Panthers hold Jumbos to double OT draw

(Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily) Tufts co-captain and defender Nicole Campellone attempts to steal the ball from a Lesley player on Sept. 9.

Tufts was held to a 1-1 draw by Middlebury after double overtime at Kraft Field on Saturday as part of Tufts’ Homecoming Weekend. The result brings the Jumbos to 4-5-1 this year and 3-3-1 in NESCAC. On Senior Day, coach Martha Whiting paid tribute to the team’s three seniors — forward Allie Weiller and co-captains Emily Morton, a goal keeper, and Nicole Campellone, a center-back. 

“The three seniors have played such a huge role in everything we’ve done in the last four years, [and] if anything else, the players and the team are playing for those three girls today, because they deserve it,” Whiting said. “They’ve put their heart and soul into creating a culture on this team that is second to none. I’m so proud of everything that they’ve built and I just want to see them succeed.”

Middlebury coach Peter Kim also acknowledged the competitive nature of the game against Tufts.

“Tufts is one of our most difficult opponents; they’re strong, they’re fast, they’re athletic and the homecoming emotion always plays in their favor,” he said.

The Jumbos started the game tentatively, giving the ball away under immense pressure from the Panthers. Middlebury attacked down the wings, with Tufts junior fullbacks Stephanie Brunswick and Brooke Fortin seemingly unable to cope early on. The first chance of the game fell to Middlebury, which forced a smart save from first-year goalkeeper Emily Bowers — last week’s NESCAC Player of the Week —  just three minutes in. 

Tufts paid for its inability to hold on to the ball in the opening moments of the match, as the Panthers took the lead off Middlebury junior Adrianna Gildner’s goal at the 10-minute mark. Continuing where she left off against Keene State College, Gildner applied the finishing touch to teammate senior Jamie Soroka’s cross from the left.

Playing catch-up early on appeared to be the spark the Jumbos needed; they soon began to have better control of the ball, and applied increased pressure on the Panthers’ defense. Gildner and senior Middlebury midfielder Hannah Robinson, however, continued to be constant thorns in Tufts’ side, leading their team’s efforts to win the 50-50 balls on almost every occasion.

The first real chance of the game for the Jumbos came in the 40th minute, when sophomore Alex Scheman fired a shot from the right, only to be smartly denied with a diving save from Panthers junior goalkeeper Kate Reinmuth.

However, with 42 seconds left to play in the first half, relentless chasing from Weiller saw Tufts win the ball outside the Middlebury penalty box. From the left, Weiller swung in the cross that allowed first-year Alessandra Sadler to score the equalizer for Tufts.

“We have not been in a situation where we’ve been losing and [came] back,” Whiting said. “To continue to be confident in ourselves and our ability and keep fighting till the end of the half was amazing, and to score with less than a minute left gave us great momentum in the second half.”

The impact of the goal was evident as the Jumbos kept the pressure up in the second half and took control of the game, but the first chance of the second half fell to the Panthers when Soroka’s free-kick rattled the crossbar. Middlebury continued to deny Tufts with resilient defense, as Tufts’ best chance to pull ahead — a shot by junior forward Jess Capon from 15 yards out — was saved by Reinmuth.

“We’re certainly disappointed to have given up the lead; we made a bad mistake that Tufts was great at capitalizing on,” Kim said. “I’m proud of the [Middlebury] girls for holding on and battling despite the conditions and full credit to Tufts; they’re always very difficult to beat.”

In the 81st minute, Bowers pulled off another excellent save to fend off Middlebury. Campellone led the attack from the back, and Fortin and Brunswick added to the threat. Despite their dominance on the ball in the second half, however, the Jumbos could not find the final ball to unlock the Panthers’ defense.

“We got organized and got together, and we handled it well being down a goal in the first 10 minutes,” Bowers said. “We kept up the communication and [made] sure we were all aware of where the [overlapping players] were, stepping before they got the ball and not letting them turn, so I’m very happy with the way our defense played.”

As the game went into overtime, Tufts’ determination to find a way through was epitomized by the energy that Scheman and Sadler displayed although they were denied by a Panthers defense determined to keep the door shut at every opportunity.

“We started out the first 10 minutes [of the game] a little bit slow,” Campellone said. “We let Middlebury possess the ball in the midfield and get some shots off. But by the end of the first half and throughout the second half, we really picked it up, and I was really happy with our performance.”

Though the Jumbos did not record a loss, Whiting admitted to feeling frustration about failing to convert their strengths into results.

“My first thought [of the result] is ‘frustrating,’ because I felt as though we actually were probably the better team and carried more of the play,” Whiting said. “The fact that we played well, we can take consolation in that…[and] the most important thing moving forward is to stay confident, keep the momentum and stay focused for 90 minutes.”

Tufts will go on the road for its next two games, traveling to Endicott on Wednesday before trekking to Bates on Saturday and playing again at home against UMass Boston on Oct. 20.