The Jumbos are enjoying a successful start to their 2016 campaign, moving to 3-0-1 overall and 2-0 in the NESCAC for the season after beating division opponent Bates and tying Lesley. Tufts is one of only three remaining undefeated teams in NESCAC play, this year’s record a real improvement over last season’s 2-2 start. Part of the reason for the improved record is that the Jumbos have scored twice as many goals (10) thus far this season as they had at the same stage last year.
Five of those goals came on Saturday when the Jumbos recorded a decisive 5-2 victory in their first NESCAC home game of the season against the Bobcats. Despite the comfortable victory, the game’s opening 15 minutes were anything but comfortable. Bates dominated play early, calling sophomore goalkeeper Emily Bowers into action twice.
“We were outnumbered in the midfield so it was hard to get going,” senior co-captain Robin Estus said. “But we recognized the formation they were playing and used it to our advantage … It took us a minute to figure it out, but once we did, we were very successful.”
Coach Martha Whiting’s substitutions ultimately broke the deadlock. The Jumbos took the lead 25 minutes after junior midfielder Chandler Quintin put sophomore forward Alex Aronson on goal with a through pass. Having just come on the field about two minutes earlier, Aronson calmly fired the ball into the back of the net for her first goal of the season.
Eight minutes later, sophomore defender Lexie Miller slipped into the eighteen-yard box, catching the Bates defense unawares to double Tufts’ lead. The floodgates opened from there, as junior midfielder Margaret Zahrah broke into the box heading sophomore defender Taylor Koscho’s cross into the net during the 35th minute for a three-goal lead going into halftime.
In the second half, the Jumbos continued to press forward. Quintin extended the lead to 4-0 at 51 minutes, but at the 60 minute mark, Bates clawed one back as Bobcats sophomore forward Olivia Amdur poked the ball in from senior defender Hannah Graves’ corner. The Jumbos restored their four-goal lead with a shot from sophomore defender Alessandra Sadler, but sheer grit and neat footwork from Bobcats junior forward Brigid Quinn bought her enough time and space to smash a shot into the top right corner and bring the contest to its final score, 5-2.
“Hats off to Tufts. We gave them some great opportunities to finish, and they did,” Bobcats Head Coach Kelsy Ross said. “They drove well as a unit, they worked to get numbers behind the ball and they finished. At the end of the day, you’ve got to finish opportunities to win, and they did that really well.”
This was the first time since a 4-2 victory over Hamilton in 2014 that the Jumbos scored more than three goals in one game. Despite the favorable result, Whiting thought there were a few things that the team could improve on, especially on the defensive side of their game.
“I thought the performance was a little inconsistent. Offensively, we really did a great job … Our girls were getting after it… doing everything we asked them to in terms of playing with heart,” Whiting said. “Defensively we did a nice job, I just felt like we had some mental lapses that created chances for Bates that were pretty dangerous and we weren’t necessarily happy about … We need to be better when players are dribbling at us full speed and keep those players in front of us.”
On Wednesday, Tufts battled through double overtime to a tie with Lesley. Tufts was unable to overcome the Lynxes’ high pressing and physical style, as Lesley controlled the pace from early on. The Jumbos eventually recovered their composure and control of the game through one-and-two-touch passes and by matching the Lynxes in physicality. The Jumbos took the lead when Estus broke forward to finish off a lead pass from senior forward Jess Capone seven minutes before halftime. Lesley, however, started the second half aggressively and equalized on sophomore forward Samantha Bessey’s penalty conversion.
The Lynxes almost scored a go-ahead, but sophomore Jordan Mitchell’s 83rd minute effort was ruled out for being offside. Through two periods of overtime, both sides were unable to capitalize on game-winning chances and the match ended all square.
Discussing the last two games, Capone was pleased with the overall offensive effort of the team.
“We were pretty proud of the way we played against Lesley, even though we didn’t get the result,” Capone said. “Our team showed our grit especially in overtime. [The game against Bates] was really nice because we got to finish our opportunities. I thought we did a really good job moving the ball around, definitely finishing those chances off, especially with this formation, which is more attacking-style, and it really showed.”
Tufts plays its next five games at home starting with Wesleyan today at 4 p.m., and Brandeis on Saturday at 1 p.m. Brandeis in particular will prove to be a formidable opponent for Tufts as the team attempts to avenge last year’s 1-0 loss. The Judges are 8-0, scoring 24 goals along the way and conceding just one. The Jumbos must continue to build on their impressive attacking form to match the Judges on offense.
“Wesleyan’s going be an interesting one, because they got us in the last minute of the game last year,” Bowers said. “I think we’re going to come out flying, hopefully, to get some revenge, as well [as] Brandeis. They’ve been having a great season so far, [so] there’s going to be tough competition there too.”