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

Women's soccer | 2006 Jumbos step out of last season's stellar shadow

When the door opens on a new season for the women's soccer team this Saturday against Colby, questions will loom large overhead as to whether this year's team can go above and beyond the success of the 2005 squad, which won the New England regional title and reached the NCAA Div. III National Semifinal.

But coach Martha Whiting has her sights set firmly on 2006.

"To be honest, we have to think of it as a completely new year," Whiting said. "We know what happened last year and we know we had a great year. One of the reasons we were so successful last year is that we were able to take it one day at a time, and that's what we have already started to do this year."

The team echoed Whiting's sentiments and is fully aware that last season's successes are anything but a given this year.

"There's still all this room for improvement," senior tri-captain and goalkeeper Annie Ross said. "Each team is different, and we're going to focus on the little things to make this season better than last season and set out to accomplish the goals we've set for ourselves."

The offensive end will require the most rebuilding, as the team graduated its top four scorers from last season, including First-Team All-American Ariel Samuelson, who seemed to churn out big-moment goals on command and led both the team and the league in scoring.

Samuelson's 14 goals and 32 points were well ahead of Tufts' next closest scorers Lydia Claudio (five goals, 13 points), Sarah Callaghan (two goals, 12 points), and Lindsay Garmirian (five goals, 10 points). In addition to the All-American nod, Samuelson's prolific scoring also earned her NESCAC Player of the Year honors.

"There's no replacing Ariel-she was a special kind of player" Whiting said. "We have different types of forwards this year. Ariel was very fast and competitive, and we could just play the ball along to her. She'd get in a footrace with competitors."

Whiting will rework her team's offense to give this specific group of players the best chance of success.

"We'll play to the strength of our strikers," said Whiting. "We're deeper than we thought we would be. It's just a matter of adjusting the system to play to the strikers we have this year."

"All you really need is one person to step it up," senior tri-captain Jen Fratto said. "We only really need one or two scorers to step it up and I think we have those."

After the four departed goal-scorers, the Jumbos return their next four leading scorers in juniors Lauren Fedore (four goals) and Martha Furtek (three goals) and seniors

Fratto and Kim Harrington, who both scored twice.

While the team will noticeably change on offense, the defense remains largely intact with the return of Fratto and juniors Joelle Emery, Annie Benedict, and Jess Wagner. The Tufts back four had a league-leading nine shutouts in 21 games last season, and held strong several times to protect strong offensive firepower. Ross is happy to have an experienced set of players helping her on the defensive end.

"It's nice to not have to teach a whole new group the flat-back four-defense that we use," Ross said. "It's good to have a group of people that are comfortable and used to the defense."

Additionally, the team has benefited from a strong recruiting class, which it hopes will have an immediate impact.

"All of [the freshmen] are great," Fratto said. "There's definitely going to be two or three that will be able to step in and have a big role on our team. And that's definitely what we need them to do."

Although the team's reigning New England Regional title and preseason No. 1 ranking in the region, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Sept. 5 poll, the Jumbos are not worried the NESCAC and New England competition looking to knock them off.

"It's exciting to have a challenge ahead of you," Ross said. "The only thing you can control is yourself, and as long as we play the type of soccer we're capable of playing, we can do well. That being said, we do have to play our best game because we're going to face some tough competition this year."

Whiting is also looking forward to having the challenge of defending the success the team achieved last season.

"When people are gunning for you-that just means you're doing something right," Whiting said. "The only way we can look at it is as a challenge. We can't change it so we might as well embrace it and that's exactly what we're going to do. We'll go game by game and take it as it comes."