Women’s soccer advances to Sweet 16

Tufts women's soccer tied Conn. College 2–2 on Oct. 19. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

In an outstanding upset performance over its adversary, the No. 13 Tufts women’s soccer team defeated the No. 4 The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions 2–0 on Sunday in Ewing, N.J. 

The game remained deadlocked at 0–0 until the 73rd minute when first-year forward Claire Wilkinson connected on the first goal of her collegiate career from 10 yards out. Liz Reed set up Wilkinson’s goal with a free-kick from 20 yards out that found its way to Wilkinson through a crowd of players. 

The Lions kept the pressure on the Jumbos with two shots in the 10 minutes following the goal, but they did find the back of the net. In the 84th minute, the Jumbos scored again with a goal from junior forward Sophie Lloyd. Lloyd’s goal came off a pass from junior midfielder Hannah Isenhart. The Jumbos held off the Lions for the remaining few minutes to secure the victory.

The Jumbos won despite being outshot 14–6 by the Lions. TCNJ also held a 7–0 corner kick advantage. However, Tufts’ solid defense and goalkeeping kept TCNJ off the board, securing the Jumbos eighth shutout victory of the year. 

Senior midfielder Paige Vigliotta commented on the contributions from the backline and the goalkeeper in the win.

“A lot of credit has to be given to our [first-year] goalkeeper Hayley Bernstein as well as our starting defense,” Vigilotta said. “They are just really solid players and extremely strong defenders. They know how to track their marks and they know how to communicate well and stay put together in intense situations. Even though TCNJ got more shots off, they kept composed in front of the net for [Bernstein] and the rest of the backs, following their marks and clearing the ball at any opportunity that they could.”

Tufts’ upset victory against TCNJ, which is making its 28th appearance in the NCAA tournament. TCNJ had been dominating opponents with a 0.33 goals-against average coming into the match on Sunday. They finished the season with a 17–2–1 record.

Coach Martha Whiting expressed her satisfaction with the Jumbos’ play on Sunday in a press conference following the win.

“We are so thrilled to win this game today,” Whiting said. “TCNJ is one of the best teams we have seen all year, and we knew it was going to be a battle. Our girls were just relentless offensively and defensively, and I’m just so incredibly proud of the way we played.”

On Saturday, the Jumbos defeated SUNY Cortland 3–1 at Lions Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Div. III tournament. The win advanced Tufts to its game against TCNJ on Sunday. 

Tufts dominated the first half with 11 shots to Cortland’s four shots. The Jumbos took the lead in the eighth minute when Lloyd finished the rebound from a shot by sophomore midfielder Lily Sykes that was initially saved. 

Despite Tufts’ first-half dominance, SUNY Cortland tied the game at 1–1 with 42 seconds remaining in the first half when Sabrina Rodrigues scored off the left post on an assist from Alannah O’Shea.

Tufts responded to the late first-half goal by coming out and playing a very strong second half. They outshot Cortland 16–2 in the second half and 27–6 in the game. In the 55th minute, first-year midfielder Madeleine Pero scored from 16 yards out to give the Jumbos the lead off a combined assist by Wilkinson and Reed.

In the 70th minute, Tufts struck again with a header by senior defender Sarah Maloney off a corner from Reed. Tufts shut down SUNY Cortland for the remainder of the match. 

Whiting commented on the team’s strong performance in the second half.

“Going into the second half, we committed to doing all the little things right,” Whiting said. “Switching the field, playing good team defense and getting a lot of shots on goal. That second half start to finish was some of the best soccer I’ve seen us play all year.”

The two victories this weekend in the NCAA championships advanced the Jumbos to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005. Vigliotta spoke about the significance of these wins for the program.

“Winning these past two games this weekend and getting up to the round of 16 really shows the progression of this team from no-bid, to round of 64, to round of 32, to round of 16,” Vigilotta said. “It shows the work that’s been put in to building this team and building this program. It’s something that everyone on the team and everyone that has played for the team in the past is really proud of.”

Looking ahead, Tufts will face NESCAC foe Williams in Grantham, Pa. on Saturday for the NCAA Sweet 16. Williams defeated Tufts 2–1 earlier this season during NESCAC regular season play. Vigliotta commented on keys to success and improvements the Jumbos hope to make for the game Saturday.

“We played strong against Williams the first time even though it was a loss,” Vigliotta said. “We know that we need to come out with the intensity from the start of the game. It can’t be something that shows up only in the second half.”