Sykes goal in 88th minute propels women’s soccer to Homecoming draw

Sophomore forward Melina McDevitt prepares to strike the ball in the Homecoming game against Amherst at Kraft Field on Sept. 29, 2018. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

This Homecoming weekend, the No. 12 Tufts women’s soccer team tied 2–2 in an electric double-overtime matchup against fellow NESCAC rival Conn. College.

After trailing 2–1 for most of the second half, a Conn. College foul gave Tufts sophomore midfielder Lily Sykes a free kick from the left side of the 18-yard box. Sykes fired off a shot that slipped past a wall of five defenders at the 88:54 minute mark to tie the game 2–2.

The last minute remained scoreless, sending the match into the first overtime period. Despite two shots by the Camels and one by the Jumbos, neither team found the back of the net. During the second overtime period, Tufts fired off two shots and Conn. College had one, yet again, none went in and the game ended in a 2–2 tie

This tie brought Tufts’ overall record to 10–1–2 and 6–1–1 in the NESCAC. The Jumbos are currently ranked No. 1 in the NESCAC, remaining undefeated at home with just two games left in the regular season. Conn. College ranks No. 5 in the NESCAC with a 4–3–1 record and a 9–3–1 record overall.

With recent injuries, Tufts changed its formation going into Saturday’s game, sophomore defender Kylie Metcalf explained.

“One of our boundaries was that so many people are hurt, but we adjusted well,” Metcalf said. “Some new people played, which was good, and they all really stepped up and helped us out.”

Although they normally play a 3–5–2 formation, the Jumbos adjusted to a 4–3–3 in order to play to the strengths of their healthy players.

“Our bread and butter are playing to those outside midfielders and getting up the field, so with two of them injured we had to think of something new,” Sykes said. “We went with a 4–3–3, which suited our personnel and I think it went well, but something was missing.”

Coach Martha Whiting spoke further about what led the Jumbos to their last-minute tie.

“It was all about staying composed, playing quickly, playing good team defense and just playing tough, hard and smart,” Whiting said.

Metcalf scored the first goal of the game in the 22nd minute, heading the ball in off of a corner kick from junior forward Liz Reed. This was Metcalf’s second goal of the season and Reed’s sixth assist. Reed leads the NESCAC with 22 points on the season. 

The Jumbos’ lead did not last long, however, with the Camels firing a penalty kick past first-year goalie Hayley Bernstein just 20 seconds later. The first half ended in a 1–1 tie. 

Six minutes into the second half, Conn. College scored off a corner kick, giving them a 2–1 lead. This lead lasted for most of the game until Sykes’ goal tied the game again and pushed it into overtime. This was Sykes’ third goal of the season.

Sophomore forward Sophia Wallach praised her team’s grit throughout the game, commending Sykes’ last-minute goal.

“Our resilience was really evident throughout the whole game,” Wallach said. “We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted to, but just the fact that Sykes was able to score that goal with about a minute left in the game showed that we didn’t give up throughout the whole game — we just kept pushing through.”

Although the Jumbos did not play their best throughout regulation play, Sykes credited the defense for winning many 50/50 balls. After switching back to their normal 3–5–2 formation at the end of the second half, the Jumbos got back into their rhythm and put the pressure on during overtime. Unfortunately, they were unable to find the back of the net.

“I think that changing back to a 3–5–2 was better for our offense, we’re more used to it and we just knew how to play that better,” Sykes said. “Once we switched to that by the end of the second half and two overtimes, it was a completely different game.”

Whiting continued off of Sykes’ remarks, applauding the team’s performance at the end of the second half and in overtime.

“I thought we picked it up in overtime. We were really inconsistent throughout the course of the first ninety minutes, we didn’t play our best game,” Whiting said. “But I thought that coming back to tie it with just under two minutes left was phenomenal. Then, the way we played in the overtimes was really great. I thought we really turned it on and had a bunch of scoring opportunities, so we were really proud of that.”

The Jumbos face off against the Middlebury Panthers at 12 p.m. Saturday during Tufts Parents and Family Weekend. Whiting spoke about the team’s prospects and goals heading into the game.

“We want to make sure we’re all on the same page as a team, defensively,” Whiting said. “We want to continue to create good scoring opportunities, so just making sure that our backs are playing consistently to our forwards and our midfielders. And then that our midfielders and forwards are combining well. We need to have a competitive mentality going into all of the games that are coming up.”

Tufts is seeing one of its best seasons in over 10 years. As they near postseason play, the Jumbos are looking to make a deep run in both NESCACs as well as the NCAAs.

“It’s really easy to take the season for granted, so we can’t take any days lightly, we can’t take any team lightly. It’s all very important at this point and if we keep that in mind, we’ll make a long run hopefully,” Wallach said.

“I think that we’re going to make a deep run into NCAAs and I think that we have the potential to win the NESCAC championship. I’m looking forward to improving as a team and getting to that championship game in both the NESCACs and NCAAs,” Sykes said.