The Tufts Jumbos have extended their unbeaten record following two wins over NESCAC opponents in the last week. On Saturday, the team dominated the Conn. College Camels (3–7, 0–5 NESCAC) 21–7, and later matched that number of goals in a 21–13 victory over the Williams Ephs. In doing so, the Jumbos moved to No. 6 in the nation, matching their highest rank from last season, and they remain on top of the NESCAC as the only undefeated team in the conference.
On Bello Field Saturday, the team enjoyed one of the warmest days of the year so far, and a large fan turnout in its third home win of the season. The Jumbos pushed the pace from the very first draw, taking a 6–0 lead and dominating ball possession. The Camels were barely able to execute a settled attack, and threw the ball out of bounds twice in their opening offensive possessions.
Tufts contended well during the physical game, with Conn. College nearly doubling the number of fouls Tufts committed (28 versus Tufts’ 15). In the first half alone, three of the Camels’ fouls were significant enough to receive yellow cards and gave the Jumbos man-up advantages that they capitalized on twice. Senior attacker Dakota Adamec was responsible for one of those man-up scores along with two other goals in the first half.
A versatile Tufts offense saw 12 goals in the first half scored by nine different players — a testament to the depth of the team. Meanwhile, Conn. College netted five in the first half hour. The Camels struggled to gain momentum on offense and relied on fast-break opportunities to finish.
In the second half, the Jumbos turned up the heat on the Camels, scoring nine goals and allowing only two. A higher-than-normal number of assists in the game was a big contributor to the seamless performance of the offense. Senior attacker Courtney Grygiel notched four assists but was also key in anchoring the attack from behind the cage, collecting any shots that missed the net. Overall, the team recorded 11 assists, far higher than its average of just over 5.3 per game.
“I thought the focus for our attackers going into the game was finding each other and finding the next level,” Grygiel said. “We are really productive offensively, but once we find each other, it just starts clicking that much more. People really had their [heads] up, but we were all threats as drivers first, which forced the defense to shift before they came onto us. No one was just a passing point — everyone was a threat, which was why we were able to get open.”
The Camels were prepared for first-year attacker Colette Smith’s signature left-side crease drive, but Smith adapted: She still managed to score five goals, pairing with Grygiel twice to score off her feed from behind the goal. Eleven different Tufts’ players scored across the whole match, and all 29 players on the roster saw playing time in the eventual 21-goal rout of Conn. College.
According to Grygiel, the depth of the attack made it even harder for the Camels defense to cope with the Jumbos.
“I think [that having more assists resulted in more goals scored] because it just got more people involved and had the defense’s heads turned,” she said. “It’s easy for the defense to face-guard one prominent scorer, but if [they don’t] know who’s going to be dangerous then [they] won’t know who to stop.”
The Jumbo defense played a prominent role in preventing the Camels from finishing their opportunities. Conn. College’s biggest strength was its speed, with senior midfielder Jamie Navoni (the NESCAC’s leading scorer) being particularly hard to defend. Navoni was responsible for three of the Camels’ goals, as well as another assist that she provided after speeding past every Tufts defender that tried to cover her and handing the ball off on a 2-on-1 play.
“Jamie Navoni is super fast and athletic and she was able to generate big fast-break opportunities for Conn.,” first-year goalkeeper Molly Laliberty said. “At first it took us a little bit to adjust, but our defense did a really good job of positioning and getting the knockdowns that [it] could. At the end of the day, it was all about communication and trusting each other.”
However, the defense did contend well with their pace eventually, and shut down many chances with solid one-versus-one defense, even forcing a shot-clock violation.
“There’s nothing more exciting than when the defense is able to run down the shot clock. It’s such a fun turnover to cause,” Laliberty said. “It takes a lot of discipline, communication and trust in order to do that because it starts to get hectic. The other team is really trying to get a shot off and we’re really trying to stop them — sometimes that can cause people to make mistakes or rush into things. So it’s all about composure and communication, and it’s really awesome to watch the upperclassmen in the defense lead everyone on the field and keep us composed through those last 30 seconds to get the shot clock violation.”
On Wednesday the Jumbos had another high-scoring game but conceded the most goals in any game of the season so far — 13 — as they overcame the Ephs (5–4, 1–4 NESCAC). Though Tufts ran up the score in the first half, Williams was able to keep up, with the first half ending at 11–9. Four of Tufts’ goals came from junior attacker Emily Games, all of which were unassisted.
The Jumbos changed gears in the second half. Seven different scorers in the second half on 10 goals once again demonstrated how the Jumbos could rely on a score from any player in the attack. Smith netted two, and first-year midfielder Anna Clark made a big impact with three goals on the game.
Williams was a physical team, and Tufts was prepared for a scrappy game. It paid off, with Williams earning three yellow cards in the second half, which Tufts was able to capitalize on for two man-up goals.
“We knew before the game that [Williams] looks for scrappy, garbage goals,” Laliberty said. “They were going to do anything they could do to get the shot off. In the first half we could have been more vigilant about marking cutters tighter and making sure they had no chance to get a shot off, not even letting them catch the pass. Some of the shots they got off in the first half were just point blank. But our defense did an amazing job adjusting. We didn’t start off the way we should have played, but we finished so much better, and that’s really important to note.”
In goal, senior Audrey Evers and Laliberty shared time in both games. Over their respective 60 minutes, Evers saved 10 goals on 24 shots, while Laliberty recorded five saves on 11 shots.
This weekend Tufts has a double-header at home against NESCAC rivals Wesleyan (9–1, 4–1) on Saturday, who are the highest ranked NESCAC team the Jumbos have faced so far. On Sunday, Tufts faces non-conference opponent Babson (6–3).
According to Grygiel, the team’s strong reputation this season hasn’t served as a hindrance against opponents who scout them before games.
“We really try and focus on playing our best game,” she said. “We’ve come out slower than we would have liked in some games. As the season has gone on, it’s become obvious that teams are scouting us and trying to select match-ups carefully. But if the Conn. College game is any indication of what we can do with getting more people involved, then I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about. I think our defense is the best defense in the NESCAC, and if we can play against them every day in practice then there’s no other defense that we can’t play against.”