Both the Tufts men’s and women’s soccer programs traveled to Bates for games on Saturday. Each team arrived at Bates with an incredibly dominant record against its host. The Bates Bobcats’ men’s team’s last win over the Jumbos was in 2008 and they last scored a goal against the Jumbos in 2011. The Bobcats’ women’s team, on the other hand, has lost seven in a row to the Jumbos dating back to 2014. In a sudden change of fortune, however, the Bobcats’ men’s team held the Jumbos to a scoreless draw and the Bobcats’ women’s team snapped their losing streak with a 2–1 victory over the Jumbos.
The men’s team had few scoring opportunities in the first half. Their best opportunity was a shot taken on by senior midfielder Zach Seigelstein in the 10th minute, which was saved by Bobcat goalkeeper Nico Hessel. Jumbo sophomore goalkeeping sensation Erik Lauta had some impressive saves of his own in the first half, diving to his right to stop a shot from Bobcat forward Tife Agunloye in the 31st minute.
The Jumbos’ best scoring opportunity of the second half arrived in the 71st minute through a dangerous corner kick taken by first-year midfielder Daniel Yanez. His corner kick was headed into a crowded six-yard box. Hessel dove to his right to knock away the subsequent shot from close range and was then able to cover his near post, which forced the Jumbos’ next shot attempt wide.
The game between the Jumbos and Bobcats eventually ended in a scoreless draw. This represented the fifth clean sheet of the season for Lauta and the Jumbos’ defense, which has been strong throughout the season.
“Preparation throughout the week [was] a big focus for us because we knew, going to Bates, that the field wasn’t going to be great and the most important thing I think in most NESCAC games is just keeping a clean sheet,” junior fullback Gibson Campbell, who played all but six minutes against Bates, said. “Especially against a team like Bates and the style of play that they play, that was stressed during the week as very important for us.”
“We also focused on set plays because Bates is a pretty big team height-wise, so they try to get a lot of their moves on set pieces and we focused a lot on that during the week and made sure that wasn’t one way that they could try and score on us,” Campbell added.
The Bobcats’ women’s team got off to a hot start on Saturday, snatching the lead in the 12th minute and never giving it up. Bobcats midfielder Elizabeth Patrick pressed high against the Jumbos’ defensive line, stripped the ball off first-year Jumbo center back Lena Sugrue, rushed with the ball to the edge of the penalty area, and, with her right foot, fired the ball across the face of goal into the right side-netting.
In the 27th minute, Patrick possessed the ball deep in Jumbos’ territory along the left sideline. She dashed back along the edge of the penalty area and evaded a Jumbos defender as she fired off another dazzling shot which senior goalkeeper Kaelin Logue could only watch as it sailed into the top right corner of the goal. Patrick’s two top-notch finishes from distance gave the hosts a 2–0 lead over the Jumbos with over an hour left to play.
The Jumbos’ best chance to get back in contention for the win occurred in the 52nd minute, when Bobcat midfielder Ellie Tyska collided with the Jumbos’ junior right back Madelyn Silveira inside the Bobcats’ penalty area and Tufts was awarded a penalty kick. Bobcat goalkeeper Ruby Reimann did a good job standing still the entire time before Jumbos’ senior midfielder and penalty-taker Maddie Pero struck the ball, leaving her without a clear direction in which to shoot it. As a result, Pero dragged a weak shot on the ground, wide of Reimann’s left goalpost, and the Bobcats’ two-goal advantage was preserved.
The Bobcats continued to try their luck from distance in the second half and weren’t far from cashing in in the 72nd minute, when midfielder Mollie Franklin struck a bouncing ball that hit the crossbar from around thirty yards away from goal. The Jumbos finally got on the scoreboard in the 84th minute through Silveira, who headed the ball into the back of the net after it was knocked straight up into the air by Reimann.
With less than seven minutes remaining, the goal was too little too late, however, and it proved to be the Jumbos’ final shot of the game. The final score was shocking to say the least, as it represented the Bobcats’ first NESCAC win of the season after seven winless NESCAC games to start the season. The Jumbos had also entered the weekend ranked 20th in the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer rankings, but fell out of this week’s list of top 25 teams as a result of their performance against Bates.
“I think what we could’ve done better is face every team like they’re the best,” junior midfielder Casey Lam said. “I think we underestimated them and those quick two early goals were really a wake-up call for us and we just had to work really hard in the second half. ... Everyone was on a new gear, but obviously not a high enough one.”
The Tufts men’s and women’s soccer teams will both play critical games against Middlebury and Bowdoin at home to close out the regular season. The men’s team can increase their chances of a NESCAC tournament bid with results against No. 7 Middlebury and No. 14 Bowdoin. The women’s team, on the other hand, needs results against Middlebury and Bowdoin in order to have a chance at hosting a NESCAC tournament game.
The women’s team takes on Middlebury on Saturday at 12 p.m., on Bello Field while the men’s team takes on Middlebury on Saturday at 3 p.m. on Bello Field. The women’s team takes on Bowdoin on Tuesday at 3 p.m. on Bello Field and the men’s team takes on Bowdoin on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Bello Field.