Men's Soccer | Jumbos start year strong with 2-0 victory at Middlebury
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 07:09
For the men’s soccer team, preseason talk has centered on the team’s recent rise, the relative success of the last two years and the transformation under third-year coach Josh Shapiro. On Saturday, Sept. 8, Tufts backed up that hopeful talk, kicking off the season with a 2-0 away win over Middlebury.
The win was especially impressive for two reasons: first, because the Jumbos only managed a draw against the Panthers last year, and second, because of the hard-fought nature of the victory. The conditions in particular made it difficult for Tufts early on, according to sophomore forward Maxime Hoppenot, whose finish in the 25th minute gave the Jumbos their first goal of the young 2012 season.
“It was a little windy to start the game, and Middlebury’s home field is made of turf, which was a little bouncy,” said Hoppenot, who was the team’s second leading goal scorer last year, behind classmate Gus Santos. “We’re also not used to playing on turf anyway, so early on we had a little trouble getting our foot on the ball and possessing it.”
However, Hoppenot and the rest of the team quickly overcame their early struggles to put in the first goal.
“About 20 minutes into the first half, things started really clicking,” he said. “I ended up getting a lucky bounce and the ball ended up going in the goal.”
After that, it was up to junior goalie Wyatt Zeller, who was getting his first start in the game, and the defense, which, because of injuries, featured a mixed-and-matched lineup. However, the unit came up with the crucial shutout, denying the Panthers throughout the whole game and only allowing three shots on goal.
“It was all about the back four, [sophomore]Sam Williams, [junior] Luke Booth, [senior] Pat Bauer and [junior] Ben Ewing,” Zeller said. “They made my day extremely easy. I just had to take a couple of balls out of the air and cut off some through balls, but other than that I barely had to see a ball.”
Hoppenot observed that the defense excelled even without much preparation as a group.
“The back four didn’t really get a chance to play much together in practice, but they really [came] together, and shut down the Middlebury attack,” he said.
With the defense shutting down any opportunities for the Panthers and the security of a one goal lead, the Jumbos cruised to their first win of the year, padded by an insurance goal in the second half from freshman Jason Kayne. The goal, assisted by sophomore Gus Santos, was the first of Kayne’s collegiate career and allowed the Jumbos to play even more relaxed, conservative soccer.
“Getting an early lead takes a lot of pressure off of me
and [off] the defense, especially when I’m making my first start,” Zeller said. “It was nice to get some early cushioning.”
The shutout was big for Zeller, not only because it was his first start, but because he had to battle junior Nick Woolf and freshman Nick Moeser in the preseason for the starting job. Although competition for every position is sure to continue as the season progresses, securing his first win as a starter should take some pressure off Zeller.
Meanwhile, after a winning start to the year, the Jumbos don’t plan on slowing down for the upcoming nonconference home game against Plymouth State on Tuesday.
“We just need to not get complacent just because it’s not a conference game,” Hoppenot said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re facing, we’re looking for them to be relentless and get after it, no matter who we play against.”
“Every game is important, and we just need to take it one game a time,” Zeller added. “As cliche as it sounds, there really is no looking past any opponent.”