Tufts closed out its regular season this week, suffering a pair of 1–0 losses to NESCAC opponents Williams and Bowdoin. Despite the results, the Jumbos (9–4–2 overall, 5–3–2 NESCAC) will advance to the conference tournament for the sixth straight year.
The Jumbos faced a difficult road test against the Bowdoin Polar Bears (7–6–2, 3–6–1 NESCAC) on Tuesday afternoon. On top of the grueling mid-week travel schedule, the cold and rainy weather did little to help the cause for the visiting Jumbos. Senior forward and co-captain Alex Aronson admitted that the team did not play to the best of its ability.
“We did not deserve to win that game. We came out with no fire,” Aronson said. “I think we kind of assumed we would get a win because we knew we were the better team. We already knew that we were locked into our spot for the playoffs and, unfortunately, that just resulted in us not playing our game.”
Bowdoin’s superiority reflected on the scoresheet. The Polar Bears had more than twice as many shots as the visiting Jumbos (14–6) while committing fewer fouls than the visitors (11–4). Despite Bowdoin’s barrage of shots on senior goalkeeper Emily Bowers, the hosts put just one past the the All-NESCAC First-Teamer. Nonetheless, first-year forward Julia Adelmann’s 63rd-minute tally proved enough as Bowdoin clung to victory.
Adelmann’s goal came in the midst of the Jumbos’ best stretch of play, as junior forward Paige Vigliotta and sophomore midfielder/forward Sophie Lloyd had their shots saved by first-year goalkeeper Penny Rocchio prior to Adelmann’s strike.
“Honestly, as much as you never want to be outplayed, I think this game was a good wake-up call for us,” Aronson said. “We know that we can’t take a single game for granted, especially in this league, and our days could be numbered for this season.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s game against No. 3 Williams (13–0–2, 9–0–1 NESCAC) was billed as the biggest matchup of the year by many of the players before the game. On top of the stiff competition presented by the defending national champion Ephs, it was also Senior Day for eight Jumbos.
Before the game, the team honored Bowers, Aronson, defenders Taylor Koscho, Jamie Corley and Lexie Miller, defender/midfielder Alessandra Sadler, and a pair of midfielders, Sarah Grubman and co-captain Emma Ranalli.
“All eight of us felt the outpouring of love from our teammates, and it was really fun to have all of our families there supporting us, too, because we would not be here today if it weren’t for their endless support,” Corley said. “I think all the seniors would agree that this team means everything to us. It’s just such a supportive and determined group.”
Miller spoke to the seniors’ camaraderie and shared experiences from their time at Tufts.
“Our class has been through a lot of ups and downs in the last four years and that has made us really close,” Miller said. “Senior Day is when it really hits you that this is close to coming to an end, but we feel like we still have a lot of season left.”
With emotions running high and the stage set for a battle of two NESCAC teams near the top of the conference standings, the host Jumbos came out firing. The defense locked down, while the forwards applied high press on Williams’ back line. Tufts was able to control possession and put itself in position to score, but, as has been the case in many games this year, the final piece of the buildup was missing.
“We felt like we had the upper hand on them during the game,” Corley said. “We had the possession and more shots on goal — they just got the job done and we didn’t.”
Scoring on Williams, much less achieving victory, is easier said than done. The Ephs have not lost since Oct. 24, 2017 and have given up just five goals all year. Still, the Jumbos know there were missed opportunities. Tufts actually outshot its opponents 13–7 but was frustrated by Williams senior goalkeeper and co-captain Olivia Barnhill, who made four saves.
The Jumbos’ profligacy in front of the goal was eventually punished, as they conceded an 82nd-minute goal to sophomore forward Sydney Jones, who scored her ninth score of the season, sealing a victory for the unbeaten NESCAC leaders.
“It [was] just one chance, and credit to them — they converted their opportunity. But we had control the majority of the game,” Aronson said.
Though they would have loved to see a victory on Senior Day, the Jumbos’ confidence is still high. If the team wants another crack at the defending national champions, it will have to ride its fourth seed through the fifth-seeded Wesleyan in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. The Jumbos have earned the right to play that game at home, and they got the better of the Cardinals in a 2–0 win on Sept. 12, with goals from junior midfielder Izzy Moore and first-year forward Melina McDevitt.
Aronson said the team needed to get back to playing the way that it knows it can in order to achieve success against Wesleyan.
“High press, stop their kick-and-run style, and play crisp from the backs into our offense,” Aronson said. “We just have to stick to our game plan. We know we can win, but if we don’t play our game, we know we can lose — the Bowdoin game taught us that if we did not know already.”
The Jumbos’ postseason action begins on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Kraft Field.