Graduating seniors Conor Coleman and Matt Zinner anchored the defense for a Tufts men’s soccer team that conceded just two goals throughout the entire 2017 season. The center back and left back, respectively, leave an impressive legacy, which includes the program’s first two national titles and its first-ever NESCAC title.
For their efforts, the two were showered with postseason awards. Coleman, who in graduating senior midfielder Kevin Halliday’s words is “the most decorated player in Tufts soccer history,” was named NESCAC Player of the Week (Nov. 6), NESCAC Player of the Year and First Team All-NESCAC, while also being selected to the United Soccer Coaches All-New England First Team, the United Soccer Coaches All-America First Team and the United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American First Team. Zinner was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-New England Third Team and the United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American Third Team.
For two players who could have surely played Div. I soccer, it was the culture of Tufts’ team that brought Coleman and Zinner to Medford.
“The group of guys I met on my visit, and the group I’ve had for my four years since then, have been the most incredible group of guys I’ve met in my entire life,” Coleman said.
Zinner immediately seized a starting role for the Jumbos, appearing in 22 games during the 2014 season. The Raleigh, N.C. native played a key role in Tufts’ national championship that fall, scoring the winning goals against Ohio Wesleyan in the NCAA semifinals. As a junior in 2016, Zinner scored in the Jumbos’ first victory over the Amherst Mammoths since 2005 and played in 19 games for the national title-winning squad.
Coleman, meanwhile, took over a starting job during his sophomore season, in which he played 19 games and netted two goals. In his junior season, the Phoenix, Ariz. native started all 22 games for the Jumbos on their road to a national championship. This year, Coleman assisted the game-winning goal in Tufts’ NESCAC quarterfinal win over Bates and converted penalties in back-to-back NCAA Tournament shootouts.
What also set Tufts apart for the duo was its ability to provide a well-rounded college experience. While Coleman and Zinner enjoyed high-quality seasons in the fall, they were also able to take advantage of non-athletic opportunities during the offseason, such as studying abroad in Madrid together during their junior springs.
Throughout their years at Tufts, Coleman and Zinner recognized that each year’s team has its own idiosyncrasies and brings a unique skill-set to the table, leaving it up to the group to collectively fit the pieces together in the best way. In reflecting on their legacies, both players hope that their contributions will have implications beyond the pitch.
“I want to be remembered as a good teammate and someone who gave their all to the program,” Coleman said. “We’re all a part of the program from the moment you wear that jersey until the day you die.”
Zinner agreed, emphasizing the pride he will take from the Jumbos’ future success.
“When Tufts is winning multiple national championships down the road, [the team] can look back at our class and say, ‘Those guys were a big part in setting the foundation for where we are today and the continued success that I know is on the horizon,'” he said.