Women's Soccer | Tufts edges MIT in overtime after Neveu’s goal
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 12:09
In the end, the Jumbos just needed a few more minutes.
Five minutes into extra time on Wednesday — 185 minutes into the team’s season — Tufts finally found the back of the net, scoring a golden goal to propel them past MIT by a score of 1-0 on Kraft Field.
“A goal is a huge change of momentum for the whole team,” senior tri-captain midfielder Rachel Aronchick said. “Once we can put that first goal away, it’s a different game from there.”
Junior midfielder Amanda Neveu did the damage for the Jumbos, pouncing on a loose ball in the box — the result of a sharp cross from sophomore forward Alina Okamoto — and burying it in the back of the net. The goal was the first of Neveu’s Tufts career and earned Tufts their first win of the season.
“It was almost unreal. It almost happened in slow motion,” Neveu said. “It was a really exciting moment for me, not only scoring my first goal but scoring in that situation.”
For the second straight game, Tufts came out as the aggressor in the early minutes. Junior forward Anya Kaufmann was played in by sophomore Carla Kruyff in the 2nd minute, but her shot went just over the crossbar. Kaufmann was again involved in the action just minutes later, when her backheel to Okamoto set up a dangerous run into the box.
The win was the team’s first in an overtime game since 2007, a span of 11 matches. Tufts pressured throughout the extra time, getting off two shots in five minutes to the MIT zero.
“It was a big show of mental toughness, and to just push through and end the game in the first four minutes of overtime was awesome,” Aronchick said.
But the Engineers, who entered the game ranked 7th in New England, found a foothold in the game and threatened in the 15th minute when sophomore midfielder Ambika Krishnamachar slammed one off the crossbar from just outside the 18-yard box. In the 28th minute, MIT freshman forward Jennifer Ibanez took a shot from a narrow angle, forcing Tufts junior keeper Kristin Wright into a reflex save. Wright had to be on top of her game again minutes before the half, coming off her line to grab a free kick that had landed in the box.
In the second half, the Engineers, led by Krishnamachar, maintained the pressure they ended the first 45 minutes with. In the 51st minute, Krishnamachar made a 40-yard run through the Jumbos defense only to shoot wide. Soon after, senior forward Emily Kuo — already with five goals to her name this season — got behind the defense and on to the end of a long ball. Her shot beat Wright but just barely beat the post as well, going wide for a harmless goal kick.
“The back four has a few people that haven’t ever played together before this season,” Aronchick said of the team’s struggles to keep MIT’s forward in front of them. “We have to work on dropping back and keeping our shape, but that just comes from playing with each other and the experience.”
With time running out, each team had one final opportunity to win the game in regulation. the Jumbos played in a free kick that was cleared weakly by the Engineers. The ball fell to sophomore midfielder Nikki Blank, with the goalkeeper completely out of position. But the ball went high, ending the Jumbos’ threat.
Not long after, Kuo had a chance to redeem herself, receiving a pass unmarked at the top of the box. But it wasn’t to be for Kuo, who shot wide, the final real chance of regulation.
While the result was clearly much improved from their 2-0 loss to Middlebury on Saturday, the team’s play was as well. Even without senior tri-captain midfielder Alyssa Von Puttkammer, who was out with a concussion, the Jumbos passed and possessed the ball much better, creating 11 shots, four of which were on target. But the Jumbos looked stretched defensively at times and conceded the lion’s share of corner kicks for the second straight match.
“In the Middlebury game, we kind of let down once we played badly and let in goals,” Neveu said. “But I think against MIT we didn’t give up, even when we weren’t playing well. I think it was a mental difference more than anything else.”
Still, the most important thing was getting the monkey of a goal off of the team’s collective back.
“We were in the team huddle before the game, and we said, ‘Who’s going to be that hero,’” Aronchick said. “We haven’t scored a goal in the season yet so who’s going to put it away.”
Tufts will hope to take its momentum on the road to Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon, where the team will play its second NESCAC game of the season. Wesleyan is coming off a 1-0 loss to Bowdoin and a 0-0 draw with Eastern Connecticut.
If Tufts can keep Wesleyan’s scoreless run going, they should have a good chance of winning their first conference match of the season and thrusting themselves right back into the conference race.