In its final regular season home game, Tufts honored its seniors on Senior Day by beating Hamilton on Bello Field Saturday afternoon. The 3-2 win caps off a three-game winning streak for the Jumbos as they try to build momentum ahead of next month’s NESCAC tournament.
The game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate, as Tufts dominated play for most of the game against a Hamilton team that is 2-7 in conference play this season. The No. 9 ranked Jumbos quickly established a lead, scoring just over five minutes into the first half.
Fittingly, it was senior co-captain midfielder Brittany Norfleet, honored just before the game along with senior co-captain goalkeeper Bri Keenan and defender Colleen Golja, who struck first. Dribbling into the circle and evading several Continental defenders, Norfleet fired a shot into the back left corner of the net to put her team up early.
The Jumbos kept up the pressure in the opening minutes, keeping the ball in the Continentals’ half of the field and unleashing a series of shots. The Hamilton defense staved off a number of threats, including when defender first-year Alyson Skelly made a defensive save in front of the goal on a shot from junior midfielder Dakota Sikes-Keilp.
The next Tufts score came from an unlikely source. Continuing the theme of big contributions from seniors on Senior Day, Golja, who has anchored the Jumbo defense this season, put home a penalty stroke in the 16th minute for the 2-0 lead. The goal was just her second of the season and the second of her collegiate career.
“The seniors have been amazing leaders for the team,” junior midfielder Maggie Chapman told the Daily in an email. “From day one they have pushed us to be better and work harder. We truly have an awesome team dynamic this year on and off the field, something for which the seniors are responsible. I think that it is only fitting that our first two goals were scored by seniors yesterday.
Despite continued offensive attacks from Tufts, the score remained 2-0 going into the half. The Jumbos held a 14-6 shot advantage and a 4-2 edge in penalty corners in the first period, effectively keeping the Continentals on their heels.
Tufts began to ease up in the second half, however, though the team maintained the lead until the end.
“We played very well in the first half and had some really nice passing patterns, but unfortunately didn’t play as composed in the second half,” junior midfielder Rachel Terveer said.
Midway through the second half, the Continentals capitalized on an opportunity and pulled within one. Keenan saved the initial shot by Hamilton first-year Katie Guzzetta, but Guzzetta was able to recover the deflection and push it past Keenan for the score.
Junior forward Allison Rolfe then quickly reestablished the two-goal lead for the Jumbos. Tufts immediately went on the attack after the restart, and after a series of shots from Terveer the ball deflected off Hamilton keeper Victoria Trentini to Rolfe, who knocked it in for her first goal of the season.
The Continentals would strike one more time before the final whistle, when Guzzetta found sophomore teammate Eva Rosencrans with a pass in the circle, and the latter put it in to narrow the tally to 3-2 with just over five minutes to play. Despite Hamilton pulling its goalie in the final two minutes, Tufts held on for the win.
With the win, the Jumbos move to 6-3 in the NESCAC and 11-3 overall, where they are in sole possession of fifth place in the conference. The NESCAC teams are all finishing up their regular seasons this week, though regardless of the outcomes of this week’s games, Tufts’ seeding for the tournament is set — the team will not be able to catch Amherst or Trinity, who both beat Tufts, and Williams won’t be able to catch Tufts from below.
Nevertheless, next Saturday’s competition against Bowdoin may very well be the most important match-up of the season for Tufts. As the defending national champions and national No. 2, the Polar Bears seem to be at the top of their game, having been bested only by an impressive Trinity Banthams team in a close overtime game this season.
“This week we are working on pulling everything together,” Chapman told the Daily in an email. “We are fine-tuning our system, and just building our confidence up so that we can be mentally tough, as Bowdoin is always an exceptional team, and this year will be no different.”
“[We’ll be] definitely watching a lot of game film and trying to learn their style of play so we can match up well against them,” added Terveer.
A win against Bowdoin in the season finale would be a huge confidence booster and momentum builder for Tufts, and it could be the key to a deep run not only in the NESCAC tournament but in the following NCAA tournament as well. The feat would be difficult but not impossible for this Jumbos team.