Women’s Soccer: Tufts wins in overtime battle at Amherst to remain unbeaten in the NESCAC

4/16/16 – Medford, MA – Margaret Zahrah, '18, dribbles the ball during the game against Trinity College on April 16, 2016. Tufts sealed the deal this past weekend, finally clinching a 2–1 overtime win at Amherst after three of the team’s first eight games resulted in double-overtime draws. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts sealed the deal this past weekend, finally clinching a 2–1 overtime win at Amherst after three of the team’s first eight games resulted in double-overtime draws. With the win, Tufts now stands at 4–1–3 overall and 3–0–2 in NESCAC, placing the team third in the conference at the season’s halfway point. Williams holds the top spot, with a 6–0–1 conference record, and Conn. College lies not far behind at 4–1–1.

“Saturday was definitely a highlight of my season so far,” junior co-captain midfielder Emma Ranalli said. “It’s always great to beat Amherst and we’ve been successful there in the past. NESCAC is a crazy league, and you can go from eighth to third in one game, but it’s always a battle.”

Tufts’ victory this past Saturday comes after a disappointing 2–1 loss at MIT’s Steinbrenner Stadium Tuesday night, the team’s first and only defeat of the season. At Amherst, both the Jumbos and the Mammoths played with the intention to win in regular time, with a total of 28 shots taken over the full 92 minutes of play, 14 by either side. Despite multiple shots by Tufts’ first-year forwards Sophie Lloyd and Elizabeth Reed in the opening minutes and several more attempts by Amherst around the 40-minute mark, neither team was able to break through.

The Mammoths are off their game this season, standing at ninth in the NESCAC with a 1–4 record. They have finished in the top three every year but one since 2002, so this is unfamiliar territory for them. Their weaknesses showed on game day, as they recorded yet another loss on the season.

With 10 minutes remaining, Amherst’s senior forward Hannah Guzzi broke the deadlock, leaving Tufts with little time to scramble back. In response, coach Martha Whiting sent on Reed and Lloyd and was rewarded. With six minutes remaining, Reed, a Lynnfield, Mass. native, got her first collegiate goal of the season as she ripped a shot to tie the score at one apiece.

Ranalli said that the team’s ability to fight back demonstrated their resilience.

“It was really tough to go down with 10 minutes left, but we knew we had time and had real shot to work our way back,” Ranalli said.

However, neither team could manage another score in the final minutes. Right out of the gate in overtime, Amherst landed a corner kick and a subsequent shot on goal. Thanks to a solid save by Tufts junior goalkeeper Emily Bowers in the 91st minute, the Jumbos stayed alive, and like clockwork rallied the ball up to Lloyd at the forward slot. Taking Amherst by surprise, Lloyd booted the ball back for a second Tufts goal to clinch the 2–1 overtime win just two minutes after the end of regulation.

“Scoring the game winning goal was super exciting, especially since it was our first goal in overtime play and I know how much it means to the team to beat Amherst,” Lloyd told the Daily in an electronic message.

The Jumbos have played seven periods of overtime across four games this season.

“The overtime play, a total of 62 minutes now, has definitely not been ideal. We are at the point in the season where bodies are fatiguing so every extra minute matters,” Bowers told the Daily in an electronic message. “Fortunately though our team is pretty resilient and rises to the challenge — we have yet to lose in OT! If anything, I think it gives us some more motivation to finish games in regulation since we know how tiring overtime can be.”

The story of the game was one of grit and efficiency, but also called to attention the critical importance of the two new faces anchoring the Jumbos front line.

Reed and Lloyd carried the Jumbos’ scoring set this past Saturday and have worked in tandem at the forward positions all season, now adding Reed’s one to Lloyd’s five goals. The two first-years already have 14 points between them through the first eight games, a number they will surely look to expand upon as the second half of the season rolls around.

Tufts students and fans alike should expect to see much more of these two rising stars, who are joined by first years goalkeeper Ava McKane, defender/midfielder Hannah Isenhart and defender Rachel Brown.

Only time will tell how women’s soccer will fare in its eight final games of the season, but if the offensive explosion of its first-years and undefeated in-conference record are any indication, Ranalli believes that the outlook for the remainder of this season is bright.

“The team should be really proud of its performance,” Ranalli said. “We played a hard fought, back-to-front game, topping it off with a senior assist leading to a freshman goal. Coach Martha is a steady, strong force, and with her leading us, we fully expect to compete for a shot at this year’s NESCAC title.”

Led by Whiting and captains Ranalli and senior forward Alex Scheman, Tufts look to build momentum again as they prepare to welcome Middlebury (5–2–1) on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Kraft Field for Tufts’ homecoming weekend, before traveling to Hamilton on Sunday.