The women’s soccer team scored three unanswered goals against Hamilton on Saturday, erasing a one-goal first half deficit to defeat Hamilton 4-2 in its second-to-last regular season game. Sophomores Jess Capone and Brook Fortin each scored two goals to bring the team’s record to 3-5-1 in the NESCAC and 7-5-2 overall.
“Coming back in the second half was the most memorable moment of the game,” Capone said. “Not only that, we came back to take the lead, which was a really emotional win because it was senior day [and the last home game of the season].”
In a markedly different start to their four previous NESCAC games, the Jumbos got on the board early with a goal from Capone in the 14th minute off an assist from senior co-captain Carla Kruyff. A combined effort from Fortin and senior midfielder Nikki Blank earned the Jumbos a corner kick, and Kruyff’s corner kick found a perfectly positioned Capone who headed the ball into the net for the first goal of the day.
Hamilton was the more aggressive team in the game, while Tufts was the more efficient one. Hamilton tallied 13 shots in the game, and out-shot Tufts 8-3 in the first half. Even then, however, the Continentals only led by one heading into the half.
Hamilton’s aggressive play did pay off initially, as the Continentals scored the final two goals of the first half. The Continentals’ first goal came off a free kick near the low right side of the box where junior Becca Rees found open first-year Katie Kreider sprinting from the top of the box. Hamilton’s second goal, scored with less than ten minutes left in the half, broke the stalemate. The combined play of Hamilton first-year Katja Dunlap and senior Rachel Hirsch drew the Tufts defenders away from teammate first-year Dary Philbrick, whose one-timer slid inside the near post to give the Continentals a 2-1 lead after the first 45 minutes.
The second half, however, featured a drastic change of pace, as the full potential of a cohesive and dynamic Tufts team was finally on display. The Jumbos scored three unanswered goals, showing their strong play on both sides of the field. The team took only four shots in the second half compared to the Continentals’ five, but found the back of the net on three of the four attempts.
The Jumbos’ successful attack was a result of the forward line finally finding its rhythm, connecting passes and creating opportunities by controlling possession of the ball. First-year Mariah Harvey-Brown‘s seventh assist of the season (tying her for most assists in the NESCAC) came in the 63rd minute of play deep in the right corner, and she was able to create enough space for a Fortin header that tied the game at 2.
“We didn’t let being down a goal at halftime deter our goals, and we just came out really strong,” sophomore defender Stephanie Brunswick said.
“It’s been really refreshing over the past practices, and [we] focused on drills based on what happens when we’re down … We’re just really proud of ourselves to keep a positive mentality. It was senior day and [we were] playing for our seniors, to let them go out on Kraft field with a bang.”
Both Hamilton and Tufts had come into the matchup in a must-win situation, battling for the final places in the NESCAC Championship that will be played over the Nov. 1 – 2 weekend. Hamilton had a 3-5-0 conference record, but slip to 3-6-0 with the loss, tied with Bates for the eighth and final spot. Tufts had come into the matchup with a 2-5-1 conference record, but their NESCAC hopes were revitalized against Hamilton — the win propelled them into a tie for sixth place in the conference.
“We knew that if we wanted to make it through to the NESCAC [Championship], we had to win this game, so that’s what we were playing for,” Capone said. “But we also wanted to play for each other.”
If the conference championship were to be played right now, the Jumbos would have secured a chance at the title, matched against either Amherst, Bowdoin or Conn. College. But one game still remains in the regular season, as Bates, Hamilton and Colby will be looking to usurp Tufts in the rankings. Wesleyan, sitting steadily at the bottom of the conference after going winless thus far, is the only team that has already kissed its tournament hopes goodbye.
The last game of the season will be an away matchup against Bowdoin, a team that currently holds a 7-2-0 record in the NESCAC, but the team believes that its performance against Hamilton is indicative that the team can indeed compete with the best.
“Once you get into the NESCAC tournament it’s a clean slate for everyone, and it’s anyone’s game at that point,” Brunswick said. “I mean, our goal is to get as far as we can [in the NESCAC Championship] and that we can win. ‘Why not us?’ is kind of our model right now.”