In the Jumbos’ home opener at Bello Field on Saturday, the team earned its first win of the season, defeating Bates 3-0. On Sunday, Tufts repeated its success at home in a 3-0 win over non-conference opponent Plymouth State. Prior to last weekend the Jumbos were 0-2-1, marking their worst start since 2009 when they opened the season 0-4-1.
According to senior forward Gaston Becherano, the main difference for the Jumbos in the home wins was the turf field.
“As a team we are really accustomed to the turf field and it suits our style of play,” Becherano said. “We like to play on the floor, quickly, spreading out wide, so being back at home really suited us.”
Plymouth State was 2-2-1 heading into the match on Sunday, one win ahead of Tufts’ 1-2-1 record at the time. However, the Jumbos dominated the Plymouth State Panthers from the start. The Jumbos took 30 shots and forced 11 saves from Panthers’ senior keeper Felix Lindeberg. In comparison, the Panthers took two shots during the entire 90 minutes, neither of which was on target.
The first 45 minutes were scoreless, but that was not for lack of opportunity on the Jumbos’ end. In the first six minutes Tufts had six shots on goal. The Jumbos shot straight at Lindeberg, who made three saves within the first six minutes. The majority of these opportunities came in from left-side crosses by first-year midfielder Gavin Tasker, who has repeatedly been instrumental in creating opportunities for the forwards.
The Jumbos consistently kept up their attacking pace in the second half. This paid off just five minutes in when Becherano headed in a corner from senior midfielder Kevin Lawson. The first goal opened up the scoring, and 19 seconds later junior midfielder Tyler Kulcsar took advantage of a disorganized Plymouth State defense by sending an early ball to senior co-captain Zach Halliday, who passed it to Becherano. Becherano finished the play, firing his second goal into the top right corner.
Ahead two goals, the Jumbos did not let up, and shot another eight times. Becherano nearly pulled off a hat trick, but his potential third goal clanged off the inside of the crossbar. With 16 seconds remaining, junior midfielder Christian Zazzali set up first-year forward Brett Rojas’ shot straight down the middle for his first collegiate goal.
First-years shone throughout the weekend, as midfielders Zach Lane and Zachary Trevorrow provided important energy to the team coming off the bench — especially for the midfield transition and getting crosses in. First-year defender Tanner Jameson has also already started three games and stepped up to be a reliable corner kick taker after the team graduated two seniors who had previously taken the majority of corners. Forward Joseph Braun’s aggressive attacking style necessitates that opposing goalies and defenders know where he is at all times.
“Our team is pretty young and because of the rules of the NESCAC you don’t get much of a preseason, so it takes a few games for us to gel,” Tasker said. “We are coming together and understanding better what people bring to the table, you saw that in the last few games.”
The flow of the game against Bates on Saturday was very similar to that of the game on Sunday, with Tufts acting as the dominant force on the field. The Jumbos shot 38 times, with 14 shots on target, as compared to the Bates Bobcats’ three shots, none of which were on target.
Tasker led the team in shots with six total, three of which were on target. Bates’ sophomore keeper Robbie Montanaro saved several of his efforts. The first goal came eight minutes into the game when Becherano was brought down in the box, and he capitalized on the penalty kick opportunity to put the Jumbos ahead.
Bates caught up from that point on, but had almost no scoring opportunities because Tufts effectively kept possession in its attacking half. Tufts was so comfortable that at one point midway through the second half the bulk of Tufts’ attacking formation was composed of first-years, with Trevorrow and Tasker flanking on the midfield.
Halliday effectively directed the team on the field and provided a constant check on the pace, directing players to sometimes slow down when it became too frantic. From the back, junior defender Conor Coleman directed the forwards, ensuring that they were spread out wide and were in the right places to make the midfield transition most effective.
Junior midfielder Dexter Eichhorst made a powerful run through the Bates defensive unit 75 minutes after Tufts’ opener and passed the ball off to Becherano at the last second, who was easily able to put the ball over the goalie’s head. Minutes later, Eichhorst netted his own goal off an assist from first-year midfielder Jack Delaney to make the score 3-0.
“We scored a lot earlier [against Bates] so they were chasing the whole time,” Tasker said. “Again we weren’t able to capitalize on our chances until the end, so it was a 1-0 game until the 80th minute. We should have put them away earlier, but it was good to get the two goals at the end.”
After a successful weekend at home, the Jumbos now stand at 2-2-1 ahead of this Saturday’s non-conference game away at Brandeis. Tufts returns to Bello on Tuesday to play Wesleyan in its second NESCAC contest of the season.