Jumbos’ undefeated streak ends against MIT, find redemption against Hamilton

Tufts sophomore back Taylor Koscho clears the ball against Lesley on Sept. 9, 2015. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Despite losing 1-0 to MIT on Tuesday and 3-1 to Amherst on Saturday, Tufts ended its week with a 3-1 victory over Hamilton. Tufts moves to 3-1-1 in NESCAC play and 4-2-3 overall, tying Amherst for second in the NESCAC behind defending NESCAC champion Williams.

Speaking about the overall performance of the team this past week, senior co-captain Robin Estus had positive things to say, especially after Sunday’s victory.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” Estus said. “[On] Saturday afternoon people might not have felt that way, but after Sunday we’re back in the groove. We got a little bit of confidence back [and] we have two days off, which is huge for recovery. Performance-wise, we’re in a good place.”

Tufts won the last of its six consecutive home games against Hamilton 3-1 on Sunday. The Jumbos took 20 shots compared to the Continentals’ 10, and 12 of the Jumbos’ shots were on target. This was the first time the Jumbos had managed to get their shots-on-goal tally into the double digits since their season opener against Emerson.

Half an hour into the game, junior midfielder Chandler Quintin flicked on senior midfielder Brooke Fortin’s corner. The ball kindly fell to junior midfielder Margaret Zahrah, who tapped it in from close range. It was the first time the Jumbos led in all their games this week. Though Tufts closed the half out with the lead intact, Hamilton pegged them back on 51 minutes.

The Jumbo response was immediate. Sophomore defender Taylor Koscho picked out junior forward Mariah Harvey-Brown with a 30-yard pass and Harvey-Brown finished confidently over junior goalkeeper Rachel Cooley to restore the Jumbos’ advantage. The victory was then made safe 10 minutes from time, as senior forward Jess Capone scored the final goal of the game. Estus spun away from a defender to buy herself time to send the ball through to Capone who finished expertly in the top-right corner for her second goal of the season. Capone’s goal was Tufts’ 15th of the season, one more than all of last year.

“We played some of the best soccer [we’ve] played this season against Hamilton, which is really nice to see, especially going forward into next week against Middlebury, who’s another really tough NESCAC opponent,” Capone said. “I think we were really connecting, passing it well in midfield, connecting between defense and midfield and our forwards too, which is something we struggled with a little bit in the past, so it’s definitely good to see.”

On Saturday, Tufts went up against Amherst to kick off the Homecoming festivities. Tufts was blown away in the early parts of the first half when Amherst scored two goals in quick succession to effectively seal the victory. After nine minutes, Amherst sophomore forward Maeve McNamara stole the ball from the Tufts defense to slot it past sophomore goalie Emily Bowers for a 1-0 lead. One became two within six minutes when junior forward Hannah Guzzi finished off classmate Delancey King’s corner. Tufts only shot once during the entire first half, as Amherst controlled the midfield battle.

“We were a little slow on the start but I think we have a tendency to give other teams more respect … Amherst being one of those teams,” Estus said. “Sometimes that is reflected in our play, which it definitely did in the first half of that game. We were kind of just a half step behind them physically and mentally. You could see it in our passes and our runs, and they capitalized on them and put two goals in pretty quick.”

After its slow start, Tufts came out fighting in the second half. Senior defender Stefanie Brunswick and sophomore forward Alex Aronson shot within five seconds of each other, only to be denied by the Amherst defense. Quintin also came close moments later, sending her shot left of the goal post.

Tufts peppered Amherst’s goal with 18 shots in the second half, but Amherst struck first in the period. Guzzi extended the lead to 3-0 at 66 minutes, finishing off McNamara’s pass for her sixth goal of the season. Tufts was rewarded for its fight two minutes later when Koscho’s free kick found its way into the back of the net to reduce the deficit.

“We were really happy after the game, to be honest, because the energy was so positive,” Estus said. “We turned it around so well and we proved that we can compete against and beat some of the best teams in the country, just the slow start of the game made that impossible score-wise.”

Tufts’ first task leading into its weekend double header was to see off the MIT Engineers, a non-conference opponent. The Jumbos defeated the Engineers 2-0 last season, but the Engineers proved to be the stronger team this season, winning the rematch 1-0. MIT entered into this fixture with a 6-3 record and Tufts came in undefeated at 3-0-3. Despite facing a strong Engineers team, Bowers wasn’t as busy as her counterpart, MIT senior co-captain Lauren Ullman. Bowers only made one save, with the defense in front of her limiting MIT to just two shots on target. One of those shots hit the back of the net however, so the solid defense was moot.

The Jumbos fired 12 shots compared to the Engineers’ 10. Tufts placed six on target but on each occasion was denied by Ullman. MIT’s first real chance came when junior forward Olivia Struckman’s shot was sent wide at the 15 minute mark. Struckman, the Engineers’ leading scorer, punished the Jumbos’ profligacy after the hour mark, as she finished off first-year forward Montana Reilly’s free kick to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead.

“The MIT game was definitely one of our worst games in a while, and we all knew it … we were a little bummed after that, also because it’s our first loss,” Estus said. “We were pretty hard on ourselves, but we realized it’s another building block for us.”

Tufts travels to Middlebury on Saturday hoping to pick up its fourth conference win and fifth overall.