Men’s Soccer: Jumbos on five-game winning streak, remain No. 1 in the NESCAC

Tufts Midfielder Alex Ratzan, '21, jumps to intercept a long pass in the homecoming game against Middlebury on Saturday, Oct. 7. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

Victories over Bates and Keene State afford Tufts a five-game winning streak as the team maintains its No. 1 position in the NESCAC. The Jumbos defense has rendered them practically unstoppable, as they have yet to concede a goal in five games and boast a 0.08 goals against average after giving up only one goal on the season.

On Wednesday, Tufts recorded a 3–0 victory over Keene State in its final non-conference match of the regular season. The match started out slowly for the Jumbos. During the first half, the team had trouble connecting with each other and keeping the ball on the ground. The ball was airborne, bouncing back and forth as the teams traded possessions until Tufts managed to gain control of the game toward the end of the half.

“To be honest, we were good 15 to 20 minutes of the game and then we dropped off a bit and if we didn’t take those goals late in the half I think the conversation would have been very different, “ coach Josh Shapiro said. “We were getting frustrated with our lack of balance and we were bombing the ball forward without any discipline so they [Keene State] were able to come back at us if we turned the ball over.”

With less than five minutes left in the first half, senior defender Matt Zinner took a corner kick from the right side, which landed in front of the goalmouth finding the feet of senior midfielder Dexter Eichhorst. Eichhorst slotted the ball in the bottom right corner, scoring the first goal of the match and his fifth on the season.

Energized by the first goal, sophomore midfielder/defender Zach Trevorrow netted another in the bottom right corner just 27 seconds later at 41:24, assisted by first-year defender/midfielder Derek Enge. This was Trevorrow’s second goal on the season.

“I think the amount of time they had to defend eventually wore them down a little bit and that created the great chances we were able to take at the end of the first half,” Shapiro said.

Despite the final score, the Keene State Owls had a fair share of near scoring opportunities. At 18:16, Owls senior midfielder Riley Steele was able to get a shot off that sailed over the crossbar. Steele also generated an opportunity later in the second half when he crossed the ball in front of the goalmouth to create some chaos, but again the Jumbos defense proved infallible and prevented the Owls from getting a good shot off.

The final goal for Tufts came late in the second half at 79:52 after senior midfielder Tyler Kulcsar crushed the ball down the right side into the 18, where junior midfielder/forward Jarod Glover took advantage of a poorly positioned Owl goaltender and headed the ball into the back of the net. Tufts outshot Keene State 18–7, while Keene State had no shots on goal compared to Tufts’ eight.

On Saturday, Tufts edged past Bates 1–0. The game remained scoreless until late in the second half, as both teams missed close chances and were unable to capitalize. The Jumbos dominated the Bobcats in shots (12–5) in the first half and were quick to start peppering the Bobcats goalie with a shot on net from sophomore forward Brett Rojas at 1:23. Sophomore midfielder Zach Lane also generated many offensive opportunities for the team, with three shots on net and six shots total.

“It was a tough field to play on because it was beat up from their games in the weeks before but it was a really back and forth game based on a lot of chances earlier on,” junior co-captain defender Sterling Weatherbie said. “Towards the end of the half we started to play a little better and we got our shots off, but we didn’t play the best that we could have.”

In the 63rd minute, senior co-captain defender Conor Coleman headed the ball to the net forcing a save from Bates junior goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro as Tufts continued to apply pressure. With six minutes left in the game, Tufts was awarded a corner kick. Senior midfielder Kevin Halliday shot the ball, which was poorly cleared by the Bates defense. First-year midfielder Travis van Brewer was on hand to net the game winner at 84:13. It was Van Brewer’s third goal on the season.

“It was a really grindy win, which is good because we need to have a couple of those under our belt before going into the playoffs and postseason because there are a lot of games like that,” Weatherbie said.

Tufts has two games remaining in the regular season against Williams and Bowdoin, and the results of these games will determine the final ranking and the host of the NESCAC tournament. With two victories, it is likely that Tufts would clinch the No. 1 seed and host the tournament.

Despite sustained success and consecutive wins, the team remains conscientious of the games to come.

“Williams is emerging as one of the best defensive teams and really dynamic young players are coming through and they are hitting their stride now,” Shapiro said. “Bowdoin is a nemesis for us — just look at our record for the last five years. They’ve had more success against us than any other team in the league and they are a very challenging opponent. Our job is to maintain our intensity and focus and to figure out how to be a better team in the post season than we were in the regular season.”