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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

No. 20 men’s soccer moves on to NESCAC semifinals with 2–1 victory against Bowdoin

The Jumbos beat the Polar Bears for the second time in a week and prepare for a revenge game at Middlebury.

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Tufts Men's Soccer celebrates a goal against Bowdoin on Oct. 28, 2023.

On Oct. 29, 2022, the men’s soccer team had a date with Williams in the NESCAC quarterfinals and held a 1–0 lead in the final 25 seconds of the 90 minutes. Then, on an Ephs long throw-in, the game turned upside down: The referee called a penalty kick on an off-ball push, which was converted into a goal, sending the game into overtime. However, the two full overtimes were not enough to settle it, and the game headed to penalty kicks. The Jumbos ultimately fell to the Ephs in the shootout 4–3. The upsetting final image of the game was one of then-senior outside back and All-American Ian Daly staring in disbelief at the trajectory of his shot, which sailed over the crossbar.

364 days later, the tale was far different.

On Saturday, just four days after defeating them in Maine, the squad hosted Bowdoin on Bello Field for the NESCAC quarterfinals. With the combination of a strong performance by the Jumbos, the game’s home location and hot weather conditions, the Polar Bears had too much going against them to prevent the 2–1 Jumbos victory.

An important factor contributing to Bowdoin’s performance was their team members having to grapple with recent mass shootings in nearby Lewiston, Maine; Bowdoin’s campus was in a lockout while authorities engaged in a manhunt for the suspect.

On the Tufts side, sophomore forward Henry Perkins discussed what contributed to their uber-successful week.

“It took a lot of focus and energy and commitment from the team, especially from the guys who maybe didn’t play as much [during] the first game or played a lot in the first game and weren’t playing in the second game,” Perkins said. “Throughout the week, in training, that was the focus: Focus on the task at hand, don’t let the levels drop, don’t get complacent.”

For much of the first half, this level of play, energy, focus and commitment did not allow the Jumbos to break the tie. However, in the 31st minute, sophomore winger Mason Shultz worked up the left flank, beat a defender and found Perkins at the top of the six-yard box, who took a touch and then slotted it into the back of the net with finesse for the first goal of the game.

“[Shultz] did a great job on the left wing to pass their outside back and find some space. He’s a crafty player,” Perkins said. “[He] did a great job towards the endline and played the ball across, went between the defender’s legs … I found the composure to take two touches and find the back of the net.”

In the second half, the Polar Bears picked up the pressure; nonetheless, the Jumbos resisted and continued their control of play. When the Polar Bears’ long ball was intercepted by junior midfielder Ethan Feigin, he charged toward the net and played the penetrating ball to sophomore midfielder Daniel Yanez, who doubled the lead with the goal in the 60th minute.

Down two with only a third of the game remaining, Bowdoin refused to quit, displaying the quality of their program. The Polar Bears’ fight to stay alive in the NESCAC tournament — or at least do enough to earn themselves an NCAA tournament bid — finally materialized when sophomore forward Felipe Duran struck a beautiful free kick from outside the box into the top left corner of the net to cut the Jumbos’ lead in half.

In the end, despite being even with the Jumbos in corners and shots on goal, and having an 11–9 lead on total shots, the grit of the Polar Bears fell short. Bowdoin will now wait until Nov. 6 to learn their NCAA tournament fate.

One of the primary reasons behind the Jumbos’ success against Bowdoin and throughout the entire season has been the depth of their lineup; the number of players who are trusted to enter the game in significant moments and make an impact is greater than that of most other teams at their caliber.

Guys put in a shift, and then we can call on the next one,” Perkins said. “Throughout the season, it just gives the opportunity for a bunch of different guys to contribute, and I think on our team, we see that as a really positive thing. When one guy’s hot, they’re going to play and no one is taking offense to that — we’re all working for the same goal.”

This depth is extremely helpful down the stretch in the postseason since bodies are exhausted from the intensity of the season. It is something the squad will need to use to its advantage to get revenge and overcome the threat that is national No. 3 and NESCAC No. 1 Middlebury at the NESCAC semifinal this Saturday.

Middlebury will host the remainder of the tournament, where they will take on Tufts at 11 a.m. Shortly after, Amherst and Connecticut College will play in the other semifinal, and the winner of each game will compete for the NESCAC title this Sunday at noon. Perkins discussed the squad’s mentality in terms of what it will take to become champions.

Similar to this past week, players are using “focus and energy and hard work” to prepare for their next game, according to Perkins. If the Jumbos carry this mindset and keep up their good form, they could very well find their return to hardware next week.

Going into the tournament, Perkins described his “earn it” mindset.

“Earn the results, earn development and training and our preparation and our mentality, and trust that the results will follow,” he said.