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

Women's Soccer | Winning Jumbos jump to No. 9 in rankings

When the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Polls came out on Tuesday morning, the Women's soccer team had climbed to first in the New England region and ninth in the nation. Tufts earned its spot atop the regional rankings after ousting Amherst on Saturday afternoon, 3-1 for its third straight victory over New England's top teams.

The Jumbos traveled to Babson on Tuesday afternoon and defended their position, clobbering the Beavers 3-1 and making it four straight wins. The Jumbos have all but erased an opening-day loss to Colby.

"We know that we're high in the rankings now, but that's just even more of a motive for teams to come out hard against us," sophomore Joelle Emery said. "Coach [Martha Whiting] keeps telling us we can't get big heads, that we're just a normal team that's winning, and that we need to think that way so we can keep winning."

"In the past, we've had trouble with weekday out-of-league games," senior tri-captain Sarah Callaghan said. "So it was good to go in and score a couple of goals early in the game and get the victory."

The tandem of senior tri-captains Ariel Samuelson and Callaghan continued to plague opposing goalies, as the two hooked up at 7:14 to give Tufts an early 1-0 lead. Emery sent a high free kick from 40 yards out directly at Callaghan, who knocked a header at Babson senior co-captain Marci McCormack in the cage. The keeper deflected the initial attempt, but Samuelson corralled the rebound and knocked it in for her team-leading fourth goal of the season.

Just seven minutes later, the Jumbos struck again. Callaghan tallied her NESCAC-leading sixth assist of the season when, in similar fashion to Saturday's first goal against Amherst, she fed a cross to sophomore Lauren Fedore who headed the ball past McCormack for her second goal in as many games.

The Beavers answered back at the 39-minute mark in the first half, when sophomore Meg Lynch headed a free kick from classmate Caitlin Croner past Tufts junior keeper Annie Ross to bring the Beavers to within one.

"We all knew that their goal shouldn't have happened," sophomore fullback Annie Benedict said. "We were immediately determined to make up for it."

Conventional sports wisdom says that a soccer team is most vulnerable right after it scores a goal, and the Jumbos were quick to prove the adage. Just 45 seconds later, Emery sent a free kick off the crossbar that freshman Maya Shoham controlled and knocked past McCormack to put Tufts up 3-1 and end an eventful half. The goal was the first of Shoham's collegiate career.

While the Jumbo offense was unable to repeat in the second half, the defense held strong and shut out the Beavers to secure the 3-1 Tufts win.

"We knew they were going to come out much stronger in the second half, but we knew we were a better team and if we played our game we'd get it done," Benedict said. "We were certainly frustrated that we didn't come out and score more goals in the second half, but we were happy that our defense held them off."

For the second straight game, the Jumbos have shown both opponents and fans what they can do with a full squad. After beating Wheaton and Middlebury with just 14 women suited up for action, the Jumbos have handily defeated Amherst and Babson with all 19 of their players in uniform.

"We were basically missing our center of the field on defense and midfield and so to have everyone completely healthy is just so exciting to watch," Emery said. "Even though we're still not exactly 100 percent used to playing with each other, the possibilities for when we are [used to it] are just unbelievable"

Junior Jen Fratto, the heart of the back four, has started the last two games at center fullback after missing the first three with a back problem. Senior center midfielder Lydia Claudio, who has been battling an ankle sprain for the past two weeks, was also in the starting lineup for the second time, along with sophomore midfielder Lauren Fedore, who has scored on headers in each of her last two games, despite being out for two weeks with a concussion. In addition, freshman Abby Werner was back in action for the Jumbos at left halfback.

"It felt absolutely amazing to finally be out there running around," Fedore said.

The three additions to the squad made the Jumbos much deeper, letting younger players, who had previously just been tossed into the mix, to slowly adjust to the system and log key minutes off the bench. It also gave Whiting a chance to experiment with various lineups, and allowed her to rest key starters without experiencing a letdown on the field.

"The freshmen really stepped it up the first few games," Fedore said. "Now that we're all back, we really know how deep of a team we are."