Mens' Soccer | Tufts wins with last−minute goal
Tufts looking toward Bowdoin, home−field advantage
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 07:10
After not losing back−to−back games all of last season, the men’s soccer team was in danger of losing three in a row heading into Saturday’s match against Hamilton on Kraft Field. Instead, thanks to the late−game heroics of senior co−captain Pat Bauer, the Jumbos found themselves with a much−needed win and the inside track for home−field advantage in the NESCAC tournament.
Before its win against Hamilton, Tufts had lost its past two games against MIT and Williams by only a one−goal margin. While some teams would be deflated by such tough losses, the players strived to stay positive and confident in their abilities.
“The two losses were both pretty disappointing,” Bauer said. “In the Williams game and even the MIT game, we probably had more chances than the other team. We were disappointed, but we really didn’t feel we played all that bad.”
Instead of looking behind them, Tufts made sure to concentrate on converting its opportunities against a Hamilton team that needed a win to keep its tournament qualification chances alive.
The Jumbos came out aggressively to start the game, firing two quick shots in the first 10 minutes. The last 35 minutes of the first half, though, only saw one shot apiece from Hamilton and Tufts, as the Jumbos struggled to get comfortable in a new formation.
“In the first half, we had to get adjusted to a new system, with a 4−4−2. We were hitting long balls a little bit too often,” sophomore forward Maxime Hoppenot said.
The game opened up in the second half, though, as the Jumbos started keeping the ball on the ground more. And finally, in the 54th minute, the Jumbos broke through on Hoppenot’s team−leading seventh goal of the year.
Bauer attributed the goal to an emphasis on constantly pressuring the opposition.
“We wanted to play pretty aggressive and really pressure them in their own half, and we were trying to do that all game,” Bauer said. “It just paid off for us in the second half.”
After the goal, Tufts buckled down on defense, limiting Hamilton to one shot for the next 25 minutes. But in the 79th minute, the desperate Continentals were able to tie the game up on a chip from senior Anthony Balbo.
With the game tied, a combined nine out of the 20 total shots taken came in the last 10 minutes.
Finally, with just over a minute to play, sophomore defender Sam Williams played a through ball to Hoppenot, who got the ball in the box and sent it to a wide−open Bauer in the middle. Bauer calmly put away the game−winning goal with less than a minute to play, giving Tufts a 2−1 advantage.
“The last−minute goal was really just an effort play by Pat,” Hoppenot said. “He was all the way on the left side of the field and he ended up in the middle of the box in perfect position. It was mostly Pat putting in the extra effort.”
Hamilton took one last shot at goal, but a save by junior keeper Wyatt Zeller sealed the victory for the Jumbos and moved them to 4−2−3 in the conference.
Now, the team is looking forward to Saturday, when a home game against Bowdoin will decide which team gets a home game in the NESCAC tournament. Tufts needs only a tie to take fourth place and play its first tournament game on Kraft Field.
Hoppenot didn’t mince words about what the team needed to do on Saturday.
“We just need a result,” Hoppenot said. “They’re a good team. They have one of the best scorers in the NESCAC. We need a shutout and we have to start putting up goals again.”
Bauer sees the match against Bowdoin as not only a big game for home−field advantage, but also as the last shot the team has to make sure it heads into the tournament on the right foot.
“Winning is the biggest thing, but we just want to keep playing well,” Bauer said. “We’re confident with our ability to play with any of the teams in the NESCAC, and we want to go into the tournament on a positive note.”