Women's Soccer | Nothing to lose for Tufts in Homecoming match against Amherst
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 02:09
Six games into the Tufts women’s soccer team’s season, the tale has been nothing short of Jobian. They’ve lost four players to injury, of which at least two are season ending, and now are playing with a roster of just 19, three of whom are goalies. They had to deal with hurricane-like conditions in their season opener and have been undone by the post and crossbar time and time again.
But with the halfway point of the season quickly approaching and the losses — already four in the NESCAC without a win or draw — piling up, the team needed to remember why they played soccer in the first place.
They had to remember to have fun.
“We all play because we love the game,” junior striker Anya Kaufmann said. “A lot of times, you can lose sight of that when you’re stressed out because of school and stressed out because we’re losing, so I think bringing it back to fun
will hopefully take us to that next step, which is now we’re going to win.”
Another point stressed to the team is the need to stay strong as a group even when adversity sets.
“Our coach [Martha Whiting] said after the game that the most important thing is that we can’t turn on each other,” senior tri-captain goalie Phoebe Hanley added. “That we need to be there for our teammates and be there as a team, because the minute we turn on each other is the minute we fall apart. Team bonding and mental strength is going to get us there eventually.”
But despite the positive attitudes, the Homecoming matchup with No. 6 Amherst on Saturday afternoon is quickly approaching, and the team finds itself at a crossroads. Coming off a brutal back-to-back conference weekend, a pair of losses to Colby and Trinity, Tufts find themselves facing a second NESCAC doubleheader in two weeks, a result of the harsh new scheduling format that began this past season with the addition of Hamilton to the conference.
“Because of the way the NESCAC is, it’s very competitive no matter who you’re playing,” senior tri-captain midfielder Rachel Aronchick said. “You have a top team that’s playing a bottom-ranked team, and the game is still really close. So you are going to have a very physically demanding game, and having two of them back-to-back is tough, especially back-to-back weekends.”
Their first doubleheader weekend of the season wasn’t simply a test of their skills, but of their physical and mental toughness. Aronchick was subbed out with a knock in the 54th minute of Sunday’s game and didn’t return. Kaufmann, on the other hand, played more than 30 minutes of that second half.
“It was really just physically exhausting,” Kaufmann said. “You get to a point in the second half of that second game where it’s all mental. Whether or not you are going to get your legs to move to the ball or whether or not you are going to make that checking run.”
Given desperately needed days off from practice on Monday and Tuesday, the captains and veterans focused on bringing the team together and connecting as a group off the pitch. The focus remained on enjoying what they were doing.
“We had the last two days off, and today, as a team we baked cookies and played Catch Phrase, because we have to have a little competition,” Hanley said. “You’ve got to have fun. We’re trying to tap in to our hard work and working for each other, and you can’t force that upon anybody. They have to work hard for their teammates, and the only way they’ll do that is if we show them that it’s fun to work for your team and that it’s fun to play for Tufts.”
Of course, a result on Saturday will be a tall task even for a revitalized Jumbos squad. Amherst enters the game undefeated, with the only smudge on their resume a 0-0 draw at Middlebury. They haven’t allowed a goal this season and scored two against both Hamilton and Bates. But Amherst would be remiss to overlook Tufts.
“We’re in kind of a good situation here, because we have nothing to lose coming into this weekend,” Aronchick said. “The pressure is on them to uphold their ranking; we just have to play our game.”
To take anything positive from this game, it will likely have to start with Tufts’ defense and goalkeeping. Junior Kristin Wright was phenomenal in the team’s 0-0 draw with No. 16 Wheaton and will likely need a similar performance against Amherst to keep Tufts in it.
But even if their defense plays out of its mind, the Jumbos may need a goal to get something from this game. And with only two goals in six games so far this year, that could seem to be a tall task. But Kaufmann, who got her first of the season on Saturday on a penalty kick, appears up to it.