The No. 5 Jumbos traveled to Lewiston, Maine on Saturday, where they lost 1–0 to a red-hot Bates Bobcats side that got an early goal and hung on down the stretch. Bates may be the most dangerous team in Div. III right now, having defeated No. 2 Babson, Tufts and No. 6 Amherst in a span of five days. The Bobcats are coached by Danielle Ryder, a former assistant to Tufts coach Tina Mattera.
“She’s doing an excellent job with the program … and building a great culture there,” Mattera said. “The last couple years that we’ve played them, you could see huge improvements in their game”
In the 12th minute of the Bates versus Tufts game, Bates junior forward Taylor Lough lofted a pass across the Tufts goalmouth toward junior forward Emma Patterson, who shrugged off a defender and bounced a shot past junior goalkeeper Emily Polinski.
“It was a little bit of an unconventional goal, which I think threw us for a loop,” Mattera said.
Patterson’s second goal of the season was the only one of the day for either side, although both teams had decent chances. In the 33rd minute, Tufts senior midfielder Erin Sanders corralled a loose ball and immediately fired a shot on goal, which Bates junior goalkeeper Adelae Durand turned away. The Bobcats had a chance to add an insurance goal with eight minutes remaining in the contest, but Polinski saved Lough’s effort.
Despite holding advantages in shots (8–6) and corners (6–2), the Jumbos were unable to convert their scoring opportunities, as the Bobcats’ defense repeatedly stymied the visitors. Durand made two saves to preserve the victory for Bates, which had not beaten Tufts since 2002.
“Bates is a really athletic team with a lot of skill,” Polinski said. “Their record doesn’t reflect how skilled they are, and I think they’re one of the best teams in the country. Every team in the NESCAC is competitive, whether they’re [in] first place or last place.”
The loss was the Jumbos’ second to a NESCAC opponent in as many weeks, as they also dropped a contest 3–2 to then-No. 6 Middlebury on Oct. 7. After being on top of the NESCAC standings throughout the first half of the season, Tufts (8–4, 6–2 NESCAC) ceded its spot to Middlebury (11–2, 7–1 NESCAC) and now sits in a tie with Williams (10–2, 6–2 NESCAC) for second place.
The Wednesday before being shut out against Bates, Tufts’ firepower was on display in a 7–0 rout of Gordon College.
“We knew that Gordon was struggling this season, but we talked about how we, as a team, can play better hockey,” Mattera said. “I think the girls came out hard and ready to play. We put a lot of pressure on them early.”
Junior forward Hanaa Malik scored the Jumbos’ quickest goal of the season, less than four minutes after the opening whistle. The Summit, N.J. native struck again in the 10th minute, tipping in a long-distance shot by senior midfielder Celia Lewis, to spot the hosts an early 2–0 lead.
“Our gameplan is [always] to respect every team on our schedule,” Polinski said. “[Scoring early] sets the tone for the game and gives us a confidence boost.”
The Jumbos showed no signs of easing up, as Lewis took a pass from senior forward Mary Travers and rifled a shot past the Fighting Scots sophomore goalkeeper, Julia Altman, in the 27th minute. Two and a half minutes later, Tufts capitalized on a corner, with junior forward Gigi Tutoni recording her fourth goal of the season off a feed from junior midfielder Claire Trilling. Tufts scored its fifth goal of the first half with just 12 ticks left on the clock, as Travers (three assists) set up Trilling in front of the cage.
The Jumbos continued to dominate in the second half, even as they used the comfortable lead to rest starters and give game experience to their younger players. First-year forward Kassidy Rogers-Healion made an immediate impact off the bench, scoring her first two goals of the season in the 51st and 57th minutes.
“As an underclassman, you have to make the most out of the [limited] time that you get and just try to make an impact,” Rogers-Healion said.
In all, Tufts registered 48 shots, 30 of which were on goal (for reference, the team took 35 shots in the previous three games combined). Malik led the way with six shots, while sophomore forward Shannon Yogerst (two assists) took five. Meanwhile, the team’s dependable defense of senior co-captain Ellexa Thomas and junior Issy Del Priore was untested for long stretches and didn’t allow a single shot.
“The communication between the three of us and the rest of the defensive unit has definitely improved throughout the season,” Polinski said. “We’re [still] working on things to continue our success.”
Tufts travels to Wellesley College on Thursday for its last non-conference match of the year, before it enters the final week of the regular season, which features important games against No. 10 Williams away on Oct. 21 and No. 17 Bowdoin at home on Oct. 25.
“We need to take it one game at a time,” Mattera said. “I think if we can take care of business in the next couple games, we should be in good shape to host a first-round game [in the NESCAC Tournament].”