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

Kenyon scores in final minute, ends Tufts' tournament run

Tufts sophomore defender Conor Coleman runs the ball down the field ahead of a crowd of Middlebury players in the homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 10.

When the final whistle sounded, the referee ended not only the third round NCAA tournament game between Tufts and Kenyon, but also the careers of six seniors who have led the Tufts program to new heights. Tufts fell to Kenyon, 3-2, on Friday in Gambier, Ohio in a hard fought game from beginning to end. The defeat moved the Jumbos’ record to 11-5-3 to end a season for a team that would have needed just four more wins to become back-to-back national champions. The win moved Kenyon into the quarterfinals against Calvin College, who won their Saturday matchup.

The Jumbos scored first on a goal in the 15th minute on a header by junior forward Nathan Majumder. Majumder has been the biggest scoring threat for the team this season, and, like many teams before them, the Lords had a hard time containing him. Majumder was able to head in a goal off of a corner kick sent into the box by senior midfielder Rui Pinheiro. The Jumbos have been dangerous off set pieces, especially corner kicks, all season and played to their strength early in this game. Tufts kept the pressure on Kenyon junior goalkeeper Sam Clougher, as junior midfielder Kevin Lawson took a shot, and Majumder headed another ball toward goal. Clougher, however, was able to save these two opportunities to keep the deficit at one goal.

"We had success against Kenyon when we switched the ball and created one-versus-one match-ups for our outside mids outside backs," senior tri-captain midfielder Jason Kayne said.

The Lords got on the board in the 23rd minute after the Jumbos were whistled for a foul in the box after attempts by Lords junior midfielder Josh Lee and sophomore midfielder Henry Myers. Senior midfielder Jeremiah Barnes converted the penalty kick to knot the score at one. This was the second game in a row that Tufts conceded a penalty kick, as Montclair State scored its first goal in the game in similar fashion. Kenyon kept the pressure up and scored again just under two minutes later, as sophomore midfielder Oliver Wynn beat junior all-conference goalkeeper Scott Greenwood off an assist from Myers on a throw-in. The first half ended without any more scoring. The Jumbos earned more corner kicks than the Lords, 4-1, and put more shots on goal, 4-3. Despite the advantage in the statistics, the home team controlled the pace of the first half after taking the lead, outshooting Tufts 11-8.

The second half began in back-and-forth fashion, and the Jumbos were able to break through in the 71st minute on Majumder’s second goal of the game and his 11th goal of the season. The striker beat Cougher on a shot that snuck inside the right post off of a pass from junior forward Gaston Becherano.

"After coming back against Salisbury, our team understood that we are capable of coming out with a win in a game that we trailed in," Kayme said. "That confidence is crucial in the NCAA tournament, and I believe it flows throughout our team."

The next goal scored decided the match, and it came off the foot of Myers. The Lords put together a late push that began with Wynn’s feed into the box that junior forward Jordan Glassman was able to head toward net. Greenwood saved the shot easily, but Tufts was unable to hold possession, resulting in a scrum around the front of the net with less than a minute remaining in the game. Myers was able to hit the back of the net to send the Lords to the national quarterfinals.

Tufts had not allowed three goals in a game since Oct. 1, 2011 in a 3-0 loss to Amherst. The team played excellent defense all season -- during a three-week stretch from Oct. 10 to Oct. 31, it did not allow a single goal. The team kept Kenyon's biggest threat, junior forward Tony Amolo, who has 18 goals this season, in check for the entire game, and he only attempted one shot. Tufts ranked 12th in the nation, allowing just 0.58 goals per game. The Kenyon offense, ranked 28th nationally with 2.65 goals per game, was able to expose Tufts to find chances throughout the matchup.

The loss ends the careers of six seniors who have contributed to the rise of Tufts soccer over the past four years into a nationally recognized program. Connor Brown, Jason Kayne, Connor Schaible, Monil Patel, Rui Pinheiro and Tal Smith have guided the program to three NCAA tournaments throughout their careers and won the school’s first national championship in 2014. Tufts was the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tournament in 2014 and began the 2015 campaign ranked atop the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings. Although the team came up short of winning back-to-back national championships, this group has significantly affected the work ethic and mentality of the team.

Coach Josh Shapiro will certainly have a talented team in 2016, despite the loss of the senior class. This year, the team started a new era without the seniors of the 2014 team, who guided the team throughout the NCAA tournament, and Shapiro will no doubt have the team ready to do the same next season. Majumder will return for his senior season after being selected to the first team All-NESCAC. Greenwood and Becherano will also lead the team in 2016, along with the rest of their classmates, who include midfielders Kevin Lawson and Zach Halliday and defender Daniel Sullivan.

"I believe that this tournament run proved that the Tufts soccer deserves to be a Sweet 16 team every year," Kayne said. "We proved that our national championship was not a fluke, and I believe this will continue to be motivation for this group."