No. 16 Tufts finished its season with a defeat in the NESCAC semifinals to arch-rival Middlebury. It seemed like an all-too-familiar feeling, as Tufts lost at the same stage last year in the championship.
Overall, the Jumbos could be reasonably pleased with their year, finishing with an 11-6 record and 7-3 in the conference. This was a marginal improvement on last season’s 6-4 record in the conference. Tufts has also played more aggressively on offensive this year, taking an average of 17.7 shots per game — 1.6 more than last year.
Of particular interest was Tufts’ four-game winning streak at home this year, starting with a 3-0 victory over Conn. College, followed by 4-2 wins over Trinity and UMass Dartmouth and finally a 5-0 win over Gordon College. Tufts narrowly lost 3-2 at Wesleyan, before returning to its winning ways by dismantling Hamilton in front of isown fans, and winning again 1-0 at Amherst. Another particularly memorable one-sided victory included a 5-0 win at Bates.
The double-header weekend wins at Hamilton and Amherst were noteworthy for more than one reason, as team members, at the time, were recovering psychologically from their defeat at Wesleyan as well as battling with their physical health.
“This was the weekend when half of our team was sick with the stomach flu, and because of this we had to move the Amherst game to that Monday,” senior tri-captain midfielder Rachel Terveer said. “Pushing through and winning both of these big conference games, while ignoring the outside distractions that we could not control, was a major success.”
Tufts’ performance against Bowdoin, despite its defeat, could be a sign of better times ahead for the team. Although the Jumbos ended up losing to the top-seed in the division, a 4-3 defeat at home was definitely a marked improvement from their 4-0 defeat last year.
“The Bowdoin game was a very exciting game for us as we knew we had the skill and determination for it to be an exciting game,” senior forward Hannah Park said. “Playing in torrential rainfall was an obstacle, but we chipped away each minute of the game, hustling to every ball, having our sticks down on defense and communicating with each other. It was one of the times this season where we believed in the system and [in] each other.”
However, the Jumbos were eventually disappointed, as they were unable to avenge their regular season defeat against Middlebury, and fell in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament.
“I think our regular season game versus Bowdoin highlighted how good we were as a team, as at one point in the game we were beating the No. 1 team in the country, but in the end we weren’t able to finish, and I think that was kind of the story of our season,” junior tri-captain forward Dominique Zarrella said. “When we played Middlebury both in the regular season and the post season, we dominated a lot of the play but could not capitalize on scoring opportunities that were given to us and unfortunately that led to our downfall.”
This was not an easy season for the team, but the players responded well to unforeseen challenges throughout the fall.
“We really responded to narrow defeats or other challenges or obstacles by really focusing on simple day-to-day progress,” Terveer said. “Taking practices and games one day at a time really helped us all stay composed, focused and prepared, [for example,] coming back from being down one or two goals. Comeback wins require a full team effort and really motivate us for the next game.”
Zarrella agreed and reflected on the special comeback victory against Trinity in their four-game winning run.
“Our game against Trinity in the regular season also was one of my favorites mostly because we were down 2-1 but came back to win 4-2,” Zarrella said. “I always love it when we come back as a team and end up winning because I think it shows a lot of heart and determination.”
Zarrella, who will return next season as a senior, laid down the goals for the team next year.
“Looking forward to next season, I know that we have the talent and skill to do very well, just as we did this season and last season,” she said. “I think it’ll come down to our mental toughness and determination to be able to win tough games and make it further into postseason play. I think we know that we have some work to do over the offseason, but there is no doubt in my mind that every payer is willing to put in the work now to succeed in the future. There’s nothing I’d love more than to win NESCACs my senior year.”