A stellar undefeated season granted the No. 2 Jumbos a first-round bye in the NCAA Div. III Tournament. The team will begin its campaign for its third NCAA title in five years on Sunday when it faces off against the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Stevens Institute of Technology (17–2–1) and Gordon College (12–6–1).
Tufts’ 13–0–3 overall record earned them the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC and a No. 1 regional rank, but the team lost in the NESCAC quarterfinal on penalty kicks to the eventual NESCAC winner, Colby College.
Tufts has relied on its strong defense, allowing only nine goals throughout the entire season. Meanwhile, the Jumbos’ offense is the most dangerous it’s been since 2014, averaging 2.06 goals per game. It is led by junior forward Joe Braun, who led the NESCAC this season with eight goals.
“We’re thrilled to get a bye,” coach Josh Shapiro said. “We were rewarded for our success in the season but also the strength of our schedule … We are certainly excited but at the same time we can’t wait to get playing — two weeks off between games feels like a long time and we want to get back out there and compete together.”
Despite their lower seeds, both of the Jumbos’ potential opponents will carry momentum from postseason success in their conferences — Stevens won the Empire 8 Athletic Conference while Gordon won the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Stevens ended the season as the 22nd-ranked team in the country.
Tufts will host the Stevens–Gordon winner on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Bello Field.
Despite not winning the NESCAC, the Jumbos’ 16–2 campaign was enough to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament as well as a first-round bye. Tufts will await the results of Montclair State University and Smith College tonight — the winner takes on the Brown and Blue in Salisbury, Md. on Saturday.
“I think the bracket is really balanced this year,” coach Tina Mattera said. “There are a lot of tough teams at every site. I just really love getting out and playing new teams — teams we wouldn’t normally get to see. I’m excited.”
The other bye in the Jumbos’ region belongs to Salisbury University, the host of the region’s semifinal and final, who will take on the winner of Washington & Jefferson College and Rhodes College. The winners of both semifinal matches will meet on Sunday, with the eventual victor heading to Manheim, Pa. for the Final Four.
The Jumbos will rely on senior forward and co-captain Gigi Tutoni, who has a team-high 12 goals, to lead the line. The team would also be looking to contributions from the rest of its offensive leaders, such as junior forward Rachel Hamilton, first-year midfielder Claire Foley, senior forward Hanaa Malik and sophomore midfielder Beth Krikorian.
There won’t be too many familiar faces in the bracket for Tufts, as it was the only NESCAC team to secure an at-large bid, leaving itself and NESCAC champion Middlebury as the only representatives of the conference in the tournament. Middlebury also happens to be the only team in the field that Tufts played during the regular season. The Panthers are on the other side of the bracket, meaning a matchup between the two would only occur in the title game.
Part 2 of the Jumbos’ season will kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Tufts women’s soccer (10–5–2) kicks off its NCAA title bid on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Penn State Behrend at William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y. Tufts secured its second consecutive NCAA at-large bid after reaching the NESCAC Tournament for the seventh straight year, before bowing out in the semifinals to defending national champion Williams in a closely contested 3–2 loss.
The Jumbos started its season off with a 5–0 start. Though the team’s results soon cooled, the attacking duo of sophomore forwards Liz Reed and Sophie Lloyd struck fear in NESCAC opponents all season long. Reed finished as NESCAC’s assist leader with seven, and Lloyd finished as NESCAC’s third-best goalscorer with 10 goals and second-best point-scorer with 25. Reed was not far behind with eight goals. The two will look to continue their form into the tournament.
Senior goalkeeper Emily Bowers, meanwhile, secured the program’s career shutout record this season. Bowers secured her 25th shutouts by keeping a clean sheet against Trinity on Oct. 14, breaking Randee McArdle’s 1997-2000 career record of 24. Bowers has since extended her record with a 2–0 blanking of Wesleyan.
Coach Martha Whiting spoke to how the team has to prepare for a team it has never played.
“We’ve never played [Penn State Behrend] and we’ve never played someone who’s played them,” Whiting said. “We’ll have scouting reports by Friday. We’re getting a lot of touches on the ball and are trying to stay sharp and focused but also preserving bodies. It’s a delicate balance.”
Tufts faces a Penn State Behrend team (13–6) that is seeking its ninth win in a row. It is the Lions’ eighth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but the team is still searching for its first tournament win.