The Jumbos (9–1–1, 5–1–1 NESCAC) continue to top the NESCAC after an emphatic 4–0 win over the Middlebury Panthers (8–4, 3–4 NESCAC) on Homecoming weekend. Despite posting their first loss of the season against Amherst on Sept. 30, the Jumbos have performed well since. On Tuesday, Tufts recorded a 10–0 win over Mt. St. Vincent, the most goals the team has scored in a game since 2000.
The first of the 10 goals came in the eighth minute, and they continued at a regular pace for the remainder of the game. Sophomore midfielder/forward Gavin Tasker, senior midfielder Dexter Eichhorst and first-year forward Alex Ratzan each put up a brace for the team. With seven players making it onto the scoresheet, the game was a demonstration of the varied skill on the roster, as opposed to previous years where there were one or two regular scorers for the team.
Coach Joshua Shapiro was impressed with the team’s performance in three wins following the Amherst matchup.
“Two years ago we lost in overtime to both [Amherst and Hamilton] and that was a real blow to the team’s success,” Shapiro said. “I think the guys understand that it’s important to respond. I thought we controlled the play against Hamilton. It’s really important to control the game and get on the front foot and get the first goal but also dominate proceedings with the ball. We were able to do that so I was really pleased with the response.”
Against Middlebury on Saturday, Tufts dominated from the start and had the game well in hand by the halftime whistle, notching three goals in the first 45 minutes. The scoring started in the 10th minute on a connection between Tasker and sophomore midfielder 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 Jumbos added two more to their total in the final five minutes of the first half. In the 40th minute, first-year defender Biagio Paoletta struck home the first goal of his Tufts career from a corner kick that Middlebury was unable to clear. Eichhorst also got in on the scoring action right before the halftime whistle courtesy of an assist by junior midfielder Jarod Glover.
The game was already safely under the Jumbos’ control in the 51st minute when Paoletta’s fellow first-year teammate, midfielder Travis Van Brewer, scored the fourth and final goal of the game, reaching a through ball just before senior Panthers goalkeeper Jeremy Yeager and slotting home his first career goal.
The Homecoming triumph was the Jumbos’ largest margin of victory against a NESCAC opponent this season. According to sophomore midfielder/defender Zachary Trevorrow, the fans’ energy boosted the Jumbos‘ confidence.
“Homecoming is something everyone looks forward [to],” he said. “The energy level [and] the crowd make the game an unforgettable experience. We played our best soccer of the season against [Middlebury], so it was nice to give the alumni a good welcome back.”
With the goal from Rojas and the assist from Tasker, two of the top three point scorers on the team all come from the sophomore class (11 points and seven points, respectively). Much of the playing time in attacking positions this season has been given to underclassmen replacing players who graduated last year. Though the offense began unsteadily with three goals in the first three NESCAC contests, the younger players have been more prolific in recent games.
“Our sophomores have made the leap they needed to and are establishing themselves as some of the best players in the NESCAC,” senior co-captain defender Conor Coleman said. “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.”
Likewise, junior defender Jackson Najjar raised the up-and-coming attackers.
“A big concern going into this year was who was going to pick up the goal production we lost from last year,” he said. “It took a little while, but the underclassmen have really taken their role seriously and are doing a great job.”
According to Coleman, the team’s recent successes will not distract them from the hard work ahead.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Although Tufts’ performance so far has been nothing short of dominant, having only conceded one goal in 11 games, Shapiro is quick to note that the team’s NESCAC opponents are not far behind. Bowdoin is one point behind Tufts in-conference, with a game in hand, so Bowdoin has the potential to rise to the top of the standings on Saturday if they beat Hamilton.
“The team feels pretty good about where we are but we also understand that we’re in a dog fight to see who can win the league outright … We understand that we need to continue to take it one game at a time, any one of our four remaining teams can beat us,” he said. “If we win out we have an excellent chance to host the NESCAC [tournament] and we would love to be able to compete for a NESCAC Championship on our home field. The goal is to win out and give ourselves a chance to play on Bello in some big games this fall.”