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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Top-ranked Jumbos suffer first loss, look ahead to Wesleyan

After starting the season 5-0, including three NESCAC wins, Tufts, ranked No. 1, suffered their first loss on Saturday afternoon at Kraft Field. Despite beautiful conditions, Jumbos offense was not able to muster a goal in a competitive 1-0 loss to the No. 16 Brandeis Judges. 

The Tufts offense was unusually stagnant, shooting only 11 times -- lower than their 14.4 shots per game average built over the first five games of the season. Only two of those shots were on goal, and both were saved by Brandeis sophomore goalie Ben Woodhouse.

In the 12th minute, Tufts junior forward Gaston Becherano had a free kick that was blocked, but the Jumbos kept the pressure up. After multiple corner kicks, which have caused problems for the team earlier in the season, senior tri-captain Connor Brown took a shot in the 20th minute that was easily saved by Woodhouse.

After this flurry of chances from the Jumbos, Brandeis capitalized on one of its few opportunities in the game. Brandeis shot only four times -- three times on goal -- but only one shot resulted in a score.  It was in the 29th minute, when sophomore midfielder Patrick Flahive sent in a ball to the box from the left side of the field, which junior midfielder Zach Vieira was able to head past junior goalkeeper Scott Greenwood.

“I thought offensively we played well,” Brown said. “In the second half specifically, we moved the ball quickly, opened up their backline and got guys in dangerous one-on-one opportunities. The one thing I think we can work on is putting more shots on frame. We generated more shots than Brandeis, but we didn’t really test the keeper that much.”

The game was physical and defensive. The teams compiled a total of 20 fouls, and the referees gave Brandeis five yellow cards during the course of the game. The cards, however, were given to five different players, meaning that no Brandeis player was carded twice and thus ejected from the game. This helped the Judges contain the Jumbos offense, specifically junior forward Nathan Majumder, who has five goals on this season. He scored two goals and propelled the offense in each of last weekend’s conference wins against Conn. College and Trinity College.

"I honestly thought the offense played well on Saturday," senior tri-captain Connor Schaible said. "We had some really good opportunities to put one or two home, but credit to Brandeis for staying strong defensively for the full 90, especially when we really turned it on in the second half."

The Jumbos had a chance late in the game to tie the match, but they were not successful. Senior tri-captain Jason Kayne took a pass from the right side of the field and attempted a bicycle kick that flew right above the crossbar in the 85th minute. Tufts did not have any more close chances to tie the match in the remaining five minutes of the game. The Judges improved to 7-1 on the season, with the only loss coming in early September against Trinity University in Texas. 

The team looks to get back on the winning track on Tuesday at Wesleyan. Despite the unfavorable results last Saturday, the Jumbos remain confident in themselves and their ability. With such a quick turnaround, there is little time to dwell on this game.

“We were frustrated after the game because we felt like it was a lost opportunity, but with a huge game looming on Tuesday against Wesleyan we shook it off pretty quickly,” Brown said. “There are a lot of guys on this team that have played a lot of minutes and losing one game to a very good Brandeis team did not diminish our confidence in ourselves. Overall, the team handled the loss in a mature manner and we are just excited to get back [to] it on Tuesday.”

A year ago, Tufts played Wesleyan at home and squeaked out a 1-0 overtime win. For the team, the Wesleyan game is a tough test year after year.

"In terms of what we can learn from the loss, I think it's just about knowing what it feels like to lose and doing everything in our power to not lose again," Schaible said. "We did a lot of things right against Brandeis, but just couldn't pull out a win so I think it mostly comes down to getting back that hunger to win so we can go on another streak."

Wesleyan will enter the game with a 4-2 record, including a double overtime loss to Bowdoin and a 5-0 blowout win against Bates on Saturday.

“Every year the game at Wesleyan is a battle,” Brown said. “They play good, hard soccer and are always tough to break down. If we play our possession style game and take our chances well, hopefully we can get out of Connecticut with a good result.”