It took just two weeks, four conference wins and a little bit of help from fellow NESCAC contenders for the women's basketball team to regain complete command of its fate in the conference.
The nationally-ranked No. 15 Jumbos scored a pair of road NESCAC wins over Conn. College and Wesleyan this weekend to improve to 18-1 on the season and 4-1 in the conference. By remaining at just one NESCAC loss, Tufts moved past Amherst - a 72-61 upset victim at Bowdoin on Saturday - in the conference standings, something of particular importance given that the two-loss Jeffs own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Jumbos.
Following another turbulent weekend of NESCAC play, Tufts finds itself in a position to control its own destiny in the conference, and winning out over the remaining four games would assure the Jumbos of their first-ever regular-season NESCAC title.
"The whole team feels confident," sophomore forward Julia Baily said. "We all want it, and it's nice to know that we now have a chance to reach that goal, but we're just still taking it one game at a time, as always."
The Jumbos capped the weekend with an impressive 66-52 win over Wesleyan, a team that entered the game alone atop the conference with a 4-0 record. Tufts took control of the game early in the first half, when back-to-back three-pointers by freshman point guard Colleen Hart and senior co-captain Jenna Gomez ignited an 18-2 run that helped the Jumbos build a 15-point lead just 8:37 into the game.
The Cardinals did threaten to make it interesting towards the end of the period, when they scored eight unanswered points to take just a 10-point deficit into halftime. But Wesleyan never got closer, falling behind as many as 23 in the second half before stumbling to its first NESCAC loss of the season.
Tufts received a pair of double-doubles from its starting frontcourt tandem of senior co-captain Khalilah Ummah and junior center Katie Tausanovitch, who is also an assistant layout editor for the Daily. Tausanovitch grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds. The two combined for 12 offensive boards, contributing to 22 second-chance points for the Jumbos.
Baily also played a major role in the victory, adding 14 points off the bench for her sixth double-digit scoring effort in the last nine games. The Jumbos' bench as a whole was particularly impressive, outscoring its opponents' reserves a combined 39-4 over the weekend.
"I know that coming off the bench, I need to be that spark," Baily said. "I really try and focus on being that kind of player. When K and Tausi are in foul trouble, I try to give the team some quality minutes. I just try focusing on doing the little things, like getting rebounds."
Baily also had a hand in Tufts' 59-44 win over Conn. College Friday night, when she notched nine points during a 19-0 first-half run that gave the Jumbos a lead they would not relinquish.
"Julia Baily is very, very important to us," coach Carla Berube said. "On Friday, we were in some foul trouble early in the post area, and she came in and sparked that run in the first half. Julia just gets it done somehow. Sometimes it's quiet, and you don't really notice it, and sometimes she'll make several plays in a row. She's made huge strides from where she was at last year, and she's an integral part of this team."
The Camels, winless in NESCAC play, opened up an early 16-4 lead but could not convert on a single field goal attempt for the remainder of the period, allowing Tufts to take the game over.
The Jumbos received a team-high 15 points from junior guard Kim Moynihan, who combined with Hart to shoot 6-for-11 from three-point range. The pair accounted for two of five different Jumbos to reach double figures in scoring over the weekend.
"It's huge being as balanced as we are," Berube said. "Opponents can't focus on one part of our game. If you take away our post players, our guard will step up and make shots, and Kim's done a very good job of that the past few games, and well as Colleen."
Tufts will carry its six-game winning streak into next weekend, when it will travel to Middlebury and Williams for two more crucial conference tilts with major NESCAC ramifications.
"That's our focus right now," Berube said. "We're looking to go 4-0 on the rest of the season, but Middlebury is our first stop. It's nice that we're in the driver's seat, and that's our goal, to host the NESCAC Tournament. If it happens, it happens, but we're just looking at it one game at a time."