Tufts hosted the Emerson College Lions on Bello Field in its home opener Wednesday before facing off against the Colby Mules on Saturday on Kraft Field. Colby — 1–9 in the conference last season — was Tufts’ first NESCAC opponent of the season. The Jumbos came away with a 2–1 win over the Lions and drew the Mules 0–0 to start the season undefeated at 1–0–1.
The team welcomed five first-years, three of whom played over the weekend and made a discernible impact.
“The first years have been great additions to the team both on and off the field,” junior co-captain midfielder Emma Ranalli said. “They have fit in nicely with our style of play and are making an immediate impact. We are super excited to see how they will continue to improve throughout the season as they get most used to the speed of play and physicality of the collegiate level.”
Tufts dominated Colby in shots, outshooting them 13–7 in regulation time, but was unable to put the ball in the net during the first 90 minutes of the game, and the match-up was forced into two periods of overtime. The Jumbos limited the Mules to just one shot while creating seven for themselves in overtime. Tufts continued to create chances in the first period of overtime, but senior forward Mariah Harvey-Brown and first-year forward Elizabeth Reed had their shots blocked. Late in the second period of overtime, sophomore defender Tally Clark had an opportunity to win the game for the Jumbos but blazed her shot just over the crossbar.
The game ended in a 0–0 tie, with 20 total shots, 15 on target and 13 forced saves. Meanwhile Colby was only able to muster eight shots, only three of which were on goal. The Jumbos were unlucky not to come out on top especially after 20 minutes of extra time.
The game against Emerson suffered from a slow start on both sides, as the two teams stalemated for the entirety of the first half. The Jumbos had a 5-2 edge on the Lions in shots, but neither of the two teams was able to convert its chances.
The second half started similarly, with Tufts managing just two shots in the first 20 minutes, but then the floodgates opened. Harvey-Brown opened the scoring in the 68th minute, slotting the ball past Emerson senior goalkeeper Laura Gartelman after a quick give-and-go with Reed. Just two minutes later, junior Alessandra Sadler placed another past Gartelman after a cross-field pass from Clark. The two quick goals allowed the Jumbos to consolidate and take control of the game.
Even though the Jumbos were up 2–0 in the second half, they did not let up and remained relentless on the attack. They managed a total of eight shots in the final 20 minutes of the game. The Lions pulled back a late goal in the 90th minute when two of their four captains, junior forward Paige Haley and junior forward Jess Frost, connected for a score. But it was too little, too late. The Jumbos’ defense held strong and shut out the Lions’ attack for the few remaining seconds of the game.
According to senior co-captain forward Alex Scheman, the Jumbos were happy with the week’s results, but they have things to improve upon.
“We definitely have a few kinks to iron out after our first two games, but overall we played well and it’s been a strong start to the season,” Scheman said. “We connected passes consistently, maintained possession and had tons of opportunities in both games, but we have to finish our opportunities in order to be more successful.”
Overall, it was a commanding victory for Tufts. The Jumbos outshot the Lions 17–5 and forced Gartelman to make six saves, whereas the Lions were unable to get around the Jumbos’ defense, and only forced one save from junior goalkeeper Emily Bowers.
The Jumbos are confident in their strategic approach to the season and feel it will play to their strengths as a team.
“This is our second season playing a 3–5–2 formation,” Scheman said. “We’ve always had such a strong back line that we wanted to load our numbers in the attacking third so we could hopefully score more goals. We have a ton of fast and technical players so having two outside midfielders plus two forwards plays to that strength and allows us to have more players with an offensive mindset on the field. Plus, our goalie [junior] Emily Bowers is so phenomenal that we feel comfortable leaving her with three defenders instead of the usual four.”
Tufts faces off against Wesleyan in their next game on Tuesday, Sep. 12 before hosting Conn. College and Trinity on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Coach Martha Whiting has high hopes for the coming games.
“We are making the mistakes I would expect us to make this early in the season, all of which are fixable. We improved from Emerson to Colby and we expect that will be the trend, constant improvement,” Whiting said. “We have excellent team defense and are moving the ball dynamically on the attacking side. We are getting lots of dangerous chances and we are confident in our ability to finish those chances moving forward. This is a very motivated group of soccer players.”
Yuan Jun Chee contributed reporting to this article.