound sailed over the net. Before that, a would-be header to Thomas was prevented by Tufts co-captain senior defender Catharine Greer, who took advantage of her size in the matchup. Greer managed to keep the NESCAC’s most prolific scorer off of the scoreboards throughout the duration of the game.
Thomas had scored 10 goals and had 21 points heading into the game against Tufts, which gave her sole possession of first place for points in the NESCAC. Kirsche’s ninth goal of the season against Tufts brings her season totals to 21 points, tying Thomas for the conference lead. The scoring duo has scored 19 of Williams’ 37 goals thus far, and is the offensive cornerstone of a team that has gone 11-1 this season, the sole loss coming at the hands of conference-leading Amherst.
Despite the Ephs’ efforts in the first half, the score remained 1-0 heading into the halftime break. A spirited Tufts team took to the field in the second half, continuously putting pressure on the Ephs’ defense.
“We had some chances early on [in the game] over the top, but [the defense] was really tough to break through, and they figured us out midway, through which made it a lot tougher,” Thomas said. “[I have] to give props to the Tufts defense today. They played really well.”
Sophomore Jess Capone, who is tied with classmate Brooke Fortin as the team’s top goal scorer, was the last person to score for Tufts, netting the lone goal in the team’s 1-0 victory over Endicott on Oct. 7.
Capone continued her strong form on Saturday with a team-high four shots taken, including one on goal. Capone broke away from a pair of Williams’ defenders in the 50th minute, but her shot on goal was saved by Williams’ keeper Van Wetter.
Tufts had another scoring opportunity in the 58th minute off a corner kick on the right side. There was a fumble in the box as Greer’s header was blocked, but Fortin’s second-chance attempt was thwarted by Van Wetter. In the 71st minute Capone took another shot off another right corner, but the ball hit the fingertips of Van Wetter and was pushed out of the goal. Just two minutes later, Capone tried again, but her strike sailed over the top of the post.
With just three games left in the season, Hamilton and Bowdoin remain as the only NESCAC teams Tufts has yet to face. Before finishing the season with games against these conference opponents, Tufts will try to build up its momentum starting next Tuesday, Oct. 21 against UMass.-Boston.