Men's Soccer | Jumbos stampede over Polar Bears, head to NESCAC semifinals
3−0 home win in quarterfinals their most complete effort yet
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 00:10
In the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday, the men’s soccer team may have put together its best overall performance of the season, dominating the visiting Polar Bears for 90 minutes and taking their chances en route to a 3−0 win. The Jumbos will now travel to Williams on Saturday for a must−win match in order to earn an at−large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Unlike previous matches, Tufts did not dominate in shots or shots on goal, holding just slight margins of 14−11 and 6−5, respectively. But the Jumbos finally capitalized on their opportunities, scoring three goals for just the second time in league play this season.
“I would definitely say that it was one of our best games of the season,” senior co−captain Rafa Ramos−Meyer said. “I thought we have played really well in some games, but we just haven’t always been able to put the ball in the net.”
The Jumbos also played a consistent, steady match. Spurred on by an overflowing and raucous crowd of several hundred students, Tufts captured the early momentum and never relinquished it, bringing on mass substitutions late in the match to finish off the win.
“I think we really just handled the game from start to finish,” junior midfielder Scott Blumenthal said. “That’s one of the things that coach [Josh Shapiro] has been saying: that we have to play strong for 90 minutes.”
“One of our biggest problems has been not being mentally focused for the full 90 minutes,” Ramos−Meyer added. “I thought on Saturday we did one of the best jobs we have this year of really putting together a complete performance.”
Tufts opened up the scoring in the 40th minute off a free kick from freshman defender Monil Patel. Patel played a sweeping ball through the box from about 40 yards out. Blumenthal got on the other end of the cross and buried a header into the far corner to give the Jumbos a first−half lead.
Both Bowdoin and Tufts earned yellow cards, underlining the physicality that was present throughout the match.
In the 34th minute, Polar Bears freshman forward Connor Keefe was booked for a dangerous tackle.
Five minutes later, Tufts sophomore forward Maxime Hoppenot was given a yellow card after shoving a Bowdoin player as the ball was clearly going out of bounds, and then tossing the ball away to prevent Bowdoin from taking the free kick. Senior forward Franco Silva was also booked in the 77th minute for the Jumbos.
In addition to the three yellow cards, the referees gave warnings to both teams several times throughout the match.
In the second half, Tufts doubled its advantage after another well−placed free kick from Patel in the 59th minute. Patel sent the ball to the far post and found sophomore defender Peter Lee−Kramer, one of the team’s tallest and most athletic players. Lee−Kramer didn’t get much on the header but was still able to direct it to the left corner to beat junior goalkeeper Will Wise.
The Jumbos sealed the deal in the 76th minute. Blumenthal controlled a pass on the left wing, deked around a defender, and dribbled through a second one to free himself for a shooting opportunity. After taking a touch at the top of the box, he fired a shot to Wise’s left to give Tufts a 3−0 advantage that it would never relinquish. Blumenthal was also named NESCAC Player of the Week for his two goals in the game.
Though Blumenthal was unsure whether his second tally was the nicest goal of his career, he did discuss its significance in Tufts’ first home playoff match since 2001.
“It was probably the most important goal that I’ve ever scored,” he said. “It was definitely the biggest game that I’ve ever played in and also a huge game for Tufts in general.”
On Saturday, the Jumbos travel to face No. 9 Williams, which is 11−0−2 overall and the top seed in the NESCAC tournament. Earlier this season, Williams beat Tufts 1−0 at home, but Ramos−Meyer said the Jumbos feel that they match up well against the Ephs and are eager to face them again.