Men’s soccer heads to Sweet 16 after victories against SUNY Maritime, WPI

Junior forward/midfielder Mati Cano crosses the ball into the box during Tufts' 4–0 win over Colby on Sept. 21. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

The men’s soccer team advanced to the Div. III NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the sixth year in a row after defeating SUNY Maritime 5–1 in the first round and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 2–1 in the second round over the weekend. Both matches were hosted by Tufts at Bello Field, and now the team will travel to Swarthmore, Pa., to take on Washington and Lee University of Lexington, Va. on Saturday.

The Jumbos advanced through the second round of the tournament on Sunday against the WPI Engineers in what was nothing short of an exciting Div. III soccer game that came down to the final minute of regulation.

The Engineers got on the board first in the 14th minute as midfielder Jivan Purutyan scored off of a cross from midfielder/forward Jackson Conroy. The Jumbos quickly tried to answer, getting off three shots in the next eight minutes, but could not capitalize. Despite having four corner kicks and matching the Engineers in shots with five, the Jumbos struggled to get opportunities in the first half.

“I think [the Engineers] showed why they were very resilient — they were very difficult to break down,” coach Josh Shapiro said in a press conference after the game. “We got very little, especially the first half, and we had to grow into the game.”

But the Jumbos came out in the second half ready to fight back. In the 55th minute, junior midfielder/defender Calvin Aroh gained possession after the Engineers defense cleared the ball from junior midfielder Travis Van Brewer. Aroh fired a shot and scored to tie the game at 1–1.

The rest of the second half featured several opportunities to score for both teams, but it remained tied until the final minute.

With only 55 seconds left on the clock, senior midfielder Brett Rojas took a shot that was deflected out of bounds, giving the Jumbos a corner kick. Sophomore midfielder Zach Seigelstein took the corner and served the ball in to senior defender and co-captain Tanner Jameson who headed the ball into the net.

Jameson’s first career collegiate goal gave the Jumbos the 2–1 advantage that they kept for the last minute until the final whistle.

“[Seigelstein] played a beautiful ball just right across the six, and I just kind of jumped up and got it,” Jameson said in the press conference. “Honestly [it was] kind of a blur.”

Senior midfielder/forward and co-captain Gavin Tasker attributed the comeback victory to the team’s depth.

“I think our second guys came on and made a big difference to us, and kind of allowed us to catch our breath,” Tasker said in the press conference. “And then we really piled up the pressure in the last 15 minutes.”

Just over 24 hours before the second-round win against WPI, Tufts beat SUNY Maritime in the opening round of the tournament with a resounding final score of 5–1.

The action started quickly as Rojas scored just 30 seconds into the game, assisted by Tasker. The Privateers got a goal of their own though, just over six minutes later, as a free-kick from midfielder Thomas Kropp was deflected into the net by the Jumbos. In the 24th minute, a corner kick from Seigelstein found senior forward Joe Braun, who scored to give Tufts the lead 2–1.

That goal turned out to be all the Jumbos needed, but that did not stop their offensive attack in the second half. Junior midfielder/forward Alex Ratzan scored in the 80th minute off of a pass from junior midfielder/forward Mati Cano. Then, about four minutes later, first-year midfielder Woovin Shin notched his first career collegiate goal, set up by Cano and Ratzan. Shin scored again shortly thereafter to give the Jumbos a four-goal lead.

Now, the Jumbos will shift to focus on their next challenge in the Washington and Lee Generals. Shapiro explained his approach looking ahead at his weekend.

“I just said to the guys that I think the heart and belief we show is going to be required,” Shapiro said. “And then, the concentration levels have to go up. The margin for error is just smaller, right? Like if you make a mistake, you’re more likely to be punished. Chances are few and far between — you’ve got to work on taking them.”

Tufts and Washington and Lee will play at 3:30 p.m. following another Sweet 16 match between host Swarthmore and familiar NESCAC foe Conn. College. The winners of those two games will face off on Sunday in the Elite Eight game at 3 p.m. to earn a berth into the Final Four.

“I can’t wait for the next challenge,” Shapiro said. “I’m excited for another week with my guys, and we look forward to playing another Sweet 16.”