Entering the final stretch of their regular season schedule, Tufts made major statements with a pair of 2–0 shutout victories against Haverford and No. 16 Williams. The impressive defensive performances were the fourth and fifth straight shutouts for the Jumbos (13–1).
The stakes were high when the Jumbos hosted the Williams Ephs (10–4) at Ounjian Field on Saturday. Not only was it Senior Day for the hosts, but the game carried serious NESCAC implications: A Williams victory would have vaulted them into second place in the conference, as they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Tufts.
It didn’t take long for both teams to get into gear. There were penalty corners and shot opportunities on both sides of the field a mere six minutes into the match. A particularly dangerous Williams rush evaded first-year goalkeeper Andie Stallman, but senior defender Issy Del Priore was positioned well to stop the attack.
The rest of the half continued in a similar fashion, with both teams fighting for penalty corners and scoring opportunities. The Jumbos had one last chance in the first half with an onslaught of shots from junior forward Rachel Hamilton, but Williams senior goalkeeper and co-captain Emma Santucci did not relent.
The Jumbos found themselves in a familiar position at the end of the half: The first period ended scoreless for their fourth straight game, leaving 35 minutes to break the tie. After finding the net — and the win — in their three previous contests, the hosts did the same Saturday.
“In the first half, I think we’re trying to figure out what the other team is doing,” coach Tina Mattera said. “Then in the second half, we’ve figured it out and then we’re able to really get after them.”
Seven minutes into the second half, Hamilton placed a pass to sophomore midfielder Beth Krikorian for a shot, which was blocked before it could get to Williams junior goalkeeper Abby Lloyd, who entered the game after halftime. First-year midfielder Claire Foley made contact with the ball after the deflection, sending it into the net for the game’s first goal.
Nine minutes later, senior forward co-captain Gigi Tutoni sealed Williams’ fate with an unassisted gem, her 10th goal of the season. The goal marked her 28th in her Tufts career, tying her for seventh all-time in career goals scored for the program.
“I feel really confident in our forward line,” Tutoni said. “We have a really deep bench, so we’re always running. It’s great that we have so many talented people; we have so many different people scoring from the first-years to the seniors.”
The Ephs managed just two more shots in the final 20 minutes of action, both of which were handled by Stallman in the waning seconds of the match. Despite a bit more success generating offensive chances, the Jumbos were unable to score a third goal.
“It was just so surreal — I can’t believe I’m already a senior,” Tutoni said. “I feel like it was just yesterday when we were all in preseason freaking out about the run test on the first day. It was just nice to be there with my fellow [classmates] and seeing that we’ve all made it this far. It’s been such a good run.”
Mattera praised the senior class for the contributions that it has made to the team.
“Our seniors are a phenomenal class,” Mattera said. “They’re awesome all over the field. They play a bunch of different positions, and they’ve just been great leaders. This year they’re really about the team, and that’s shown — they’ve been a lot more about action and not just talking about things.”
The Jumbos defensive dominance was also on display earlier in the week against the Haverford Fords (6–8), when, for the fourth straight game, they held their opponents to less than two shots on goal. While the Tufts offense warmed up and started pressuring the offensive third, Haverford struggled to keep possession and find meaningful opportunities on the other end of the field.
Once again, though, the Jumbos were unable to convert in the first half. The team got off 10 shots and had a few convincing penalty corners, but nothing made it past Haverford first-year goalkeeper Hannah Roth. It took a halftime break for the Jumbos to put points on the board.
Foley was once again the first Jumbo to find the net, with an unassisted goal in traffic to put the Jumbos up 1–0 in the 48th minute. Hamilton provided insurance a few minutes later with a strike off of a penalty corner from junior midfielder Marguerite Salamone.
The only response from the Fords was a penalty corner with 10 minutes remaining, ending in a shot that went wide of the net. The final score was a 2–0 Jumbos victory, with the week’s success bringing their overall record to 13–1 and NESCAC record to 8–1, good for second in the conference.
With one game remaining, the Jumbos are locked in to the No. 2 seed for the NESCAC conference tournament. A loss against the No. 11 Bowdoin Polar Bears would not change that, as every team below the Jumbos has three conference losses. Due to Middlebury’s win against Tufts earlier in the season, the team is also unable to capture the top seed.
Nonetheless, the Jumbos hope to win the final regular season game and use it to make adjustments before entering the postseason, as well as to cement their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
“I tell the [players] all season that there are two ways to make the NCAAs. [They] either win the conference or have a really good record,” Mattera said. “So I think adding one more win under our belt will really help us. We plan on winning the NESCAC, but if we can’t, having a super strong record will hopefully allow us to grab an at-large bid into the NCAAs.”
Tutoni concurred, noting the Polar Bears’ strength.
“Bowdoin is always a really good team,” Tutoni said. “So even though it doesn’t mean anything to [the team’s] standing … beating Bowdoin … really sends a message to the NESCAC and the rest of Div. III field hockey in general.”
Tufts will travel to Brunswick, Maine on Wednesday, with a 6 p.m. start time for the regular season finale.