In the 104th minute of the women’s soccer NESCAC quarterfinal game, junior forward Liz Reed crossed the ball in off a corner kick and junior forward Sophie Lloyd slipped it by the Bowdoin goalie to win the game for Tufts 2–1.
This ending was all too familiar for both teams, as their last matchup was only four days earlier, when the Jumbos beat the Polar Bears 1–0 in overtime and Lloyd scored the game-winning goal. During the two practices between these games, Tufts focused on adjusting its formation and play due to injuries.
“We worked on getting back to our typical style of play,” sophomore defender Tookie Wilson said. “We’ve had some injuries on the team, so we’ve just been working around with what we’ve got. People have been trying out new positions [almost]every game, so we’re just getting used to that.”
On Saturday, both teams played strong defensively, holding the game scoreless until the 81st minute. The Jumbos, however, outshot the Polar Bears 29–12 throughout the game. Coach Martha Whiting spoke about the defensive performance.
“Defensively we stayed organized, we did a good job of tracking our marks in the box and played really, really tough,” Whiting said. “It was a physical game, and I thought that our team defense was really tough and we did what we needed to do to limit their shots.”
In addition to commenting on the defense, Whiting also explained how the offense was able to execute.
“Offensively, we really have been working on connecting our passes and playing through our midfield,” Whiting said. “At times we were really dynamic — finding the feet of our forwards, dropping it off to our midfielder, then having our attacking midfielders play the ball from there — and when we did that and were patient, then we can do good things.”
The first goal came from Reed off a corner kick crossed in by sophomore midfielder Lily Sykes. Reed still leads the NESCAC in points with 25 on the season.
Wilson spoke further about how the defense was able to execute against Bowdoin’s formation.
“A key to our defensive success was tracking our marks when Bowdoin played in their 4–3–3 formation, and then allowing ourselves to push up the field and get into the attack when they switched to having a single forward,” Wilson said.
In addition to tracking their marks, first-year forward Claire Wilkinson credited the defenders’ ability to communicate well throughout the game.
“I think that communication between our three main backs is really important so that they’re aware of every forward on the other team,” Wilkinson said. “I think that this is the biggest aspect of our success.”
Tufts’ lead did not last for long, however, as Bowdoin responded less than three minutes later to tie the game at one goal apiece. Neither team found the back of the net until Lloyd’s goal in the second overtime period. This goal showed Tufts’ grit and determination throughout over 100 minutes of play.
“Overall, I think that we did a good job sticking with it,” Wilkinson said. “It’s easy to get discouraged when there’s not much time left and when it’s about to go into [penalty kicks,] but we had grit and we persevered.”
At this point in the season, every team is fighting to play as many playoff games as it can to extend its season. Bowdoin came into the game as the underdog No. 8 seed to Tufts’ No. 1 seed.
“Our team did a good job of marking up in the box and playing with grit,” Wilson said. “They were definitely a physical team, and they had a lot on the line — this was the game that ended their season. So, they were fighting for the rest of their season, and they were really putting their bodies on the line. That’s something we had to overcome was their physical toughness.”
Tufts has played seven overtime periods total this season, three of which have been against Bowdoin. Heading into the NESCAC semifinals, the Jumbos look to finish quicker, while staying composed.
“We are looking to improve upon our final ball. So, the ball that beats the last defender, beats the goalie,” Wilson said. “In practice, we’ve been working on patience delivering that final ball as it’s easy to let pressure and anxiety build up as you’re working towards the net so, staying calm on the ball and making a smart final pass.”
This win brought the No. 13 nationally-ranked Jumbos’ overall record to 12–2–2, and 7–2–1 in NESCAC. They will host the remainder of the NESCAC tournament on Kraft field this upcoming weekend. No. 1 Tufts will play No. 4 Amherst in the first semifinal game, and No. 2 Middlebury will play No. 3 Williams in the other matchup. Last time the Jumbos faced the Mammoths, they beat them 2–1 on the road. The championship game will be held on Sunday.
Whiting spoke about the prospects of the team heading into the weekend games.
“We just want to play well,” Whiting said. “We feel like when we are at our best and we’re playing our best, then the sky’s the limit for us. It’s a matter of consistency, of focus, playing smart, playing hard and just playing together.”
Wilkinson continued, alluding to the team’s desire to go far in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“I’m looking forward to a long season, hopefully,” Wilkinson said. “My teammates are the best people and this team has such wonderful leaders, so I’m excited to have them for many more games.”