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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, December 10, 2023

Men's and women's soccer teams show promise for coming season

Last year's women's soccer team is pictured huddled before a game on Sept. 11, 2021.

The soccer program is one of the most successful and storied athletic programs at Tufts. The women’s team consistently has winning records and places highly in the NESCAC, while the men’s team has won four national championships, two of which have been in the last five years. This year looks to be no different as both teams gear up for an exciting season ahead. 

After a solid 2021 campaign for the women, they are looking to improve upon last year’s play. The Jumbos finished with an overall record of 8–7 and a conference record of 5–5, earning the No. 6 seed in the NESCAC tournament. At the beginning of the season, Tufts started out strong, winning four out of their first five games and romping New England College 11–0. However, toward the end of the season when conference play got tougher, the Jumbos’ play trended downwards. 

Nevertheless, throughout the year the team consistently showed a fighting spirit, as the majority of their games were decided by one goal. In many of the games, the Jumbos dominated possession of the ball but just couldn’t convert on scoring opportunities, which will be a focus point this coming season as they will lose their top scorer from 2021, Liz Reed. Tufts outshot their opponents on the season, 282 to 130, but less than half of those shots were on goal. 

“We took a lot more shots than we were able to finish in the back of the net, and I think this year converting the shots into goals will be really important. And especially now that there’s no overtime, we’re going to have to finish more early on,” senior midfielder Maddie Pero said. 

This year, the overtime period will be eliminated from regular season play with the rationale being that many of the games that went to overtime in previous seasons stayed tied through overtime. Three of the Jumbos’ games last year went to single or double overtime in order to be decided.

One source of slight concern for the team is that the 2021 starting lineup was dominated by seniors who have now graduated. This won’t faze the Jumbos, as they are prepared to enter the season with a solid lineup.

“I think that we have a very deep team and the freshmen coming in are very confident, and they’re very good at scoring. So I think that even though it'll be a newer team, I think that the people coming in definitely make up for the … matureness that we lost,” senior forward Claire Wilkinson said.

The Jumbos will open their 2022 campaign against Emerson at home on Wednesday, followed by their conference opener against Connecticut College this weekend. They will then enter a tough stretch, playing five away games with four of them in conference, before returning home for the final stretch of NESCAC contests against Middlebury — the 2021 NESCAC champions — and Bowdoin.

After not gaining a berth in the NCAA championship bracket last year, the Jumbos will look to earn a spot in the round of 64 either through the NESCAC tournament or by obtaining a high enough seed to be selected. 

“I think finishing in the top three of the NESCAC is a big goal for us, so that we can hopefully make the NCAA tournament again,” Pero said. 

After a successful scrimmage against Clark on Aug. 30, Tufts will look to build off of that momentum and start this season off on the right foot as regular season play begins.

On the men’s side, the Jumbos will hope to build off of a very successful 2021 year where they made a deep run into the NCAA tournament. With an overall record of 15–2–4 and a conference record of 6–1–3, Tufts looked to be heading back to postseason success entering the playoffs. The Jumbos were able to get the No. 3 seed going into the NESCAC tournament. Tufts cruised through Bowdoin in the quarterfinals 3–0 and narrowly edged out Middlebury in the semifinals 1–0. In the championship game however, the Jumbos faced a difficult test. Their opponents were the Connecticut College Camels — a team to which they lost in the regular season — and the Jumbos were looking to avenge that loss. They were able to pull off a 2–0 win to capture the NESCAC championship for the second year running and the third time in four years. The conference win also earned the men’s team an automatic spot and the top seed in the NCAA tournament. 

In the NCAA tournament, the Jumbos handily beat New England College 5–1, and then played a thriller in the round of 32 against Stevens. The game went to penalty kicks, which Tufts eventually won after 11 shots each. They made their way to the Elite 8, where once again they found themselves facing Connecticut College. Unfortunately for the Jumbos, their season would end in a 5–4 defeat, putting up a great fight in a heartbreaking loss. Connecticut College would eventually win the national championship. 

The Jumbos graduated two All-Americans in Biagio Paoletta and Calvin Aroh from their 2021 squad as well as top scorer Mati Cano. They will return defenseman Ian Daly, a 2021 All-American and the joint top scorer for the Jumbos. These losses might not affect the Jumbos too drastically, however. During the NESCAC playoff run Coach Kyle Dezotell utilized the entirety of his roster, playing younger players to reserve some of the experience for the NCAA tournament. 

“Our team identity has changed quite a bit because we lost so many big name players that our program had, you know. I think for us, everything we do this year is going to be built upon how hard we work, and how hard we're willing to work,” Coach Dezotell said. 

They will build off of this youth as the incoming class of first-years is large and made up of nine players, one of which is a goalkeeper. 

“I don’t really think we expect much of a drop-off in terms of level at all. I think, if anything, it’s going to get better with the new guys. Each class that comes in and gets better, better and better every year,” Daly said.

Entering the season, the Jumbos are ranked No. 6 in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. Fellow NESCAC schools Conn. College and Amherst are ranked first and second, respectively. 

Like the women, the men will open their season in a nonconference contest, traveling to MIT today. The men’s team’s conference opener will be against Connecticut College at home on Sept. 10 in a game where the Jumbos will hope to avenge the Elite 8 loss from last season. 

“They’re a good team and there’s a very fun rivalry we have going on with them. It's great to see so much success in the NESCAC across the last couple of years. So we’re super excited for that game,” Daly said. 

They will then play four conference away games against Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams and Hamilton before returning home to play four out of five of the remaining conference matchups at home. 

The 2022 season is shaping up to be an entertaining one. From rivalry matchups to intense conference contests, both teams of Jumbos are ready to face the test.