Women’s Soccer: Tufts maintains undefeated start to the season

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

Women’s soccer recorded a draw and a victory in its double-header weekend against Conn. College and Trinity, respectively. This came on the back of a 1-0 midweek victory at Wesleyan. With these results against their NESCAC rivals, the Jumbos continue their unbeaten start to the season, moving to 3-0-2 overall and 2-0-2 in the NESCAC.

The results and team performance continue to impress coach Martha Whiting, with the Trinity result showing that the team has started to play more convincingly on offense.

“The one thing that we need to be better at, and we definitely showed improvement this weekend, is putting the ball in the back of the net,” Whiting said. “It’s not that we can’t score, it’s just a matter of our team making a real conscious effort to get their head up and try to play to goal as the first option. I think that’s exactly what we did in the second half against Trinity. It’s been [a slow start], but I know it’s there, but it feels as though now that we got those two goals [against Trinity], we’ve figured it out and more goals will come.”

On Sunday, Tufts was able to banish memories of its 1-0 NESCAC quarterfinal loss to Trinity last season by defeating its opponents 2-0. Having not beaten the Bantams since the 2011 season, this was a major victory for the program.

“I didn’t know this until the day of the game, but even the seniors my [first year] have never beaten Trinity,” junior co-captain and midfielder Emma Ranalli said. “I think it was big for the program as a whole and [for] the returners that had to sit in that locker room last year to look at our seniors and say, ‘we lost a game that we shouldn’t have lost.’ So it was really big for us to pick up momentum going into a solid chunk of the season.”

The game started out tentatively, as both teams had played an overtime game the previous day. It was a scrappy game, as both teams were committed to battling it out in midfield. This meant that it was hard to play the final ball behind the backline of both defenses. Some of the better chances fell the home team’s way, including an opportunity in the 28th minute. Ranalli’s corner fizzled across the six-yard box, but no Tufts player was on hand to tap it in.

However, the Jumbos stepped it up in the second half. Just four minutes after the break, first-year midfielder/forward Sophie Lloyd continued her fine start to the season by heading home sophomore defender Tally Clark’s cross. Tufts quickly doubled-down on its advantage, as first-year forward Elizabeth Reed played junior defender/forward Alessandra Sadler in. Sadler promptly rounded the keeper to seal the victory for the Jumbos.

For Whiting, the result speaks volumes of the team’s progress since postseason play last year.

“The last game we played last year was against Trinity, we had a little chip on our shoulder considering how well we played, but with our inability to score it was so frustrating,” Whiting said. “So to come out and beat them was great. We not only beat them, but we really controlled the game, we outshot them, we out-corner-kicked them, it felt really good that we didn’t just win the game but really dominated.”

Just the day before, the Jumbos battled the Conn. College Camels through double overtime, over 110 minutes of play. It proved to be a frustrating game for both teams, as they took a combined 29 shots, but neither could find the winning goal. Both teams came into this match undefeated, meaning that this was a highly competitive game. The Jumbos’ junior goalkeeper Emily Bowers kept her team in it with a total of eight saves, six of them coming in the first half. The biggest moment in that first half came before halftime, when Bowers pulled off a fine stop from senior defender Mackenzie Kingston’s free kick to keep the game level.

However, Bowers was unable to prevent the visitors from taking the lead in the second half, as senior midfielder Michelle Medina was fouled in the penalty box and converted from the spot to draw first blood. Yet the Jumbos showed their tenacity by responding almost immediately. Sophomore midfielder Jenna Troccoli played a well-measured ball to Lloyd, who showed composure to draw the Jumbos level just five minutes later. While the energy remained consistently high with both teams trying to win in overtime, Lloyd’s first collegiate goal proved to be the last of the match.

“Sophie has been a really nice surprise,” Whiting said. “We knew she was a good player, but until the first-years actually get there and get incorporated into the team, we don’t really know how someone is going to respond to the newness of college and a new team. She’s responded really well, played hard and both of the goals she got were hard-fought goals.”

On Sept. 13, Tufts travelled to Wesleyan for the first of three consecutive conference games and emerged victorious with a 1-0 result. The game could have been more comfortable if not for the superb defense of Wesleyan, the best of which came at the half-hour mark. Lloyd and senior midfielder Margaret Zahrah led a Tufts counterattack, but were expertly denied by sophomore goalkeeper Zoe Cassels-Brown, who came charging out of her box to break up the play.

Tufts finally found the breakthrough by capitalizing on their set piece strength. The team had seven corners in the game and, on 58 minutes, sophomore midfielder Sarah Maloney scored her first collegiate goal by slotting home Ranalli’s corner.

Ranalli was proud that the team’s hard work on set pieces paid off.

“We spend a lot of time working on set pieces, very controllable things that we can practice, so to score off of that was awesome, especially since it was [Maloney’s] first career goal,” Ranalli said. “She’s a beast in the air, so I expected it to come off her head, but for it to come off her foot is exciting. She’s been awesome anchoring our backline so to see her on the scoresheet was exciting for her and for us.”

Tufts takes a break from NESCAC action as it heads to Brandeis on Saturday, before making the short trip to MIT on Tuesday.

“I think we realize how important these next two games are,” Ranalli said. “We lost a couple of non-conference games last year that we shouldn’t have lost, so we realize that these two games are just as important as any NESCAC opponent. We’re excited to play Brandeis and MIT, we’d take it one game at a time, but they’d be challenging in different ways, because we understand how important these games are to us long term.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Sophie Lloyd was named NESCAC Player of the Week. The article has been updated to reflect this. The Daily regrets this error.