Jumbos keep pressure on to beat Wheaton
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 02:09
The women’s soccer team pulled off its second win of the season and its first non-conference win against Wheaton on Wednesday afternoon. The Jumbos dominated the first half with two goals and 13 shots and did not back down in the second half, even after a goal by Wheaton in the 66th minute.
After losing the first two matches of the season to Bates and MIT as a result of poor first-half performances, Tufts came out strong against Wheaton. According to head coach Martha Whiting, the Jumbos finally displayed the energy and strength that had been evident in training since the beginning of the preseason.
“We played our best game of the season by far,” Whiting said. “We started strong and didn’t let up for the entire first half. I was very impressed by the girls today.”
Tufts controlled the game early, firing three shots on goal in the first 13 minutes. Despite outshooting Wheaton seven shots to two in the first 30 minutes, the game remained scoreless. The Jumbos broke through when junior defender Catharine Greer scored on a free kick from 50 yards out for her first goal of the season.
Tufts did not relent after the opening tally, and it paid off with a goal from freshman forward Jess Capone — the first of her collegiate career — less than two minutes later off a cross inside the box from classmate Brooke Fortin.
The team struggled in the second half to keep the pressure on, according to senior tri-captain forward Anya Kaufmann.
“We played really well, especially in the first half,” she said. “The second half got a little wild, and we had a hard time clearing. The ball did not go in the back of the net, though, and that’s what counts.”
The Jumbos entered the second half with a 2-0 lead and tried to keep up the offensive intensity despite some close calls on the defensive end of the pitch. In the span of two minutes, the Lyons had three scoring chances, including two shots on goal that were saved by senior goalkeeper Kristin Wright.
In the 66th minute, Wheaton controlled the ball off a Tufts throw-in and went on an offensive break. The Lyons’ senior tri-captain forward Kristina Braga was able to slip through the Jumbos’ backline and beat Wright for Wheaton’s first goal.
The Jumbos had a few additional chances toward the end of the match but were not able to add an insurance goal. Mostly, the ball stayed near the Tufts goal, as Wheaton tried to steal a draw in the waning minutes.
In upcoming training, Whiting plans to focus much of the team’s energy on putting teams away.
“We need to do a better job of closing out games when we have a lead,” she said. “We let them put too much pressure on us and take too many shots in the final 20 minutes of the game.”
With several new starters this season, the Jumbos continue to work on building cohesion among the starting squad. According to Whiting, the new players have adjusted quickly, and it’s finally beginning to pay off.
“Overall, we have started to click as a group, and that just comes from a trust that has been built among teammates,” she said. “We are at a point where returners and new players alike are becoming comfortable with one another.”
One of the Jumbos’ strengths has been the ability to generate scoring opportunities.
“We are doing a much better job of making chances,” Whiting said. “We had a lot of shots on frame today, which gave us more chances for the rebound.”
According to Kaufman, the team has also improved at pressing the ball forward and working together.
“We are still working on timing and getting everyone used to playing together,” she said. “We are trying to get a lot more numbers up top, with the midfield players moving up and the whole team moving together as a unit to minimize the gaps between the lines.”
Following the victory, Tufts stands at 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the NESCAC. This win was especially significant because Wheaton is one of the top teams in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and tied Williams, historically one of the better teams in the NESCAC, earlier this week.
The win could give the Jumbos a boost as they enter a stretch of four consecutive conference games, the first of which is at Wesleyan on Tuesday.