Tufts began its season in earnest on Saturday, playing its first regular season match of the year in Waterville, Maine against Colby. The NESCAC rivals have played each other on opening day in each of the past three seasons, with the Jumbos coming out on top over the Mules every time.
This year proved to be no different, as Tufts shut Colby (1–1) out for the second straight year, leaving Bill Alfond Field with a 2–0 victory. Defense was the name of the game for the Jumbos, who allowed a mere two shots on goal, both of which senior goalkeeper Emily Polinski put away.
One of the more interesting factors in the team’s season opener actually had nothing to do with the players or coaches on the field, but rather the field itself. Colby’s new field for field hockey and lacrosse is comprised of thick artificial turf, which plays much slower than the AstroTurf that is found at Ounjian Field.
While Tufts’ Bello Field typically hosts its lacrosse teams, as well as the men’s soccer team, practicing on Bello was a crucial part of the field hockey team’s preparation for Colby. It showed, as the Alfond Field turf had seemingly no impact on the Jumbos’ performance.
The beginning of the match featured little scoring danger on either side, with a lot of battling for possession. It did not take too long for the Jumbos to strike first, however, as a corner in the 15th minute of the game led to a goal from sophomore midfielder Beth Krikorian. The assist came via junior midfielder Marguerite Salamone.
The rest of the half proceeded without another goal, but it wasn’t for a lack of aggression from the Jumbos. Tufts led the first half in shots 8–1, forcing Colby senior goalkeeper Riley Whitmeyer into five saves in the frame.
This dominance continued into the second half, with senior forward Hanaa Malik scoring an unassisted goal less than two minutes in. While that was the Jumbos’ final score of the day, the visitors still found themselves in control of the field throughout the rest of the latter period.
Tufts again topped Colby in the attacking third of the field, putting up 10 shots in the final half to Colby’s three. Colby junior forward Georgia Cassidy had two looks at goal 20 minutes into the half — the hosts’ only two shots on goal for the contest — but Polinski took care of both.
The Jumbos put up a few more shots in the half, but the final sequences of the game mostly proceeded without incident. After a hard-fought 70 minutes, Tufts went home with a 2–0 victory.
The Jumbos managed to get 20 players into the game, a positive sign in their first match. The team’s depth was lauded by its players and coaches before the season began, and the first game reinforced their optimism.
“One thing I think we learned in that first game is just how deep this team really is,” senior forward and co-captain Gigi Tutoni said. “It really feels like anyone on this team, even those that don’t start, could easily start [for] us right now.”
This point was further proven by the Jumbos’ shot distribution. Tufts’ 18 total shots in the game came from 11 different players, with Tutoni leading the team with three. Thanks to a strong defense and an offense with multiple threats on the field, the Jumbos have reason to be optimistic for the rest of the year.
Tufts will have a quick turnaround as it heads to Babson (4–0) on Tuesday for the second game of the season. The Jumbos’ first loss of the 2017 campaign came at the hands of the Beavers in a heartbreaking 3–2 overtime defeat. The Jumbos will look to change their fortunes this year.
“Babson actually features a similar turf to Colby’s,” coach Tina Mattera said. “Outside of that, they also share a lot of similar tendencies, so we’re hoping that we can take a lot of what we did on Saturday into our game on Tuesday.”
Composure will be essential to the team going into Tuesday. While there is adequate talent and depth on the roster, the Jumbos will need to play their game consistently — if they do so, they’ll have a great chance at going out of the gate 2–0 this year.
“I think sometimes we can get a bit frantic if we don’t get a goal in the first half,” Tutoni said. “Just reminding ourselves that we worked hard to get here and that we have a team that can win every game is key.”
The second chapter of the Jumbos’ season starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at MacDowell Field in Wellesley, Mass.