Lauta’s shootout heroics, Daly’s hat trick lead men’s soccer to NCAA Championship Sweet 16

Tufts men's soccer faced New England College in the first round of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 13. Kiana Vallo / The Tufts Daily

On Sunday, Tufts men’s soccer hosted the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks in the second round of the NCAA Div. III Men’s Soccer Championship.  The Ducks advanced to the second round of the tournament with a 1–0 victory over Swarthmore College at Bello Field the day before.

The Jumbos and Ducks traded blows for both halves ultimately heading into overtime after a scoreless regulation. The Ducks dominated possession in the first overtime period, while the Jumbos did not register a single shot attempt. In the second overtime period, sophomore defender Max Clivio blocked a powerfully struck volley attempt from the Ducks. In the 107th minute, senior forward Max Jacobs burst into the Ducks’ box with the ball and fired off a left-footed shot, which was saved.

The Jumbos and Ducks headed to a penalty kick shootout after the scoreless tie could not be broken — the Jumbos shot first. The first fold in the drama arrived on the Ducks’ first penalty kick, which was saved by first-year goalkeeper Erik Lauta, who dove to his left to make the save.

The Jumbos and Ducks each made their next three penalty kicks and ultimately tied after five penalty kicks each, sending them to sudden death. Tied at nine goals apiece, the penalty kick order turned over to the beginning. Lauta dove to his left, making a save to keep the Jumbos’ season alive.

“I think it’s just a little more belief for everyone,” Lauta said. “Not just me, [but also] the takers. The next thing that happened, they’re like, ‘Alright, this is ours. This is ours now. They had their chance. Now it’s ours.’”

The shootout finally came to an end when Lauta dove to his left to deflect the shot from the Ducks onto the post and away from the goal, sending the Jumbos to the Sweet 16 on an 11–10 penalty shootout victory following the scoreless draw.

“You can’t let your nerves get to you, you have to trust your instincts every time, and even when it’s do-or-die and you have to make the save you just have to trust yourself, trust your instincts and just commit to they way you believe it’s going to happen,” Lauta said.

The day before, the Jumbos hosted the New England College Pilgrims  in the first round of the tournament. The Pilgrims entered the NCAA Championship as New England Collegiate Conference champions after a dominant conference tournament run.

The Jumbos opened the scoring in the 37th minute, when a low cross from senior forward Zach Seigelstein snuck through the Pilgrims’ defense and found senior midfielder Ian Daly at the back post for a tap-in goal. In the first minute of the second half, a long shot from the Pilgrims hit the crossbar and the rebound was put in the back of the net for 1–1.

“We knew we were going to concede goals in this tournament, and it’s better to take them on earlier rather than later,” Daly said. “There’s a lot of senior leadership from Biagio [Paoletta], Calvin [Aroh], and Derek [Enge] down the middle. They brought everyone in, calmed them down, [and] said, ‘We’re good enough to win this game. [Let’s] just find our heads, find our game.’”

In the 52nd minute, a headed ball from Paoletta snuck through the Pilgrims’ defense across the face of goal for Daly’s second tap-in goal of the afternoon. In the 62nd minute, a pass across the face of goal was flicked on by Jacobs to Daly, who fired the ball to complete his hat trick and push the Jumbos’ lead to 3–1.

“I’m just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time three times,” Daly said. “Something we work on a lot in practice and our finishing drills is [to] be aggressive, be hungry in the box, and there’s a lot of guys on this team … [who] pride [themselves] on being in the right place, being hungry in the box, and it worked out for me today.”

The Jumbos’ 5–1 first round victory over the Pilgrims was sealed off by goals from Jacobs and Seigelstein.

Tufts’ Sweet 16 game will be against Washington College at Bello Field on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m.