Expectations were sky-high for the Men’s A team of the Tufts University Football Club (TUFC) after a 2014 season that saw the group become the only Div. III school to advance to the National Tournament in Memphis, Tenn. This year, the team was unable to replicate that success and fell short of a return trip to Nationals. However, there are many positive takeaways after a 3-1-2 season for the Jumbos.
The team knew that the season would be one of rebuilding after losing a core that led the squad to prominence in Tennessee. Even though the team did not make it to regionals or nationals, it still only had one loss on the season to Harvard University’s A team. A few different bounces of the ball and the final outcome for the year could have been drastically different.
“The season [low], for me, would be when we were leading one-nil against Harvard and they came back from behind to beat us 2-1,” sophomore Craig Vitirinyu said.
The team also played against Northeastern University to a 2-2 tie. The Harvard heartbreaker, coupled with a pair of draws, left the club just short. If they had won one of the two games they drew, the team would have qualified for the regional tournament.
“The late start to school put us at a disadvantage compared with other schools in our division,” junior co-captain David Heim said. “That being said, we had a big comeback win against Boston University to start off the year and, in the end, only lost one game all season.”
Vitirinyu also noted the big win over crosstown rival BU with a final score was 4-2, as a highlight of the season.
While there was just a single loss in 2015, the team also mustered only three victories. In 2016, the focus will be on finishing strong, playing great soccer for the entire match and converting potential draws into victories. With a strong group of returning players and a dominant B Team, hopes are high for the 2016 season.
“We feel that the team just keeps getting better every year; playing spots are more and more competitive, [and] we’re consistently drawing around 80-plus kids to tryouts, so expectations are very high for next year and we are all looking forward to it already,” Heim said. “The team continues to work hard and overachieve for the amount of resources that we have.”
With a solid mix of first-years, additional exposure, improved coaching and increased interest, it would not be surprising to see the team back at nationals next fall.
“We are basically a solid team right now, and we have some pretty good freshmen on our team,” Vitirinyu said.
As a club team, however, the focus is about more than just wins and losses. Emphasis is also put on carving out an enjoyable, meaningful and worthwhile experience for the students.
“We also have fun team-building events and some mixers with other clubs,” Vitirinyu said.
According to Vitirinyu, the tight-knit team has come together throughout the year and meshed into a family. The club looks to build on the victories of 2015, foster the existing soccer talent at Tufts, continue to improve and reach greater heights next fall.
“Club soccer is definitely my best activity on campus,” Vitirinyu said. “The sense of family that it gives me is one that I value so much.”