A week after their first NESCAC loss, the Tufts Men’s Soccer team bounced back with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Middlebury Homecoming afternoon.
Tufts dominated from the start and had the game well in hand by the halftime whistle. Tufts held the advantage in shots 15 to 3 and the advantage in corner kicks 7 to 1.
The scoring started in the 10th minute on a connection between two sophomores, Gavin Tasker and Brett Rojas. The ball was played long to Tasker on the left side of the field. He caught up to it and sent a cross into the box that found a wide open Rojas who calmly tapped it into the bottom left corner of the net.
The goals continued to roll in, as the Jumbos scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half. In the 40th minute, freshman Biagio Paoletta struck home a goal off of a corner kick that Middlebury was unable to clear. It was Paoletta’s first goal of his young career. Senior Dexter Eichhorst also got in on the scoring action with a goal right before the halftime whistle. The game was already safely in hand in the 50th minute when Paoletta’s fellow first year teammate, Travis Van Brewer, scored the fourth and final goal of the game, reaching the ball just before the Middlebury goalkeeper to slot home his first career goal.
The Homecoming game was the Jumbos largest margin of victory against a NESCAC opponent this season and the energy of the fans on this kind of a day certainly made a difference.
Sophomore Zachary Trevorrow explained, “Homecoming is something everyone looks forward. The energy level, the crowd, it makes the game an unforgettable experience. We played our best soccer of the season against Midd, so it was nice to give the alumni a good welcome back.”
With assists in this game from Tasker and Trevorrow and a goal from Rojas, the top three point scorers on the team all come from the sophomore class. Much of the attacking spots this season have been taken by underclassmen filling in for players that graduated last year, and though the offense was off to a rough start, the younger players have been extremely successful down the stretch.
Senior captain Conor Coleman said, “Our sophomores have made the leap they needed to and are establishing themselves as some of the best players in the NESCAC. They still have a lot of work to do to reach their potential but if they continue to work hard all the underclassmen will be hugely important to our team’s continued success this year.”
Junior defenseman Jackson Najjar echoed Coleman’s point by saying, “a big concern going into this year was who was going to pick up the goal production we lost from last year. It took a little while but the underclassmen have really taken their role seriously and are doing a great job.”
After the Middlebury win, the Jumbos remain atop the NESCAC standings with a conference record of 5-1-1. The remaining NESCAC teams Jumbos will face, Bates, Williams, and Bowdoin, are commanding much of the team’s attention going forward. However, their focus and attention to detail has not wavered.
Coleman said, “the attitude we have for these games is the same as the attitude we had at the beginning of the season: one game at a time. We go into every game thinking we are 0-0 and need to prove ourselves. Everyone in the NESCAC is having a good season so we need to keep taking it one game at a time and realize we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
Coleman’s message seems to have gotten through to the team, as the team took care of business Tuesday afternoon in a non-conference battle with Mt. St. Vincent with an unheard-of score line of 10-0. Seven different Jumbos scored, with Tasker, Eichhorst, and freshman Alex Ratzan scoring two each. With the win, the team improved to 9-1-1 on the season and it was their highest scoring effort since 2000.
Said Najjar, “the team is happy with how we are dominating games and we are hoping that trend continues. The most important thing right now is winning out so that we can host the NESCAC tournament and hopefully some NCAA tournament games.”