Field hockey had business to attend to over the weekend, with back-to-back days of conference matchups against Colby and previously undefeated Trinity.
The Saturday game against Colby ended in disappointing fashion for the Jumbos, who lost 2–1 after fourth-quarter momentum gave the Mules the victory. Despite a strong offensive presence, shots could not find the net. Tufts put up 10 shots on goal compared to Colby’s three, yet left the field with only a single goal and a loss to show for it. Colby goalie Emily Loeb played an instrumental role in securing victory for the Mules, saving nine of the Jumbos’ 10 shots. Her offense had her back, controlling the momentum in the fourth quarter and tacking on the go-ahead goal with under nine minutes left to play.
Though they dominated the first quarter, the Jumbos could not establish consistently successful passing patterns, leaving the door open for the Mules. Senior midfielder Reegan McCluskey capitalized on a penalty corner in the first, scoring her fourth goal of the season and preventing a shutout, but she knew her team had more to give.
“One of the biggest things that we struggled with during the Colby game was connecting as a team,” she said. “On offense and on defense, it was a little bit more difficult for us because we weren’t all on the same page.”
The loss stunned the Jumbos but also served as a wakeup call. With a matchup against the unbeaten Trinity Bantams looming the next day, the Jumbos had to refocus and remind themselves of their capabilities and expectations. McCluskey described how the team reset.
“After the [Colby] game, we all got together and talked about, ‘What are the things we should work on and what are the things that went wrong?’” McCluskey said. “There were little glimmers of good passing patterns, but overall, this [was] not how Tufts field hockey plays, so we knew we had to come back strong for the Sunday game against Trinity.”
The Jumbos stormed onto Ounjian Field to face the Bantams, reinvigorated and hungry to win, with a more cohesive approach. After losing to Colby, the Brown and Blue had something to prove, and their next opponent would not make it easy. The Trinity squad had a major target on its back as the only remaining undefeated team in the NESCAC, but by the end of the afternoon, the Bantams would return to Connecticut with a ‘1’ in the loss column.
The contest lived up to expectations, with both teams displaying an elite level of play, and until the fourth quarter, it truly was anyone’s game. A back-and-forth battle ensued, momentum shifting minute to minute, and the matchup soon became a test of endurance and mental toughness.
“Our main focus going into Sunday was connecting and passing as a team, meaning attacking as a unit and defending as a unit,” McCluskey said. “So everyone is working and going up the field in kind of a web, is how our coach describes it, so we all advance and come back down the field together.”
Victory against Trinity required a full team effort and unwavering stamina. The scoreboard showed zeros for three quarters, despite a combined 14 shots on goal. Trinity goalie Olivia McMichael continuously denied the Jumbos, tallying 12 saves throughout the game, but Tufts had a score to settle and persisted.
“The most impressive thing about the Trinity game was our undeniable ability to work as a unit,” McCluskey said. “We were all so pumped up to play in that game … to prove to ourselves what we can do. After that game, we all looked at each other and realized what we’re capable of and how exciting the rest of the season is going to be.”
Tufts made it to the fourth quarter, blocking out any glimmer of navy and gold. The Jumbos outshot the Bantams 6–0 in the game’s final quarter, and McCluskey at last managed to capitalize on one of the 13 penalty corners to break the scoreless tie. Her approach to her numerous corner opportunities was simple.
“My main thing is making a solid connection with the ball,” she said. “I’m just focused on hitting the ball well and on the ground.”
With a 1–0 advantage after McCluskey’s corner, junior Ashley Zolin got in on the action just three minutes later with a goal of her own — the first of her career. The burst of offensive action demoralized Trinity, and the Jumbos earned a 2–0 victory, ending the Bantams’ undefeated run.
“The Saturday game [against Colby] was definitely a team bonding moment because that was definitely a low, but our Sunday game [against Trinity] was definitely a highlight of the season so far,” McCluskey said. “We’re playing for the person to our right or left and trying to have the best season that we can because we’re only with this team for one season.”
The Jumbos have an opportunity to make a statement to the region as they face two nonconference opponents in the next week.