After earning a 0–0 draw against No. 5 Conn. College (11–0–2) on Saturday and then defeating Trinity 6–0 on Sunday afternoon, Tufts remains one of the best teams in the NESCAC.
In doing so, the Jumbos regained their position as the top-ranked NESCAC team, at No. 3 in the nation.
After a frustrating match against Conn. College just one day before, Tufts jumped out to a 2–0 lead in the first half of Sunday’s matchup against Trinity (2–11). After a few opportunities in the opening minutes, junior forward Joe Braun notched the first goal of the day in the 18th minute. Braun’s effort was followed with a goal from senior co-captain and back Sterling Weatherbie about 15 minutes later, giving Tufts complete control against the hosts.
The offensive momentum carried into the second half, as the Jumbos added two more goals in a five-minute span. In the 50th minute, senior defender Jackson Najjar found junior midfielder Zach Lane and then in the 54th minute, junior midfielder Brett Rojas connected with a pass to Braun, who collected his second goal on the day, good to bring him up to second place in the NESCAC goalscorers chart. With the score at 4–0, the Bantams pulled starting first-year goalkeeper Everett Lyons, but the Jumbos kept up their momentum. First-year defender Ian Daly scored the fifth in the 68th minute, before turning provider for junior midfielder Zach Trevorrow’s 79th minute strike. With that, the Jumbos recorded their biggest victory of the season.
Overall, the Jumbos outshot the Bantams 22–4, only allowing the Bantams limited offensive chances. The Jumbos had five corner kicks to the Bantams’ none, and both teams had seven fouls called on them.
“We knew we were a better team, so it was just a matter of finding our legs and finding our energy in the second game of the weekend,” Braun said. “I thought we did a good job linking from front to back, connecting through the midfield to me, and getting out wide and swinging it in.”
The lead allowed coach Josh Shapiro to sub in several players with limited game experience, including first-year goalkeeper Erich Kindermann.
“It was great to get some of those guys on the field and have them get some exposure and I think that’s a huge advantage for us,” Shapiro said. “We got a great result, but we also learned quite a bit about some of the guys in our bench who we haven’t had a chance to evaluate on game day that much yet.”
On Saturday, in what was a crucial game for determining the top team in the NESCAC, Tufts drew 0–0 against Conn. College in double overtime. Coming into the match, both teams sat at 10–0–1 and were ranked in the top five nationally.
Defense was the story of the match, with both teams generating a combined total of five shots and only one corner kick in 45 minutes.
The first five minutes were filled with energy, the possession quickly moving back and forth. Senior forward Uzii Deng, senior midfielder Michael Mihollen and senior forward Christian Murphy kept the pressure on for the offensive attack for the Camels, but they could not make any real scoring opportunities against a strong Jumbos’ defensive back line led by Weatherbie and junior back Tanner Jameson.
Rojas got the first shot of the day for Tufts at the 11-minute mark but was blocked. About eight minutes later, Rojas then had his shot saved by the Camels’ sophomore goalkeeper AJ Marcuci. Then, in the 21st minute, Braun passed the ball to junior midfielder/forward Gavin Tasker in the left corner. Tasker attempted a cross to a diving Lane, but the ball rolled out of bounds for a Conn. goal kick.
The second half proved to be another defensive battle, though the Jumbos quickly generated a few opportunities to begin the quarter. Rojas tried to keep the offensive pressure on during the second half for the Jumbos with two shots (four in total on the day), along with sophomore midfielder/forward Mati Cano, who added three shots in the second half. Although Tufts outshot Conn. College 18–4, a strong Conn. College backline, led by junior Freddy Stokes and sophomore Liam Donelan, put constant pressure on the ball and limited Tufts’ scoring opportunities.
“I think they did a pretty good job at containing our team from a defensive perspective,” Rojas said. “But, that being said, I felt we were sort of all over them and they began to sit in and even time waste a little bit, which was increasingly frustrating.”
After a scoreless second half, the game went to overtime, as the Jumbos hoped to carry some of the momentum from the second half to score.
“We thought we were doing quite well the last 20 minutes of that second half,” Shapiro said. “[We tried] to keep the momentum going, try to get the game played in their half, play through our big center forward [Braun], who has been really effective and play off of him. We wanted to create a little more width and get some more delivery in, that we did, but also to be positive and opportunistic and if you have a chance, be confident and have a go.”
The Jumbos threatened four minutes in, as the defense blocked a shot by sophomore forward Liam Noonan, allowing Lane to push the ball up the field in transition. With Braun following him up the right flank, Lane had a potential chance but lost possession before he could make a pass.
In the second period of overtime, Marcucci made a key save for the Camels on a shot from junior midfielder Jack Delaney. Neither team could muster a goal after 110 minutes of action, as the clock ran out on a Tufts offsides call.
“It was a heavy, wet field, so it made it hard to play the style that both of us would prefer to play, which is more of a passing game,” Shapiro said. “Given the circumstances of the game, I was happy with the chances we were able to create, we just needed to have someone to have that execution in the final moment and we didn’t.”
Braun said that moving forward the offense needs to be remain calm while probing for good scoring opportunities.
“Honestly, I thought our team played well and outplayed Conn.,” Braun said. “We just have to be a little more patient on offense in terms of getting good opportunities off and not just settling for a distant shot.”
The Tufts squad will have two final opportunities to do so in the regular season, both against NESCAC opponents. Tufts hosts Williams at home on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., before traveling to Bowdoin on Tuesday for a 2:30 p.m. matchup to conclude the regular season.