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

Women's Soccer | Rivalry's storm clouds gathering over Kraft Field

The crowds will be out in full force on Saturday for Homecoming, and if past history follows course, fans should be treated to a good show on Kraft Field.

The Bates Bobcats are coming to Medford to face the Jumbos in yet another installment of a rivalry that has shaped women's soccer in New England.

"I'm so excited to play Bates," senior tri-captain Annie Ross said. "I've been looking forward to this game all season [and] all year. We know they're going to come out flying against us, and we're going to have to bring extra intensity to this game."

Last season the two teams met in three marathon games that were each decided by a single goal, including two postseason meetings under NESCAC Championship and NCAA Regional banners. Tufts took the first game in Lewiston, Maine, in early October, winning 2-1 on a game-winner from senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson with 6:23 remaining in double overtime.

The two teams met again on Tufts' Kraft Field in the NESCAC Championship game. Then-freshman Jen Marino notched a double-overtime goal for the Bobcats, as Bates left Medford with a 2-1 win and the NESCAC title.

The Jumbos continued the saga on their home turf just a week later, knocking Bates out of the NCAA tournament with a 1-0 win.

"It definitely is a rivalry," Ross said. "We love the competitiveness. It's great to play a game when there's a lot on the line."

Seven of the nine games between the two teams since 1999 have been decided by a single goal. The Jumbos have won six of those nine.

"We need to keep in mind that it's just one game, but I know this will definitely have a little special meaning," Ross said.

The atmosphere will get an extra push from the team's annual alumni game, which will take place immediately after the Bates match-up and will bring a strong contingent of former players to the sidelines.

"The best time this could have happened was Homecoming," Coach Martha Whiting said. "There's going to be a lot of fans coming out in the stands, and it's going to be a playoff atmosphere."

Whiting noted that because the team's 21-player roster includes six freshmen, many of the girls were not around for last season's drama. The team returns several key players from last season; however, they will take the field with the memory of the back-and-forth drama of the 2005 campaign.

Saturday's game is also the Jumbos' chance to build on their first win of the season, which came against Babson on Tuesday. Tufts defeated the Beavers 2-0, thanks to a goal and an assist from junior Martha Furtek and a goal off of a header from junior Lauren Fedore.

"We all just kind of breathed a sigh of relief," Whiting said. "We knew [the first win] was coming, but it's nice to finally have it."

Ross, who had 10 saves in the game, agreed with Whiting.

"It's nice to get over the hump of the first win," Ross said. "Now we just need to continue that."

Although the team scored a victory, the team could have played tighter and is excited for the opportunity to do so on Saturday.

"The girls were not satisfied with just getting the win and not playing that well," Whiting said. "It shows me that they want to work hard and play at a higher level every day. We're just going to have to work at keeping up our intensity all the time."

After scoring just once in its first three contests, the team has notched four goals in its last two games, and Whiting feels the team is on the right track.

"We're certainly not perfect yet, but we're getting there," Whiting said. "We're getting to where we need to be."

Ross also thinks the season's rough start is in the past.

"We're getting more comfortable with each other, and we're getting used to each other's playing styles," Ross said. "I think that happens with weeks of playing with each other. Things are starting to fall into place now and it's great to see."

With a friendly crowd and a Homecoming match-up with Tufts' biggest rival, the stage is set for theatrics.

"It'd be fantastic [to win on Saturday], and that's what we're aiming to do," Ross said.