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

Women's Soccer | Samuelson's hat trick sends Panthers crawling back home

Senior tri-captains Ariel Samuelson and Sarah Callaghan teamed up to hand Middlebury its first regular-season conference loss in almost two years, and made the Panthers the Jumbos' second top-15 victim in a week. Samuelson scored all three Tufts goals on Callaghan assists as the Women's soccer team defeated the No. 15 Panthers under overcast skies on Saturday afternoon.

After a rocky start, losing to Colby in their season opener, the Jumbos have defeated New England's top two teams in their most recent games. After taking out the region's top team with a 3-2 win over Wheaton College on Wednesday, the squad capped off a memorable week with a 3-0 shutout over the Panthers, the region's second-ranked team, in front of a full house at Kraft Field. Perhaps most impressively, Tufts defeated both squads with just 14 active players.

"Today was absolutely awesome," Samuelson said. "I'm so excited for the rest of the season because we can only go up from here. After the Colby loss, I was a bit discouraged, but we've really come back these last two games."

Samuelson broke the 0-0 deadlock 33 minutes into the game, taking a cross-field pass from Callaghan, spinning around two defenders, and shielding the ball from Middlebury freshman keeper Adele Plunkett before knocking a low liner inside the far post.

The senior tri-captain struck again at the 76-minute mark, breaking away from the defenders on a through ball from Callaghan. Plunkett charged in an attempt to cut off the shot, but Samuelson flicked the ball at the post to put Tufts up 2-0 and all but seal the deal for the Jumbos.

Samuelson then completed the hat trick with two minutes left in regulation, taking another long ball from Callaghan right at Plunkett. While the Panther keeper made the initial save, Samuelson corralled the rebound and dribbled the ball into the net to put the final nail in the Panthers' coffin.

The squad finally was able to smile after the third goal, knowing that victory was only a matter of time. Tufts' rowdy fans aided in the effort, showering the midfield line with hats to celebrate Samuelson's trio.

Despite a conscious effort not to experience a letdown as a result of Wednesday's victory, the Jumbos still came out flat in the first five minutes of play.

"After the first five minutes, we realized that we needed to pull ourselves together if we were going to win the game," sophomore center midfielder Martha Furtek said. "We were really able to do that, and from then on, everyone fought incredibly hard."

The teams split the time of possession in the first half, with the ball equally in both halves of the field. The Jumbos' back foursome of sophomores Annie Benedict, Julia Brown and Joelle Emery, and freshman Genevieve Citrin held strong in front of junior keeper Annie Ross, not allowing any real Panther attacks on net.

Despite being up 1-0 at halftime, Tufts came out for the second half with the mentality of being in a tie game.

"Knowing that we had the lead was good, but Coach told us that we have to play strong in the second half as if it's tied or we're down," Furtek added. "It's a nice reassurance, but we still needed to go into the second half strong and that's exactly what we did."

The second half held a positive note for Coach Martha Whiting's squad, as junior center fullback Jen Fratto made her first appearance of the season, having been sidelined the last few games with a back injury.

"It's really good to have her back," Whiting said. "She brings such composure to the back line, no matter how chaotic things are back there. She really calms the rest of the team down."

The move allowed Emery to shift to outside back and thus pinch up to play a larger role in the offense.

"It was nice to get [Emery] on one of the wings, because she has some experience in the back and can talk to the other girls," Fratto said. "She also is able to play more of a role in the offense with her quickness and strong foot."

Ross earned the first shutout of her career, finishing with four saves that halted the high-powered Middlebury attack.

The win was especially sweet for the Jumbos, who exacted some revenge on the Panthers, reversing last year's 3-0 loss at Middlebury.

"They made us look not-so-good on their field last year, so it was nice to get the victory today in front of our fans," Fratto said.