New faces power Tufts past MIT in season opener

Simultaneously tripped and knocked to the ground, then-first-year midfielder Cecily Freliech attempts a shot on the goal in the game against Middlebury on March 12. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The Jumbos (1-0) kicked off their season on Saturday with a 12-5 win over the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers (1-1), easily handling MIT’s offense and securing a comfortable victory.

While Tufts only led 1-0 after the first 11 minutes of play, sophomore attacker Dakota Adamec then scored twice within 20 seconds, and Tufts rode the momentum to a 6-3 lead at the intermission. The Jumbos continued to roll in the second half, as they outscored the Engineers 6-2 in the period and cruised to victory.

Throughout the game, Tufts led in almost every statistical category: draw controls (12-7), shots on goal (31-11), ground balls (27-18) and turnovers forced (27-19).

This game also served as an audition of sorts for some of the 11 new faces on the team. First-year midfielder Maddie Norman and first-year attacker Emily Games both scored twice for the Jumbos in their debuts, while first-year midfielder Lily Baldwin won four draw controls.

In addition to the strong rookie class, the Jumbos are also returning a 13-member-deep sophomore class including Adamec, who finished the game with five goals. She explained that even after her impressive rookie season, during which she was sixth in goals scored, the expectations were higher for her coming into this season.

“Definitely [after] becoming a sophomore, there’s a lot more responsibility and a lot more pressure to succeed and do well on the team,” Adamec said. “Now that we’re not freshmen anymore, we know how the team operates and we know our goals.”

The Jumbos are enjoying new depth this season, which they have not had in recent memory. Twenty-one of the 31 players on the roster played on Saturday, as opposed to just 16 Engineers who saw action. This change has allowed Tufts to change its style of play with the revamped roster and now playing a much more up-tempo game.

Senior quad-captain defender Olivia Veillette explained that the new members have fundamentally altered the team’s strategy.

“We are definitely trying to push the pace. We have a lot of numbers and we’re definitely using that this year,” Veillette said. “We have a lot of fast midfielders and we’re using a lot of subs even on the defense and attack ends … In the past it has mainly been one or two fast girls who push the pace, but this year we’re trying to do it as a team.”

Despite a lukewarm 5-5 in-conference record last year, Tufts is hoping to take the NESCAC by surprise as an up-and-coming team.

“We have a saying on our team: ‘Well done over well said’ … what we really emphasize is just doing and executing what we want on the field. One of our goals this year is definitely to be a dominant force in the NESCAC,” Adamec said. “It’s early in the season, so it’s hard to tell [where we’ll finish], but anything can happen in the NESCAC. One of our other goals that we have is being 1-0 15 times.”

Tufts faces a major early season test this Saturday when it travels to play Middlebury (1-0). The Panthers are not only a NESCAC rival, but are also currently the No. 1 ranked and reigning national champions. Last year, the Panthers beat the Jumbos 17-9.

To prepare for games like this, the captains and other upperclassmen have been preparing the younger members during the off-season, Veillette said. 

“We’ve always played Middlebury as one of our first games the past couple of years, and obviously every year is different,” she said. “I think a majority of the team knows it’s a past rivalry and how important and hard this game is going to be, but that’s kind of what is exciting. We are going to be starting off the season with a challenge.”