First-year Dakota Adamec scored five goals against the Wesleyan Cardinals (1-8) to lead No. 16 Tufts (8-6 overall, 4-5 NESCAC) in a 13-10 playoff-clinching win on Saturday. Adamec’s performance earned her NESCAC Player of the Week honors, the first of her career.
Junior Liana Mathias opened the scoring early for the Cardinals with a free position score at 28:23 in the first period, but Adamec answered back with her first goal of the game roughly four minutes later. Senior tri-captain Caroline Ross put the Jumbos ahead 2-1, and the Jumbos never again trailed in the contest.
Mathias scored her second of the game to tie the contest, but again, the Jumbos added two goals in response. First-year Cecily Freliech won the ensuing draw control and notched her 12th goal of the season on an assist from senior tri-captain Brigid Bowser. First-year Annie Sullivan extended Tufts’ lead to 4-2 on an assist from Adamec 34 seconds later.
Wesleyan controlled the next two draws, and each quick possession ended in a goal for sophomore Julia Black, once again tying the contest up. The Jumbos went on to score three times in a row, including a rapid 10-second possession capped off by a goal from sophomore Jenn Duffy. Jumbo sophomore Caroline Nowak won a draw control and threw it ahead for Ross, who assisted Duffy’s score. Then Sullivan and Ross each earned their second goals of the contest, and the Jumbos led 7-4 with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. Wesleyan junior Becca Phillips got the last score in the period to get her team within two as they went into halftime.
Tufts picked up right where it left off in the first half, this time scoring the first goal of the second period when Adamec capitalized on a free position shot two minutes into the period. Exactly a minute later, Cardinal junior Rachel Aronow kept her team close with her own free position goal, and the teams continued to go back and forth in the fast-paced game. Ross won the draw control, and Nowak scored her 13th goal of the season, bringing the Jumbos’ lead back to three. Tufts first-year defender Hedy Veith was tagged with a yellow card, leading to Aronow’s second goal on a man-up free position shot.
Both teams locked down on defense for the next nine minutes and the score remained 9-7 until junior Kate Mackin broke the stalemate at 17:08 on a free position shot. Aronow, taking command of the Cardinal’s offense, scored for a third time at 16:14 to bring the score to 10-8 in favor of the Jumbos. Mathias scored next for her third of the game, bringing the score within one for the first time since 9:14 in the first period.
With the pressure mounting, the Jumbos trusted Adamec to shoot with sophomore Taylor Meek feeding her for another score at 4:49. Adamec won the draw control, but senior Emily Gretsky kept the Cardinals within striking distance with a free position score two minutes later. The Jumbos, leading 11-10 now, were in a familiar situation; the team also led by one in the final minute of their most recent two games. The first ended in a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to Amherst and the second in a redeeming 6-5 win against Bates.
Adamec corralled a ground ball at 2:27 and from that moment on she was unstoppable as she clinched the win for the Jumbos. Meek assisted on Adamec’s fourth goal with 53 seconds left in the game, and Adamec controlled the subsequent draw. Thirteen seconds later, Ross found Adamec for her fifth score, effectively ending the contest as her team went up 13-10. Adamec won the final draw, a fitting end to an impressive game from the first-year.
“Even when it was happening I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I just did that,'” Adamec said. “My entire team helped create that moment, and it was completely exhilarating with the win.”
“[Adamec] had a great game,” Ross said. “She was named NESCAC Player of the Week, deservedly so. She really just put the team on her back and made the most of her opportunities, which was great. It’s a really good sign. With such a young team, we need people to take control of the game and be leaders on the field and really put the ball in the net.”
Adamec came into the contest with five goals on the season, only having played nine games this season due to an early injury. She doubled her scoring total in a single game, adding an assist and three draw controls. After this contest, Adamec, with eight scores, is fourth on the team in goals against NESCAC opponents.
“At first, I was battling just trying to find my place on the team as most freshmen or new players will have [to],” Adamec said. “But what our captains and our coach really fostered throughout the season in us is ‘there’s no seniority, there’s no hierarchy, we want you to play to best of your ability so shoot.’”
True to form, the Jumbos’ usual leaders had strong games as well. Ross scored twice and assisted twice while Bowser collected four ground balls, assisted a goal and won three draw controls.
“As the season’s gone on, I think we are finally starting to find our mojo, or everything is starting to click,” Adamec said. “Our coach [Courtney Farrell] always says ‘the little things are the big things.’ So off the field [and] on the field, we are always trying to support each other. Things are definitely falling into place as NESCACs get near.”
Senior goalkeeper Nina Labovich saved seven of 20 shots for the Cardinals while Jumbo first-year Audrey Evers saved two of the 12 shots on goal she saw. Despite winning the turnover battle 14-17, Ross thought the number of turnovers was too high.
“We had more turnovers than we usually do, and we just didn’t capitalize on a lot of our opportunities, but in the end we really did pull away and it [was] a good win,” Ross said.
Tufts finishes its regular season at Bowdoin (3-6) this evening. For Bowdoin, the game is a must-win to make the NESCAC playoffs, while the Tufts squad looks to cap off its regular season with a win and build some momentum before playoffs.
“My whole career, we’ve had close games with [Bowdoin], and it’s really always a battle,” Ross said. “They’re playing to get a spot in NESCACs so they’ll come out hard, but we are prepared for that.”
Although the Jumbos’ opponent in the opening quarterfinals round of the NESCAC tournament depends on this week’s results, the team is currently locked into the seventh seed regardless. They will face the No. 2 seed in the first round, which could be Middlebury, Trinity or Amherst.
“I’m so ready to face all of those other teams,” Adamec said. “The team is really getting ready to kick it into high gear against all of these NESCAC teams. I think the team definitely wants to take down any NESCAC team, but in particular Middlebury [and] Trinity because … we knew that we could have beaten them and something just fell through. I think Middlebury will definitely be a revenge game.”