Women’s soccer: Tufts’ unbeaten run ends at MIT

10/22/16 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - Midfielder Jenna Troccoli, '20, jostles for position during women's soccer's 2-1 loss to Williams on Oct. 22. (Matthew Schreiber / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts suffered its first defeat of the season at neighboring MIT on Tuesday night, falling 2–1 in Steinbrenner Stadium. Prior to the loss, Tufts drew Brandeis 1–1 on Saturday. The Jumbos are now 3–1–3 this season.

“It’s frustrating because we’re good but sometimes you just want the results to back you up a little,” head coach Martha Whiting said. “I think the great thing is that we still have more than half our season in front of us — we have eight games to play, which is a lot of time to prove yourself. We’re hard to beat, but we’re starting to find our rhythm and as long as we carry that through the rest of our NESCAC schedule we’re going to be in really good shape.”

On Tuesday, the Jumbos became the latest victim of the 10–0 No. 15 MIT Engineers. The Engineers entered the game with both the leading scorer and leading provider of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. Sophomore Chessa Hoekstra boasts eight goals while sophomore midfielder Emily Berzolla already has 10 assists this season.

Despite the scoreline, the Jumbos were the dominant team in terms of shots, taking 13 compared to the Engineers’ nine. But the Jumbos were unable to make their chances count. Junior MIT goalkeeper Lily Mueller finished the game with a career-high six saves.

Tufts tried to get going early, with first-year forward Elizabeth Reed taking a shot on the MIT goal 19 seconds into the game. However, it was the Engineers who struck first. In the 12th minute, junior forward Amy Apostol was left with too much time at the top of the box and fired a powerful shot into the top corner past Tufts’ junior goalkeeper Emily Bowers.

Bowers was called into action again in the 34th minute, diving to her left to make a smart stop against MIT’s sophomore forward Allie Werner to keep the deficit at just one. However, the Jumbos couldn’t prevent the Engineers from doubling their lead 12 minutes into the second half. Off a long clearance from MIT sophomore defender Lily Bailey, Apostol was able to beat several defenders and lobbed the ball over an onrushing Bowers.

“They definitely challenged us in a way that we might not have faced before and they exploited our weaknesses a little bit,” Bowers said. “That first goal was unfortunate because it happened early on in the game; we came back and fought it, but then the second goal was a bit unlucky — they had a beautiful chip and so it was a bummer that they got two goals on us.”

Tufts pulled one back through first-year forward Sophie Lloyd just seven minutes later. In scoring her fourth collegiate goal, Lloyd expertly converted sophomore midfielder Jenna Troccoli’s assist past Mueller. Tufts managed just one shot in the rest of the game despite pushing forward, as MIT saw out the victory.

“They’re probably the best MIT team I’ve ever seen but I do feel like it was a game that could have gone either way,” Whiting said. “I don’t think that they ran the game, it was really even — there were times when they took it to us, there were times when we took it to them. I know we had more shots but that doesn’t always translate into goals.”

The coaches also had special praise for Troccoli.

“She just covers so much ground and it’s huge,” assistant coach Julia Rafferty said. “We talk a lot to the girls at the start of the season about how important it is to win those balls in midfield… She has done that and then some.”

Tufts was held to a 1–1 draw against the Brandeis Judges after double overtime on Saturday. The game was noted for its attacking nature, as Tufts and Brandeis combined for a total of 13 shots in the first half. Lloyd once again led the front line superbly and gave Tufts the lead in the 21st minute, as she put away junior forward Alessandra Sadler’s cross. Tufts controlled the game with decent possession, but could not find a way past sophomore goalkeeper Sierra Dana for the remainder of the game.

Tufts was unable to hold on to its lead, as Brandeis hit Tufts on the break successfully after 56 minutes. Senior tri-captain Haliana Burhans received the ball and drove forward. Burhans then expertly released her strike partner junior Sasha Sunday, who smashed it past Bowers to tie the game.

Tufts almost restored its advantage in the 61st minute, but Reed shot over after Lloyd’s strike hit the post. Tufts was almost made to pay for that mistake, but Sunday was denied her second goal of the game as sophomore defender Tally Clark cleared her shot off the line.

Tufts had a few more opportunities to win in overtime, but was denied by some expert goalkeeping from Dana, who tied a career-high with six saves, half of which came in overtime. Dana dove to first deny senior forward Mariah Harvey-Brown in the 97th minute and then junior midfielder Sarah Grubman four minutes later.

Tufts plays one more game away at conference rival Amherst this Saturday. This starts a series of three conference games for Tufts as it hosts Middlebury on Oct. 7 before going to Hamilton the next day.

Returning to NESCAC action this weekend, Troccoli believes the team is ready to work on getting better.

“The most important thing is that we’re consistent and once we come out playing hard and consistent, we know that we can beat these teams,” Troccoli said. “Consistent energy is what we need to work on a little bit because we do the best when we’re fired up and when our players are excited to be there and when we feed off each other’s energy. That’s what we’re going to focus on and the rest will fall into place from there.”

Whiting wants to take some of the positives from non-NESCAC action going into these crucial conference games.

“What we can look to is that we played two highly ranked teams very well and for much of those games we were able to control the tempo and play the way we wanted to play,” Whiting said. “We tell the girls you can’t control the outcome, whether you win or lose, but how hard you work and how mentally tough you are. When teams are this good, and you feel like you’re this good, often it comes down to these intangibles.”