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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Women's Soccer | Tufts ready to take advantage of next life as NCAA regional host

Despite suffering a double overtime loss in the finals of the NESCAC tournament to Bates last weekend, the women's soccer team was rewarded for its outstanding regular season with the opportunity to host an NCAA Division III Tournament regional this weekend at Kraft Field. On Saturday, the Jumbos will take on Johnson & Wales, who won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference title with a 1-0 victory over Western New England College in its title game.

"Everybody is so unbelievably happy about being selected for the tournament," Coach Martha Whiting said. "It is great to see everyone so cheerful after being so sad on Sunday [after the loss to Bates]. It helps take the sting out of the loss."

Sophomore Martha Furtek, who, along with teammate Ariel Samuelson was named to the All-NESCAC First Team yesterday, echoed Whiting's sentiments.

"Our loss Sunday was a huge disappointment and the only thing that kept our heads up was knowing that we still had a shot at the NCAA's," she said. "Waking up Monday morning and finding out that not only did we make the tournament, but also that we were hosting really picked us up. We're a lot more confident than we were walking off the field on Sunday."

The first two rounds of the tournament will be played at Tufts. The match up with Johnson & Wales will be played at 11 a.m. on Saturday and will be followed by a meeting between Bates and Eastern Connecticut. The winners of the two games will meet on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. If things play out, the Jumbos could find themselves facing the Bobcats for the third time this year. But Johnson & Wales comes first.

"I've talked to a couple coaches and gotten a little bit of scouting on them," Whiting said of the Wildcats. "They have been playing well and are on a roll right now. They seem to be a tough and physical team with a key player - their offense runs through her."

That key player is junior Kelly Gil, who was named the GNAC championship most valuable player after delivering a game-winning goal with just 4:16 left to play in regulation in the title game. Gil leads the Wildcats with 16 goals and nine assists for a whopping 41 points. Fellow junior Leah Farrar has added five goals and seven assists as well. The JWU defense has allowed 20 goals in 20 games this year, including seven shutouts.

The Wildcats, after finishing with a 7-2-1 record in the regular season, rolled through the conference tournament, including a victory over regular season champion Simmons, which had beaten JWU 3-1 earlier in the year, so the Wildcats are peaking right now.

Senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson, who in addition to All-NESCAC First Team was named the NESCAC Player of the Year by conference coaches yesterday, will lead a Tufts offense that should be mostly healthy.

"It appears that everyone will be available and ready to play this weekend," Whiting said. "We've been taking it easy this week, and people have been banged up, but come Saturday, everyone should be good to go."

After taking Monday off, the team watched video on Tuesday, and had a stretching session as well as some jogging Wednesday to get fully rested. Whiting planned on two light practices Thursday and today.

"When the girls get back out on the field, I think they are going to be surprised at how fresh their legs feel," Whiting said. "We will practice some penalty kicks and free kicks and just get back into the groove."

"At this point of the season, we know what we have to do to win games, so we just need to make sure that we're healthy and rested enough to get it done," said Furtek, who is a good example. The sophomore collided with the goalie in the game against Colby last weekend and injured her foot. She is still awaiting the results of the x-rays, but thinks that she will be fine come game time.

After waiting with baited breath Sunday night, the Jumbos are thankful to get a second chance.

"We feel like all the hard work we put in this season is finally paying off," Furtek said. "We don't care who we're playing now, we are just excited and ready to get out there and play our hearts out against whomever we face."

Tufts knows it can go far in this tournament - if the team plays to its capabilities.

"I've been saying it all year: we just need to play as hard and as smart as we can, and we'll be okay," Whiting emphasized. "It just comes down to playing as a team."