On Saturday, women’s soccer faced off at home against the Middlebury Panthers. The game was a fierce battle for the No. 1 spot at the top of the NESCAC, as Middlebury entered 5–1–2 and Tufts entered 6–1–1 in conference play. The two were even close in terms of national ranking, as Tufts was ranked No. 10 in the nation while Middlebury was ranked No. 12. Ultimately, the Jumbos fell to the Panthers 1–0 due to a late goal from Middlebury, ending the Jumbos’ 11 game unbeaten run since a loss at the Williams Ephs on Sept. 7.
The Jumbos started the game with a heavily attacking mindset. Junior forward Liz Reed spearheaded the Jumbos’ attack, managing three shots in quick succession in the first 12 minutes of play, and a total of four shots in the first half. She almost managed to score for Tufts when she rounded the keeper, but cannoned the ball off the post. As a team, Tufts applied heavy pressure to the Middlebury back four when they had the ball and moved the ball fluidly through their midfield.
Senior midfielder and co-captain Izzy Moore said the strong midfield play was a big part of the team’s strategy in the game.
“I think we try to play our game the best we can,” Moore said. “We may make small adjustments for individual teams, but do the best when we cater our play to our strengths. We were having the most success in the [Middlebury] game when we were playing quickly to feet, winning 50/50 battles and connecting through our midfield.”
Despite Tufts outshooting Middlebury 8–3 in the first half, the two teams went into halftime scoreless.
The second half continued right where the first half left off, with the two teams at a bit of a stalemate, unable to find a way to best the opposing team’s goalkeeper. The game-deciding goal came late in the second half when Tufts conceded a free kick near the sideline with just over two minutes left on the clock. Middlebury defender Ellie Bavier whipped in the free kick, which found midfielder Virginia Charman, who launched the pass past Tufts first-year goalkeeper Hayley Bernstein to make the score 1–0. With only two minutes left to play, the Jumbos did not have enough time to respond to the goal, and the game ended at 1–0.
The loss to Middlebury ended Tufts’ lengthy 11-game streak without a loss, but the Jumbos are not letting the disappointing results put a damper on their dominating season.
“The loss against Middlebury definitely left a sour taste in our mouths, but I think it’s important to remember that sometimes we can play well for the majority of the game and still not get the result,” Moore said. “It showed us some little things we may need to work on or tweak, but overall, we’ve kept our heads high and still have faith that this is a championship team.”
Assistant coach Julia Rafferty echoed Moore’s optimistic sentiments.
“It’s always disappointing to lose, but we are proud of our effort and execution,” Rafferty said. “We move forward as a team and begin our preparations for our final conference matchup against Bowdoin.”
One thing the team can work on going forward is being more consistent throughout the game, according to Rafferty.
“Moving forward we will continue to commit to the game plan with the goal of playing as consistently as possible for a full 90 minutes,” Rafferty said. “We will continue to get better both individually and as a unit.”
The team next faces off against Bowdoin at home today at 3 p.m. This game will be the last game of regular season play before the NESCAC tournament begins on Saturday. Currently holding the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC, the Jumbos are guaranteed a home seed in the NESCAC quarterfinal.