Junior Brittany Bowman runs at the Conn. College Cross Country Invitational at Harkness Memorial State Park on Oct. 15. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archive)

Jumbos to make a run at Learfield Cup

Tufts finished fourth in Div. III in the Learfield Directors’ Cup last year, and after the fall season, it ranks No. 2 behind only Washington University in St. Louis. 

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics awards the Learfield Directors’ Cup to whichever school earns the most points in a predetermined set of sports by the end of the academic year. Sports teams earn points by their finish nationally. 

Tufts garnered 365.5 points through Dec. 8 — just 20 behind WashU at 385 and ahead of Calvin College’s 314 points. The sports under consideration were women’s and men’s cross country, women’s and men’s soccer, women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball and men’s water polo.

Women’s cross country

Tufts finished eighth out of 32 at the NCAA Championship on Nov. 19 after a successful season that included multiple meet championships and almost exclusively top five finishes. The Jumbos opened the season at the Bates Invitational where they earned first place behind third, fourth and fifth place finishes from junior Brittany Bowman, senior Kelly Fahey and sophomore Natalie Bettez, respectively. Bowman finished third at the Connecticut College Invitational, while Fahey and Bettez crossed in sixth and 11th place, earning Tufts first place out of a field of 21 teams. 

The Jumbos finished second to the Ephs in the NESCAC Championship race and Bettez was the runner-up with a time of 22:52.53. Bowman won the NCAA Regional Championship, overtaking MIT first-year Megan McCandless in the last 300 meters and setting a Stanley Park course record in 21:14.29. Tufts finished third at NCAA Regionals. In the National Championship race, Bowman placed 18th, earning All-American honors and pacing Tufts en route to an eighth place finish that added 70.5 points to Tufts’ Learfield Directors’ Cup total.

Men’s cross country

Senior co-captains Luke O’Connor and Tim Nichols monopolized first and second place in just about every race this season. Their reign this season started at the Bates Invitational where Tufts placed second. Nichols crossed first in 25:11.9 and O’Connor was exactly 23 seconds behind him. The two posted Tufts’ best ever times at the Paul Short Invitational before again claiming first and second place at the Connecticut College Invitational. The Jumbos placed third at the NESCAC Championship where Nichols was the first Jumbo to claim an individual NESCAC title since 1981.

In the spirit of setting records, Nichols set a Stanley Park course-record time at the NCAA Regional Tournament, crossing in 23:54.58. O’Connor finished third in 24:32.45. Tufts missed out on the NCAA Championship meet, but Nichols and O’Connor were invited thanks to their All-Region performances. Nichols ran a 24:09.7 for third place and the best-ever finish for a Tufts men’s cross country runner at nationals. O’Connor’s 24:42.2 earned him All-American honors. Despite the captains’ individual successes, the Jumbos ranked No. 33 nationally and added 32 points to Tufts’ Directors’ Cup total.

Women’s field hockey

Tufts came close to winning a national championship this season, losing in a shootout after a double overtime championship game. The Jumbos went 19-3 on the season and were undefeated for the entire month of September. Playing in the toughest conference in the country, Tufts dominated the NESCAC Tournament, besting Bates 2-0, overwhelming Williams 5-0 and outlasting Middlebury 3-1 in the championship game. Senior Annie Artz led the team with 14 goals on the season while junior Mary Travers posted nine goals to go along with a team-high eight assists.

The Jumbos rolled through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the championship game, posting three shutouts against the University of New England, Skidmore and Salisbury, successively. The final contest against Messiah was a heartbreaking loss for Tufts, as Messiah won the shootout 2-1 and Tufts came as close as possible to a National Championship. The Jumbos added 90 points to the Directors’ Cup total.

Women’s soccer

Tufts finished the season 7-6-3 — an improvement from last season’s 6-8-2 finish — but still fell in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Despite a 5-4-1 conference record, the Jumbos were unable to overcome the Bantams in the NESCAC quarterfinals and fell 1-0. Senior forward Jess Capone led the team with five goals while senior co-captain midfielder Robin Estus and sophomore defender Taylor Koscho assisted on a team high of four scores each. Women’s soccer did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament and therefore did not score in the Directors’ Cup.

Men’s soccer

Men’s soccer won its second national championship in three years this season and added 100 points to Tufts’ Learfield Cup total. After a slow 0-2-1 start, the Jumbos rattled off three straight shutout wins, including a 3-0 victory over NESCAC opponent Bates on Sept. 17. The Jumbos entered the month of October on a mission, refusing to lose for seven straight games and shutting their opponents out in all but two of the contests. Senior forwards Gaston Becherano and co-captain Nate Majumder led the Jumbos with 12 and four goals on the season, respectively, while senior goalkeeper Scott Greenwood posted 12 shutouts in 19 games.

Bowdoin knocked Tufts out of the NESCAC tournament, but Tufts received a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of its regular season results. The Jumbos marched to the national semi-finals, dispatching four opponents without letting up a single goal. In the national finals game, junior midfielder Tyler Kulcsar was the hero, scoring the national championship winning goal in the 103rd minute of double overtime. It was Kulcsar’s first goal of the season.

Women’s volleyball

Volleyball netted an impressive 27-4 record and posted a number of lengthy win-streaks this season. Tufts won its first eight games, including wins over NESCAC opponents Williams and Amherst while at home. From late September through October, Tufts went on an 11-game win streak, during which only two teams, Wesleyan and Middlebury, were able to take more than one set. The Jumbos were the heavy favorite going into the NESCAC Tournament, but were upset in the championship game by the Panthers. First-year outside hitter Brigid Bell led Tufts in kills with 264 while senior co-captain middle hitter Elizabeth Ahrens was second with 219. Sophomore setter Angela Yu led the Jumbos with 680 assists and first-year libero Kelly Klimo posted a team-high 508 digs.

In the NCAA tournament, the Jumbos blanked Maine Maritime Academy before defeating UMass Boston and Springfield 3-1 each. Tufts won the NCAA Regional Championship but fell to Southwestern University 3-2 in the NCAA Quarterfinal round to end its season. Ranking No. 5 nationally, volleyball added 73 points to the Directors’ Cup total.

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