Women’s soccer falls short in NESCAC semifinal, earns NCAA at-large berth

Junior forward Liz Reed prepares to take a shot against Conn. College in a 2–2 tie on Oct. 19. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

After advancing through the quarterfinal round last week with a double-overtime win against Bowdoin, the No. 1 seed women’s soccer team was upset 3–0 by No. 4 seed Amherst in the NESCAC tournament semifinal.

Tufts hosted both the NESCAC semifinals on Saturday and the following day’s championship contest. In the second semifinal competition, No. 2 seed Middlebury defeated No. 3 seed Williams. Middlebury went on to be defeated 1–0 by Amherst, who took home the NESCAC title. 

“It definitely wasn’t our best game of the year,” coach Martha Whiting said. “I think that Amherst is actually peaking. I thought that they played really well — they played a lot better than the first time we played them.”

The Jumbos were tested early on defense. The Mammoths got off to a quick start offensively with six shots in the first 10 minutes. The Mammoths converted for the first goal of the day in the 21st minute, with a shot from forward/midfielder Isabel Stern, assisted by midfielder/forward Ruby Hastie.

In response, the Jumbos tried to take offensive control and managed to get two good attempts on goal in the next 10 minutes. However, the Mammoths regained control and extended their lead to 2–0 when midfielder/defender Jordan Bailey scored off of a corner kick in the 33rd minute.

The Jumbos went into halftime trailing 2–0 and struggling to match the Mammoths’ offensive dominance. Senior midfielder and co-captain Izzy Moore had a chance to close the gap early on in the second half, but her shot was blocked away.

The Mammoths solidified their victory in the 67th minute of contest with an insurance goal. Forward/midfielder Natalie Landau passed the ball to defender Sloan Askins, who scored to bring the score to 3–0.

The three-goal deficit was too much for the Jumbos to handle in the remaining 23 minutes, despite a couple of shots from junior forward Liz Reed.

The 3–0 loss marks the most goals allowed by the Jumbos this fall. The stat line tells the story, as the Mammoths outshot the Jumbos 20–10 and won the corner kick tally 9–6. Mammoth goalkeeper Erica Sanders continued to impress as one of the top NESCAC goalkeepers, denying the Jumbos any opportunities to get on the scoreboard. Reed spoke about the outcome of the game.

“Honestly, it was hard to pinpoint even one thing [to improve],” Reed said. “It’s just been tough because there have been a lot of injuries on the team. Amherst came out very strong that day. I don’t think we were expecting them to come out as fast as they did.”

Whiting explained that most of the mishaps in the game were minor, and can be resolved.

“I think that we just made some little mistakes here and there and just started to add up and got a little bit out of hand on our end,” Whiting said. “But, as we looked at film, everything was 100% fixable.”

Despite the lopsided score, Whiting added that the team never felt as though they were out of contention.

“With this team in particular, I always feel like we’re going to pull it out,” Whiting said. “Last time we played [Amherst] we were down 2–0 and scored two goals in 25 seconds and ended up winning. I really believe in this group and their ability to never give up. I honestly had that feeling.”

The Mammoths advanced to the championship on Sunday, defeating the Middlebury Panthers and earning an automatic NCAA tournament bid.

The Jumbos, meanwhile, had to wait until Monday afternoon to learn their fate, when NCAA tournament at-large bids were announced. Tufts secured an at-large bid and will play in the first round against SUNY Cortland, the champions of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC). This marks the third year in a row that Tufts has qualified for the national tournament.

“We’re really, really focused on the weekend,” Whiting said. “One thing that we’ve done really well this season is we haven’t looked ahead. We focused on the next game that we have and prepared and done what [we] can to be the best to play every team. So, we’re really just going to focus on the weekend and SUNY Cortland and see what we’ve got on Sunday.”

The Jumbos will travel to The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., on Saturday for the first-round matchup. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.

“It’s great to get revenge because my [first year] we went down to TCNJ and lost in the first round,” Reed said. “But, this year I think we can go even farther than that.”