Jumbos fall 1-0 to Bantams in NESCAC tournament quarterfinal

Senior forward Jess Capone chases down the ball during women's soccer's 2-1 loss to Williams on a soaked Kraft Field. (Matthew Schreiber / The Tufts Daily)

The fifth-seeded Jumbos were eliminated from the NESCAC tournament in the quarterfinals by the fourth-seeded Trinity Bantams on Oct. 29. This marks the second consecutive year that Tufts has been defeated in the NESCAC quarterfinals. As the Jumbos did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament, the loss was their final contest this season.

“That’s four years that [have] gone by for us that we haven’t been in the [NCAA] tournament, and that’s pretty disappointing,” senior co-captain midfielder Robin Estus said. “We are in the most competitive conference in the country, so I guess that’s just one of the byproducts of that.”

The Jumbos got off to a quick start and applied pressure early against the Bantams. Tufts nearly scored early in the first half on a shot that landed on the goal line, but the linesman ruled no goal to the dismay of many Tufts players. Finishing was the only thing the Jumbos lacked: They bombarded the Bantams’ goal, registering four shots within the first 20 minutes, and earned the majority of chances in the first half, managing five shots to the Bantams’ two.

Despite this, Tufts could not get a goal to take the lead and the first half ended 0-0. The only goal of the game eventually came in the 55th minute when Trinity sophomore midfielder/forward Taylor Kirchgessner jumped on a loose ball at the top of Tufts’ 18-yard box and placed a curled shot around sophomore goalkeeper Emily Bowers, which ended just inside the left post. The Jumbos tried for an equalizer, with shots on goal from junior midfielder Chandler Quintin and junior forward Mariah Harvey-Brown in the last 10 minutes of the game, but junior goalkeeper Julia Pitino swatted the shots away to preserve her shutout, and the game ended 1-0 for the Bantams.

Tufts outshot Trinity 11-7, though Trinity held the advantage in corner kicks taken with five to Tufts’ three. However, the Bantams’ stout defense consistently limited the Jumbos to shots that Pitino saved with relative ease. Though the Jumbos were unlucky not to score, it was the Bantams defense that won the day.

Senior forward Jess Capone said she thought the Jumbos played well against Trinity in what she called a “high-stakes game.”

“We were trying to just focus on playing our game and not really focusing on the pressure, because when we play tense, things get rough,” she said. “I think we came out really strong, dominated the first half and put a lot of pressure on their backs, but unfortunately, the result didn’t go our way.”

Despite being knocked out of the NESCAC tournament, the Jumbos had a solid season overall, consistently managing to play well against tough opponents and almost upsetting Williams, the defending NCAA Div. III national champions. Throughout the season, the Jumbos struggled to convert scoring opportunities and their opponents managed to sneak in lucky goals to win, regardless of how well Tufts played.

Estus said that she feels that the Jumbos had “rotten luck” throughout the season.

“Games like Williams, and both Trinity games and a handful of others were games where we were the better team and deserved to win but didn’t get the result, and that was unfortunate, because we had a really talented group of kids,” she said. “Our freshmen came in really strong, our sophomores had a year under their belts and juniors stepped into leadership roles.”

Graduating seniors on the team include defenders Alexa Pius and Stefanie Brunswick, midfielders and forwards Sarah Pykkonen, Brooke Fortin, Estus and Capone. Capone led the Jumbos in goals with five on the season and Estus’ four assists tied with sophomore Taylor Koscho for the most on the team. Pius anchored Tufts’ defense, starting each of the 16 games. Each senior was vital to the team this year, but the Jumbos believe that the team will remain strong and continue to improve.

“I think the program is definitely in a good spot,” Estus said. “It’s on the up-and-up still, and I look forward to watching them in the future.”

The Jumbos finished 5-4-1 in the NESCAC conference and 7-6-3 overall, an improvement on last season’s 4-5-1 NESCAC finish and 6-8-2 overall record.