Fall sports prepare to compete after cancelled 2020–21 seasons

Derek Enge goes after the ball during a soccer game against Trinity on Oct. 5, 2019. Courtesy SportsPix

In 2019, Tufts men’s soccer won its third NCAA National Championship in four years, Tufts volleyball finished with a remarkable 28–2 record and many more notable athletic accomplishments marked an amazing fall for Tufts Athletics. However, after an unprecedented spring without athletic competitions and a summer with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, all competition was cancelled for the fall and winter of 2020–21. Now, almost two years later, Tufts fall athletes are eager to be able to compete again.

That being said, many teams spent time connecting over Zoom, and once they could, putting in work in the weight room or at small team training sessions, while following Tufts’ COVID-19 protocols. When athletics resumed in a modified manner in 2020, these athletes spent their time together preparing for the fall and winter of the 2021–22 school year.

Luckily, with a vaccinated student population on campus and hope for the future, athletic teams have returned to campus to begin their seasons after almost two years since their last competitions. Furthermore, teams are now able to practice with everyone together, rather than in small groups. Teams are even able to play outside with no masks on, due to the new updates to the COVID-19 guidelines.

Adding to the new adjustments and changes is the fact that many athletes in the Class of 2024 were on campus for their freshman year, but have yet to compete in a regular full athletic season. Now sophomores, they are joined by their first-year teammates in the Class of 2025, who are awaiting their first collegiate athletic season as well. With a talented group of returning athletes as well as fresh faces joining them on campus, excitement looms in the air as the Jumbos prepare for competition as early as Sept. 7. Tufts teams are looking to make a mark in this highly anticipated season of competition.

Tookie Wilson, a senior on Tufts women’s soccer, is returning for her last season with the Jumbos. Above all, she said she is most excited to be back with her teammates. Wilson anticipates a strong season for the team based on their preseason performance. Some of her biggest preparation for this season has been with regards to her mental game.

“The summer is always a physical grind to prepare my body for the long season ahead, but after a year off from NESCAC competition I have spent a lot of time getting my head ready for the games to come,” Wilson said. “Prep for 2021 has been all about mental fortitude.”

The Women’s soccer team’s 2021 season kicks off today with a game at Emerson College. Three days later, the Jumbos will face NESCAC opponent Williams College in their first home game of the season. Wilson said this was one of the games she was most excited for this season.

“I am pumped to test ourselves against Williams early on in our schedule,” she said. “I think it will be a really good indicator of our strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of it all.”

She also noted that their game against Middlebury will be particularly special.

“We have a little sibling rivalry between the two teams, so that will make for an exciting match,” Wilson said. “But all in all, I am just overjoyed to have a full season ahead.”

With the season beginning soon, Wilson and her teammates alike set goals for the upcoming season.

“Personally, I want to savor my last season with my teammates,” Wilson said. “COVID really brought my own priorities into stark contrast, and I am feeling so grateful for the chance to have one more season with the Jumbos.”

She also has another goal in mind as well.

“My goal for the team is to win a championship,” she said. “I know we have it in us, and I think we are ready to test what we are made of.” 

Unlike veteran athletes such as Wilson, many other athletes on campus have yet to compete in a full season of collegiate athletics. Sophomore Lainie Pearson, a forward/midfielder on Tufts field hockey, and her class teammates will play in their first field hockey competition at Tufts on Sept. 11, which she noted she is really looking forward to.

With preseason already in full swing, Pearson and her teammates are back on campus, building off of their preparation from the summer.

“My preparation has been a lot of running, a mixture of sprints and long distance,” Pearson said. “We get a workout packet each summer that we can follow in order to stay in shape over the summer.”

Now all together on campus, the team is able to scrimmage, something they were unable to do because of the COVID-19 restrictions last year. With practices back to normal and the season approaching, Pearson said she is most excited about spending time with her team and working towards possible NESCAC and National Championship wins.

“My personal goals this season are to work my hardest in each practice so I can continue to get better,” Pearson said. “As a team we really want to focus on being strong as a team so we can get to these really important games and win easily. We are really hoping to make it to, and win NESCACs this year and the National Championship.”