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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Women's Soccer | Amherst brings undefeated record into Kraft Field showdown

Thanks to impressive back-to-back victories last week over the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in New England, the Women's soccer team catapulted to 15th in the nation and second in the region in this week's poll.

But the Jumbos still find themselves stuck in the middle of the league standings.

Tufts will have a chance to change that Saturday when the Amherst Lord Jeffs pay a visit to Kraft Field. While the Jumbos sit at 1-1 in league play thanks to a season-opening loss to Colby, Amherst (3-0-1 overall) is tied with Williams atop the league standings at 2-0.

But given the way Tufts has played recently at home, it's hard to say that the Jumbos won't be the favorite.

The squad notched a 3-2 win over Wheaton last Wednesday and followed it with a 3-0 shutout of Middlebury on Saturday. Senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson tied a Tufts record by scoring three goals against the Panthers, becoming the first Jumbo player since 1999 and earning NESCAC Player of the Week. She also recorded an assist in the win against Wheaton, giving her a team-leading point total of eight and a tie for third in the conference.

Fellow senior tri-captain Sarah Callaghan also tied a Tufts record last week after assisting on all three of Samuelson's goals against the Panthers. Callaghan leads both the team and the NESCAC with three assists on the season, and is tied for sixth in points with five.

It goes without saying that the team's confidence is very high right now.

"After the two games last week, we feel like we can play with anyone," Callaghan said. "But we still know how hard we have to work to beat good teams."

Tufts did not have a midweek game this week, making tomorrow the team's first action in seven days.

"We worked really hard at the beginning of the week on fitness and transitioning, so hopefully the next couple days we can focus on tactical things and set plays," sophomore center midfielder Martha Furtek said at midweek.

Callaghan said practices have helped keep the Jumbos game-ready.

"We came out this week and worked really hard," she said. "It was also really nice to have some of our injured players get back into practice this week. They can work their way back by practicing instead of jumping right into a game."

Getting players back on the field will be a key for Tufts, which earned both of its wins shorthanded. Junior Jen Fratto played in the second half of the Middlebury game, and she should be ready to go on Saturday. Senior Lydia Claudio and sophomore Lauren Fedore have been practicing this week and should play Saturday.

"Without injuries, we are a really deep team," Furtek said. "I think we'll finally be able to take advantage of that [tomorrow]."

Amherst will be ready. The Lord Jeffs have already set down Trinity and Bates in league play. In their last game, they shut out Springfield 2-0 at home.

Amherst is led by junior forward Amy Armstrong, who has two goals and two assists on the season.

One player the Lord Jeffs sorely miss from last season is Ashley Harmeling, who graduated. Harmeling was one of the most celebrated players in Amherst history, as she was named NESCAC Player of the Year as a junior and received All-New England and All-NESCAC First Team honors as a senior. Though it will be nice not having her on the field, Tufts knows it will still be a tough matchup.

"They are definitely a physical team and I remember them being pretty strong in the air," Furtek said. "But winning balls in the air was something we did really well last Saturday, so if we can keep that up, we should be fine. Amherst's defense will give us lots of opportunities, so we just have to make sure we keep finishing them."

Callaghan agreed.

"They are always one of the better teams, and this year is no different," she said. "They've done well in their games so far. We know every NESCAC game is going to be a battle, though."

The game is the third straight at home for the Jumbos, who are getting used to Kraft Field.

"Playing in front of a home crowd is a huge boost for us," Furtek said. "People are starting to get interested in coming to games, especially now that we've proven to people that we're worth watching. Fans definitely help you give that much more effort on every ball."

The team better enjoy it, because it is the last home game for awhile. The Jumbos have three consecutive road games, starting with a match Tuesday at Babson. Tufts will not return home until a Oct. 5 match against Brandeis.

"I think we all agree that what is most important right now is taking each game one at a time," Furtek said. "Every team is going to expect us to play hard and we can't let up at all. Our last couple games have been huge, but Amherst is going to be even bigger."