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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, May 27, 2024

Women's Soccer | Home sweet home: Jumbos win sixth straight at Kraft Field

For the Women's soccer team, all that mattered was the end result.

Despite not playing up to their high standards, the Jumbos did what they needed to do to win Saturday, defeating ninth-place Trinity 3-2 in front of a crowd of raucous students, parents and alumni.

The win pushes the Jumbos to 9-1 on the season (5-1 NESCAC), and drops the Bantams to 3-6-1 overall (1-5 NESCAC). Tufts' victory, coupled with a Williams loss to Middlebury, gives the Jumbos sole possession of first place in the league heading into tomorrow's non-conference bout with Keene State.

"We didn't play as well as we wanted," coach Martha Whiting said. "We've played a whole lot better this year, and the girls know that. It was disappointing, but in the end, we got it done. Trinity did a better job of possessing the ball than we did, which was embarrassing because we know we're the better team."

A big part of the Jumbos' sub-par play certainly can be attributed to the weather. Mother Nature was not kind to Tufts this Homecoming weekend, as severe and constant rainfall served as somewhat of an equalizer on the turf field.

"The rain certainly had a bit of an impact because it wasn't just rain," Whiting said. "It was constant heavy downpour coming in sideways for 90 minutes. Part of what Trinity did was just knock the ball out of the back. A bouncing ball on the wet turf really skips and is tough to judge."

The Jumbos came out of the gates looking less sharp than they had in previous games. They struggled in possessing the ball and transitioning from offense to defense, making for some sloppy play early on.

Tufts got on the scoreboard first in the 26th minute. Senior tri-captain Lindsay Garmirian was fouled in the box on a breakaway and classmate Lydia Claudio took the kick, drilling the ball past Trinity keeper Tara Finucane for her first goal of the season. Claudio, who was hampered by an ankle sprain earlier in the season, played solidly all afternoon and showed no signs of lingering effects from the injury.

Trinity tied the game just before halftime, when a shot from freshman Devin Nwanagu slipped through the hands of Tufts' junior keeper Annie Ross and into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

"In the first half, we came out pretty slowly, which was frustrating for us because we knew we could play better," sophomore Joelle Emery said. "It was also upsetting because there were so many alums and fans there that we were letting down in a way. Not wanting to disappoint them really got us pumped up in the second half."

The Jumbos did not disappoint, coming out with much more energy and focus in the second half. The defense remained patient and strong, while senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson tallyed two goals in a span of five minutes to put the game away.

Samuelson's first goal came in the 54th minute, when the senior took a cross from sophomore Jessie Wagner and knocked the ball past Finucane. Just five minutes later, with the Jumbos pressing the Bantam defense, junior Jen Fratto sent a long ball into the box. Samuelson took control with her back to the goal, spun around her defender and deftly drilled the ball past the keeper into the open net for what ended up being the game-winning goal.

It was Samuelson's NESCAC-leading 10th goal and 22nd point of the season, giving her the highest goal total by a Jumbo since 2000.

"I don't know what's gotten into her," Whiting said. "Part of it is that it's her senior year so there's a sense of urgency. Also, last year she was just getting used to playing forward again, but this year it's like second nature to her."

Whiting said Samuelson's competitive nature has been a huge part of her dominance on the field this season.

"She can take bringing the equipment out to the field and make it into a competition," Whiting said, "Her competitive nature drives her to be the best. Everyone has also been very impressed at how composed she is. It's just mind-boggling this year."

Tufts got a little complacent after Samuelson's second goal, letting down its intensity and allowing Nwanagu to slip a shot from the right flank just barely over Ross' outstretched arms to put Trinity within a goal in the 78th minute.

"I don't think we necessarily let down, but I think we thought we had already won," freshman Genevieve Citrin said. "After they scored, we got a little panicked and flustered, but I don't think there was ever a doubt in anyone's mind that we wouldn't come out on top."

The Jumbos were able to secure a victory in front of several former players. The alumni in attendance gave the players extra incentive to show off the growth of the program.

"It was so much fun," Whiting said. "The roar of the crowd when we scored really took me by surprise; it was much louder than at any normal Saturday game. It was really cool.