Jumbos nearly best defending national champion Williams, fall 2-1

First-year midfielder Jenna Troccoli jostles for position during women's soccer's 2-1 loss to Williams on Oct. 22. (Matthew Schreiber / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts traveled to Bowdoin on Tuesday where it pulled off a 1-0 victory after falling to the No. 2 Williams Ephs 2-1 on Saturday. Tufts ended the regular season 5-4-1 in the NESCAC and 7-5-3 overall, finishing 5th in the NESCAC thanks to winning the tiebreaker over Bowdoin and Conn. College.

Against Bowdoin, Tufts put on a strong display in the first half and dominated possession. The half ended scoreless, but not for lack of chances. The Jumbos managed seven shots to the Polar Bears’ two, but both teams came within inches of scoring. In the 26th minute, Bowdoin first-year midfielder/forward Morgen Gallagher almost scored from point blank range against sophomore goalkeeper Emily Bowers, but Bowers made a heroic save to keep the game even. A minute later, at the other end of the field, first-year midfielder Jenna Troccoli weaved her way through two Bowdoin defenders and fired a shot that just skimmed past the post.

The lone goal came in the 73rd minute of the game, when Troccoli played a through ball between two of the Bowdoin defenders to senior forward Jess Capone, who fired the ball into the right side of the net. After the late goal, the Jumbos adopted a more defensive strategy in order to seal out the Polar Bears and secure the victory.

Senior co-captain midfielder Robin Estus believes that the Jumbos’ possession was what made the difference in the game.

“We had incredible possession [against Bowdoin], probably the best possession we’ve had all year, and at least in the past two games,” Estus said. “I would say it was probably 70-30 in the first half, we were passing circles around them. Unfortunately, we didn’t put our chances away as much as we would have liked, but the possession and high pressure were the keys to today’s win.”

With Troccoli’s impressive performance against Bowdoin, coach Martha Whiting has high hopes for her and the rest of the first-years on the team.

“Jenna has been very good, and she didn’t really play that much for the first three or four games of the season, but once she went in, she’s been pretty much dominant, and especially for someone with such small stature, she really gets after it,” Whiting said. “She’s made a huge impact, and I think the freshmen in general have contributed when needed. It’s good that they are able to contribute, and we’re excited for them moving forward because they are a good group.”

The Jumbos got off to a quick start against the Ephs on Seniors Day and scored a goal just 32 seconds into the first half, one of the quickest in Jumbo history. The goal came when junior forward Mariah Harvey-Brown intercepted a pass from Ephs senior forward Kristi Kirshe and surged down the right side of the field. Harvey-Brown was able to put in a good cross that skipped just past sophomore goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill and into the path of senior midfielder Sarah Pykkonen, who slotted the ball into the right side of the net. The score was her second in three games.

“I’ve been really focusing on trying to get in the box on crosses, where both of my goals have come from,” Pykkonen said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty, just as long as I’m in the right place at the right time.”

Despite the early Tufts goal, Williams soon responded with a goal of its own. In the third minute, a smart through ball was played to sophomore forward Kristina Alvarado, who broke away from the Jumbos’ line of defense, ran into the box and passed the ball across the goal mouth to Kirshe, who shot the ball into the back of the net. For the rest of the first half, the two teams fought in a chippy back-and-forth battle, with Tufts registering six shots to Williams’ seven, but neither team earned another goal.

Williams struck again in the 57th minute, successfully pulling off the comeback against Tufts. Kirshe played a quick pass into Alvarado, who passed the ball across the goal to first-year forward Sarah Scire, who placed the ball into the upper-right corner, scoring in a similar fashion to Williams’ first-half goal. The Ephs defense held the Jumbo attack to just three shots for the remainder of the half and secured their 2-1 victory.

“We were pretty disappointed, because when you’re beating national champions, you don’t want to lose,” Estus said. “We were proud to put our name on that game, but we weren’t satisfied with it. We were very frustrated with the five to six really good chances that didn’t go in.”

Fifth seeded Tufts faces off against the fourth seeded Trinity Bantams on Saturday in the NESCAC quarterfinal and the team is ready to show what it can do.

“We are really excited,” Estus said. “We’re not going to do anything different, whatever we’ve been doing feels really good and, yeah, we’ve lost a few games that we really should have won, and while it’s frustrating, it’s comforting to know we didn’t just lose because we weren’t the better team. We were really the better team in every situation. We’re going to keep the mood light, energy high and go in looking to upset some teams.”