Tufts continued its dominant start to the season with 2–0 victories over Wesleyan (3–2) and Bates (2–3). The Jumbos have yet to give up a goal this season, an astounding statistic considering they have scored 15 themselves. This week brought their overall record to 5–0 and their conference record to 3–0.
Saturday afternoon featured the Bates Bobcats, a familiar NESCAC foe. The Jumbos looked poised for a victory from nearly the first whistle, with sophomore forward Liz Reed scoring on a header just two minutes into the game. The lofted cross came from senior defender/forward Alessandra Sadler who just returned from injury this week. The play was typical of the team’s goals this season: a beautiful string of passes leading to a high-percentage scoring opportunity. The Jumbos have held a distinct advantage in shots in every game they have played this season; this game was no different as they nearly doubled the Bobcats attempts, 19 to 10. The threatening possession-based style was on display in the second half as well, when junior midfielder Jenna Troccoli scored after receiving a through ball from senior forward and co-captain Alex Aronson to eventually seal the victory for the Jumbos.
“We have been practicing our buildups from the back and trying to create team goals,” senior defender Taylor Koscho said. “Most of our goals have been chances we have created after putting together a few passes which is really nice to see.”
Integral to their fast-paced and passing-based philosophy is the team’s excellent use of its substitutes, according to Koscho.
“Honestly, the biggest thing for us has been our depth,” Koscho said. “There have [been] so many people contributing and the chemistry is there with everybody. We are all buying in to playing the same style, so even when the substitutes come on, we continue to play the same way.”
Coach Martha Whiting has taken a distinct approach to her substitutions this season. She lets the starters play for the first 25 to 30 minutes of both halves and then makes multiple substitutions at once, thus allowing the 11 players who are representing Tufts on the field to be full of energy.
“We really like what Coach is doing with the subs [as] it keeps the team energized because we always have fresh legs,” senior defender Jamie Corley said. “A big thing we have been trying to do this season is apply heavy pressure on the other teams’ defenders; so, when we make these big subs, our team stays active on offense and defense.”
Earlier in the week, Tufts took on Wesleyan in what proved to be a more defensive battle. The scoreline read the same, but Wesleyan came out more physical and intent on stopping the Jumbos’ attack. The game finally broke open with only five minutes left in the first half, when a handball was called in the Wesleyan penalty box. Tufts junior midfielder Izzy Moore stepped up and slotted home the penalty for her second goal of the season.
The score remained 1–0 until first-year forward Melina McDevitt scored her first collegiate goal off of an assist from a fellow first-year forward Lily Keiderling with less than 10 minutes remaining. While Tufts was held to a season-low of 11 shots, the Jumbos still found the back of the net twice, and, more importantly, made it out of the match with a clean sheet.
“They came out stronger than we expected, I think. I wouldn’t say we played our best game but we were still able to win,” senior defender Lexie Miller said.
The Jumbos cruised through the week without star sophomore forward Sophie Lloyd, who currently leads the conference as top goalscorer with six goals. Prior to this week, she had scored more than half of the Jumbos’ goals this season. However, the rest of the team, led by Aronson and senior midfielder and co-captain Emma Rannali, were able to step up and as a result, the team did not miss a beat in Lloyd’s absence.
“[Aronson] deserves a lot of credit,” Koscho said. “She did an awesome job filling in for [Lloyd] and being a really effective target forward for us. We are always looking to advance the ball from the back, so having a forward that can do that job is really important.”
Depth was on display all week, but the team knows that they are going to have to keep getting better in order to continue their success. The competition is only going to get stiffer moving forward, starting with non-conference battles against Brandeis and MIT, and heading into NESCAC matchups with good teams like Amherst and Middlebury.
“We know we can keep getting better,” Corley said. “We also know that if we don’t then we are going to run into some trouble. But for the time being we are just focusing on one game at a time. Coach is always stressing that to us, so for now, we are focused on Brandeis.”