Women's Soccer | Tufts aims to build on strong finish in 2012
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 07:09
The women’s soccer team hopes to make 2013 a turnaround year. A disappointing 2012 campaign saw the team go 2-6-2 in the NESCAC and 4-6-4 overall after starting 1-5-1. However, the team rebounded with a strong second half, losing only once in its final seven games. In the end, the first-half slide proved too much to overcome as the Jumbos finished 10th in the NESCAC and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the NESCAC adopted a postseason in 2000.
With most of the squad returning, including 10 of the 11 starters, the team is expected to carry over its identity as a defense-first squad. Junior center back Catharine Greer once again anchors a unit that had the fourth-lowest goals allowed average in the NESCAC. Greer improved upon a stellar freshman year, earning the accolades of Div. III coaches as she was named first-team all-conference and all-region last season.
Returning alongside Greer are senior Bizzy Lincoln and sophomore Nicole Campellone. For the few plays that get behind them, the Jumbos have one of the best insurance policies in the NESCAC in senior goalkeeper and tri-captain Kristin Wright. Last year Wright had the second-best save percentage in the conference, stopping over 86 percent of the shots that came her way.
For the moment, the Jumbos are making do without Greer and Wright, who are temporarily sidelined with injuries. But the team is confident it can withstand the minor setback.
“We have solid returners and some excellent new freshmen who will definitely be getting some time,” senior tri-captain Maeve Stewart said. “We can’t wait to have [Greer and Wright] back, but with our new recruits and our returners with another year of experience, our defense has a lot of depth and a potential to be great.”
While the defense hopes to carry over its strong performance, the offense looks to turn the page on what was a frustrating season. The Jumbos had the second-lowest scoring average and the lowest shots per game average in the conference.
“The offense is always a little trickier than the defense because the defensive line is always stable,” senior tri-captain forward Anya Kaufman said. “This offseason we have worked on the chemistry for the three forwards.”
Despite not having any players among the top 15 in points per game in the NESCAC, Tufts did find a potential go-to scorer in sophomore Allie Weiller. After not seeing the back of the net in the first eight games, Weiller scored a goal in five of her last six games. For the Jumbos to make the jump to the top half of the conference, they will need Weiller and Kaufman, their top two scorers from last year, to find the net with the same frequency as they did at the end of last year.
To help Weiller and Kaufman achieve that dominance, the team may need to call upon the nine new players who joined the team this summer. With only one starter not returning, the eight freshmen and one transfer will add depth, but they may be thrown into the fire sooner than expected. After losing four players in the first six games last year, the Jumbos know the importance of a deep bench.
Heading into the fall, two newcomers have already turned heads. Junior transfer Alexandra Farris will play some big minutes at forward this year.
“She will be a big part of our offense this year,” Kaufman said. “She’s very scrappy and unafraid to shoot the ball.”
Kaufman had similar high praise for freshman midfielder Robin Estus, who may be needed to replace Rachel Aronchick (LA’13) at the center of the field.
“Robin’s another one who is unafraid to shoot,” Kaufman said. “And when need be, she is willing to attack and become almost a fourth forward.”
Both Farris and Estus play with a hard-nosed mentality that fits into the team’s style. While Tufts lacks the high-powered offense of a team like Amherst College, the Jumbos boast a strong defense and consistent goaltending. Those two things alone should keep them competitive. Still, the team will need to create more scoring opportunities and put the ball in the net early so that they can rely on their strengths instead of playing catch-up.
Even with expected improvement in the final third, the Jumbos still find themselves in a tough position. The NESCAC is once again one of the top conferences in Div. III. Last year’s three-headed monster of Williams College, Amherst and Middlebury College is daunting, especially in a conference that is still talented top-to-bottom.
The Jumbos open their season Saturday against Bates. Their first home game at Kraft Field is Sept. 14 against Colby College.