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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Men’s soccer starts strong yet again

The Jumbos end level with the Camels and thump a far inferior Maine-Farmington side.

Senior defender Max Clivio against University of Maine-Farmington on September 10, 2023

Senior defender Max Clivio is pictured playing against University of Maine-Farmington on Sept. 10, 2023.

The men’s soccer team extended its historic rivalry with Connecticut College on Sep. 10, 2022, battling the Camels to a goalless draw on Bello Field. Three hundred and sixty four days later, following a dominant 4–1 victory against Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 2023 season opener, Tufts traveled to New London for another episode. There, they not only faced a strong Camels squad that looked much like the National Championship-winning team it was two years ago, but also a packed student section at Tempel Green — even without fan bleachers. Thanks to a tremendous defensive effort, the Jumbos and Camels shared a hard-fought tie with a scoreline of 1–1.

Sophomore central attacking midfielder Luke Randolph discussed how they adapted to Conn’s style of play being less direct than other NESCAC teams.

“We definitely adapted a different game plan for the game. [Coach Kyle Dezotell] wanted to try some new things on defense because he knew that they’re good at possessing the ball, and he wanted to prevent them from getting into the midfield as much,” Randolph said. “I think for the most part, it worked pretty well.”

Given the limited time Tufts had to prepare for the match following their win against MIT, it was impressive that Conn. College was only able to successfully break the defense down a few times, which they predominantly did by playing out wide.

Throughout the first half, both teams created chances with the Camels perhaps holding a slight edge in terms of control of play. However, the best chance of the half came with about four minutes left in the first half after first-year center defensive midfielder Bijan Akhtarzandi-Das won the ball with a tough sliding challenge that came directly to the feet of senior center midfielder Woovin Shin. Shin then played a beautifully lofted ball up the field and out wide to first-year forward Xavier Canfin, who perfectly placed the ball on the foot of senior forward Mikey Brady. But, with strong pressure from the last defender, Brady was unable to put it away.

In the second half, the Jumbos seemed to slightly dominate. It felt like a goal was inevitable, and sophomore goalkeeper Nikola Antic kept them in the game on the back end with a few spectacular saves.

With about 25 minutes remaining, after the team cleared away a Conn. College free kick from their own box, they would get about as clear of an opportunity as possible in soccer. When the Camels’ last defender lost the ball to senior forward Sean Traynor at midfield, Traynor ran the ball down the entire offensive half with sophomore forward Mason Shultz by his side — no defenders in sight. When Traynor got into the offensive box, he drew the goalkeeper to him and played it to Shultz, but the pass was just out of Shultz’s reach, preventing him from scoring on the open net.

Just when it felt like they would never score, in the 79th minute, Brady had a chance at a goal after the Jumbos won and flicked forward a ball that the Camels’ defense lost the ball in the back. When junior goalkeeper Peter Silvester saved Brady’s shot, Canfin put in a rebound to give the Jumbos the 10 lead.

But less than 40 seconds later, the Camels found their equalizer when senior defender Sam Boehm hit a left foot rocket over a diving Antic. The game ended in a 1–1 tie, further cementing the rivalry. Randolph discussed the competitive nature of playing the Camels year in and year out.

One of the first games I watched before I came in was that 5–4 defeat [in the 2021 NCAA Elite 8], and crazy game, I was super excited about coming in. I know we lost, but [it was] still one of the most intense battles in the NESCAC probably — or in D3, to be honest,” Randolph remembered.

“They’re one of the hardest [teams] to play. … They’re not over-the-top physical, but it’s still a really tough battle, no matter what,” Randolph added.

Just like all of the matchups in previous years with Conn. College, this year’s game was a clash of Division III titans, and college soccer fans can only hope they meet again this postseason.

Following the conclusion of the game, the Jumbos had about 24 hours to recuperate and prepare for what would be a very wet game against the University of Maine-Farmington. Although the weather provided challenges for them, their opposition would not, as exhibited by the 7–0 scoreline. Unfortunately, the side from the North Atlantic Conference never truly stood a chance against the Jumbos, who completely took advantage of them, even outside of pure goals. They outshot the Beavers 28–1 (17–1 for shots on goal), dominated possession, took seven corner kicks on the day and did not concede one. Randolph commented on the team’s mentality going into a game knowing they have the edge.

There are some teams that, when they play against perhaps technically worse teams, they’ll smack them 6–0 no matter what. So when we had the chance, we just had to stay locked in. We had to make sure we didn’t drop our level and [take] everything from the game,” Randolph noted.

The Jumbos sit at 2–0–1, heading into a tough Saturday, Sept. 16 matchup against the Mammoths on Bello Field. It will be a great opportunity to begin to differentiate this season from the last one and to display just how successful this squad can be.