Jumbos split weekend games against NESCAC rivals

Tufts sophomore back Lena Chang charges forward with the ball on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Evan Sayles / Tufts Daily Archive

Following its win against MIT on Sept. 29, Tufts looked to carry its momentum into its two away games this weekend against NESCAC rivals No. 15 Amherst on Saturday and Hamilton on Sunday. The Jumbos emerged victorious 1-0 against the Lord Jeffs but dropped Sunday’s contest to the Continentals by the same score.  

Tufts struggled to maintain pressure against Hamilton. The game remained scoreless, however, until junior Continental Becca Rees sent a shot straight into the top right corner of the net, over the Jumbos’ defense.

“Obviously double headers are difficult,” Tufts junior midfielder Robin Estus said. “It takes a lot of energy out of you, especially on the road. We were a little slow coming out against Hamilton, [and] we couldn’t really find a rhythm. They had a free kick early in the second half, and their player ripped it into the top corner of our goal [so] no one could’ve stopped it.”

The Jumbos struggled offensively on Sunday, managing only three shots against the Continentals, who took 13 shots on the day. First-year goalkeeper Emily Bowers’ performance was strong, as she collected five saves in the loss and allowed one. The Tufts offense, which clicked against Amherst the day before, struggled to set the same pace against the impressive Hamilton defense.

“I think our movement off the ball was the best it’s been all season against Amherst [on Saturday], and we lost that Sunday,” Estus said. “That’s one big thing we’ve been working on a lot, the forward runs, and checking to the ball and creating space so we always have options and aren’t getting trapped in tight spaces. As hard as it is, it’s going to make the difference against these teams.”

The Jumbos’ game plan is to keep constant pressure on opposing teams’ defenses as they look to improve offensively to maintain the defensive synergy that has helped them so far this season.

“We focus on applying pressure, which we’ve been doing throughout the whole season, as well as attacking,” Bowers said. “We really work on movement, different runs and passing.”

Saturday’s game against the Lord Jeffs was marked by consistent defense from the Jumbos, who owe a lot of their early success this season to Bowers. Bowers notched seven saves in the game, and her weekend efforts were recognized with NESCAC Player of the Week honors.

Bowers has been the surprise of the season for the Jumbos, who now look to her as the center of an already solid defense. Over the past three games, she has allowed just one goal and has posted an astonishing .929 save percentage in a full 270 minutes of action.

“Being the starting goalie is pretty awesome,” Bowers said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it, but it’s been an amazing adjustment with the four defenders in front of me. They’ve helped me so much, [and] the senior leadership has helped so much.”

Junior Jess Capone scored the only Tufts goal of the day in the 27th minute of the game, marking her second game-winning goal of the year. The Jumbos managed 13 shots in the game, nine of which were on goal — demonstrative of the team’s focus on keeping pressure on their opponents’ defense.

“It was an amazing game, [and Jess Capone’s] goal was amazing,” Bowers said. “The whole 90 minutes was intense, and you could feel it on the field. Everyone was so excited, because we knew Amherst was going to be a huge game.”

The Jumbos are now 4-5 on the season, but more importantly, they currently sit at 3-3 in NESCAC play. Tufts is looking for a potential home-field berth into the NESCAC championships later this season and will return home this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 10 against Middlebury at 1:30 p.m.